Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (7:00ET on TNT): Celtics lead series 1-0
- Stat: In his 29 point performance in the Celtics 92-91 game 1 victory, Kevin Garnett made six of nine (66.6%) attempts from 16′-23′. During the regular season, he averaged 2.9 makes out of 6.0 attempts from that distance per game, good for a conversion rate of 48.0%.
- Take: Few expected Garnett’s season-high 28 point explosion in game 6 of round one against the Atlanta Hawks, and even fewer saw him replicating that performance and establishing a new season-high in points in the opener of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Philadelphia. Obviously, though, it’s time we stop doubting that Garnett is incapable of such outings, as a convincing case can be made he’s been the MVP of the postseason as we near the midpoint of the playoffs. In analyzing his 57 point explosion over the last two games, much has been made of KG’s new commitment to establishing position on the block and scoring from there a la big men of lore. And while it’s true that in the playoffs he’s looked more comfortable and adept working in the post than he did for most of the season, the majority of Garnett’s shot attempts his last two outings have been the mid-range jumpers that have been the staple of his offensive repertoire since arriving in Boston. Thirteen of his shots came from outside ten feet but inside the three point line in the Celtics’ final game against Atlanta, and he took thirteen more from that range in Saturday’s game 1 win over the Sixers. That’s 26 of KG’s last 39 shot attempts that have come via the mid-range jumper, a percentage of 66.7 that is actually higher than his regular season per game average of 63.8%. So the notion that Garnett’s adjusted his game and changed his favorite spots on the floor to spur this recent scoring outburst is far from the truth. The bigger takeaway – and one that should worry Boston given the notoriously fickle nature of jump-shooting – is that he’s converted on a seemingly impossible-to-sustain rate of long two-point shots, and that’s never been more true than in game 1 against Philadelphia. In fact, three of Garnett’s last four attempts in game 1 came from outside seventeen feet, shots Philly isn’t necessarily displeased with Boston getting in crunch time. The only problem for the Sixers is that he made two of them, the first pulling the Celtics within a point with 4:26 left and the second putting them ahead by four with 2:16 remaining. If Garnett misses those shots and goes a pedestrian 4-9 on jumpers from 16′-23′ as opposed to a scorching 6-9, the Sixers likely leave the TD Garden with a 1-0 lead and the hobbling Celtics perhaps irrevocably damaged. Instead, the narrative’s the opposite – KG’s playing as well as he ever has in Green, the Celtics escaped a good effort from Philly despite a poor shooting night from Paul Pierce, they had a day to heal, and are in control of the series. Such is the make-or-miss way of the NBA, and taking that into consideration Boston cannot count on similar output from Garnett every game, because it’s likely he will revert to the mean with a cold shooting night or two sooner rather than later.
Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder (9:30ET on TNT): Game 1
- Stat: The Thunder’s offensive rating against the Lakers this season with Kendrick Perkins on the bench is 117.1. With Perkins on the floor, OKC’s offensive efficiency drops to 97.6.
- Take: Much has been made of Perkins’ hip injury and his status for game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Without Perkins altogether or even if he’s limited, the story goes, OKC is incapable of dealing with the strength and girth of Andrew Bynum and will get thrashed on the interior. While that may look the case on paper, the advanced statistics paint a much different story. The Lakers as a whole and Bynum individually performed worse offensively when Perkins was on the bench, yes, but nary enough to paint his absence as a net negative. LAL’s offensive efficiency was just 1.3 points better without Perk on the floor, while his impact on Bynum was more stark but still manageable at six additional points per 36 minutes for LA’s enigmatic center. Perkins’ abysmal +/- numbers have been chronicled at StS and elsewhere this season, so that pundits and fans continue to point to his playing status as a potential major swing in this series is surprising. In that vein, something that should shock absolutely no one (and finally circles back to our stat of the day) – the Thunder have fared remarkably better against the Lakers in 2012 with Perkins riding the pine. On the strength of that awesome offensive rating of 117.1, OKC outscores LAL by 14.6 points without Perkins compared to just .9 points when he’s on the floor acting as nothing better than a space-eater on defense and space-detractor on offense. The major, overarching, and perhaps cynical takeaway is that the Thunder are better off with Perkins’ injury lingering for a bit longer. Unfortunately, then, he’s a game-time decision but seems likely to play in game 1. Watch his movement and effectiveness, though, as if he’s laboring through pain and can’t push Bynum off the block Scott Brooks surely won’t be reluctant to replace him in the lineup. And if that happens, the Thunder are no doubt better off.