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Elegant Efficiency

By Jeff Koch on November 28, 2012.

As advanced statistics and metrics have made their way into the NBA, some very simple (and self-obvious) things have become known to the masses: 3-pointers (particularly from the corner) are efficient shots, especially when wide-open; so are shots in the paint; long 2-point jump shots are the least efficient shot in basketball. So we could argue that an efficient offensive team would get most of its points from the paint, the 3-point line, and the foul line. And an efficient defensive team would protect those areas and gladly surrender the long 2-ball.

In tonight’s game against Orlando, the Spurs had 50 points in the paint; they made 11 of 25 3-pointers (44%) for another 33 points; and they were 11 of 15 from the free throw line. Add that all up, and you get 94 points, out of 110 (or, 85% of our points). So we scored a mere 16 points (8 baskets) on “inefficient” jump shots, though many of those are actually in the design of the offense, particularly from Parker and Duncan (and Neal) off screens and curls.

On the other end of the ball, Orlando also scored 50 points in the paint, but made only 2 3-pointers (out of 15 attempted, for a lousy 13% conversion rate) and 5 free throws. So, added up, that’s 61 efficient points (and only 69% of the total points), and 28 inefficient points (14 baskets).

The three-point line is obviously the most glaring discrepancy, but the point still stands: this team knows exactly where it wants to get its offense, and precisely how it wants to do it. And when facing a mediocre to average team, this knowledge alone can win them the game. Conversely, they also know precisely where they want to force the other team to attempt its offense, and when they can be moderately successful in doing so, they will always have a chance to win.

These numbers are fantastic tonight, and we would expect nothing less against an outmatched Orlando team. The real question is: where will these numbers be against the league’s elite? With back to back games looming against the Heat and the Grizzlies, the Spurs are facing a real test coming up. It will be a good early season benchmark for the team.

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