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What Happened to Portland's Offense In the Playoffs? Help me add Observations to Explain the Ugly Numbers.

We've all heard it and talked about it nearly ad nauseum.  Depending on which stat geek's numbers you look at, Portland had either the #1 or the #2 offense in the NBA this year.  Defense was the primary issue with the Blazers all year long.

As we've discussed, offensive rebounding and Brandon Roy's 1v1 brilliance were both big parts of that.  During the season, a number of posters expressed the concern that this made Portland's offense less bankable for the playoffs.  I was skeptical.  I expected our offense to be just fine in the playoffs.

It wasn't.  

Houston made one of the NBA's most efficient offenses look like its one of its worst.  According to John Hollinger, Portland averaged 103.0 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs, down from 110.7 in the regular season.  The 103.0 mark was good for 9th best in the playoffs, and would have ranked the Blazers 23rd in the regular season.  *aside:  Houston's playoff efficiency was 106.3, compared to their regular season mark of 105.4, so while Portland's D didn't get killed, they did allow the Rockets to do better than their season average, though the D was a lot better after game 1.*

So, now we have to ask ourselves what happened to the Blazer offense.  Of course, we expect the effeiciency to drop against the Rockets, who sported the league's 4th best defense this year... but should it have dropped as far as it did?  Is the Blazer offense not built for the playoffs?  Was Houston just a really bad matchup?  Did the players just not produce?  All of the above?

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Going a little deeper, we can look at Portland's offensive "4 factors" for the regular season and the playoffs (thanks Royster)

eFG%: .511 to .484
TOV%: .125 to .120
ORb%: .326 to .237
FTA/FGA: .234 to .201

The first thing that jumps out here is that Portland's offensive rebound rate dropped by nearly 30%.  Looking at the 2 late regular season games Portland played in Houston (the Rockets were a totally different team with TMac in the early season Blazer win), the Blazers O-reb rate was .241, so here it appears that the matchup limited Portland's offensive rebounding advantage-- the Rockets are a good defensive rebounding team.

As far as efg% goes, Portland's efg% in those two late season games vs. Houston was 0.481, again very similar to the playoff numbers.  Yet again, we appear to be looking at something matchup dependent rather than playoff dependent.  Small sample size caveats apply to any numbers here-- we're dealing with 2 regular season games and 6 playoff games.

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What about individual players?  I'll just point out a few notable things. 

Brandon Roy was outstanding in the playoffs, accumulating a PER of over 26 (two points higher than his regular season mark), good for 8th in the playoffs.  He scored the ball nearly as effeciently as he did in the regular season, which is remarkable given the defenders he was facing.  Notable, however, is that his usage rate climbed from 27.5 in the regular season to 33.1 in the playoffs-- Portland relied on him even more.  Despite this, Roy saw his assist rate cut by about 40%.  In those two late season games against Houston, Roy had 5 and 6 assists.  In the playoffs, Roy reached the 5 assist plateau just once, in game 4.  Help me out-- was this primarily due to Roy passing less or teammates just missing shots?

By far the most striking difference in a player's true shooting % numbers from regular season to the playoffs was Travis Outlaw's .379 mark, compared to .541 in the regular season.

Greg Oden's rebound rate was 15% lower than in the regular season.  Joel Przybilla's was 25% lower.  LaMarcus Aldridge's was 5% lower.  I think we can all agree that Houston winning the rebound battle was a huge factor in the series.

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Collecting a few opinions:

Kevin "KP2" Pelton answered my question in one of his chats:

Jacob (CA): Kevin, what's your diagnosis for Portland's awful offensive showing in these playoffs? Too much 1v1 play? Relying on offensive rebounding too much? Just a great job by Houston? Where does Portland go from here?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The thing is, the Blazers' offense should in theory be much easier to translate into the playoffs than teams that rely on transition offense or something like that. That was the premise of a piece I wrote for Sports Northwest Magazine earlier this year. Dependence on outside shooting did make them somewhat vulnerable, but end games in the playoffs are all about 1-on-1 play (as one person remarked during Boston-Chicago Game 5, "We play a team game for six months. Then it's all about the individuals in the playoffs."), so ... . I think a lot of the credit has to go to the Rockets, who made the Blazers really like discombobulated at times in the series.

John Hollinger touched on this in his insider gems piece on May 1. Since its insider, I won't paste the whole thing (link here), but here's an exerpt:

Portland's elimination in the first round was a disappointment to anyone who saw how well they played in the regular season, and what stood out was the total no-show by the Blazers' secondary players.

Throughout the season, Portland leaned on Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, just as they did in the playoffs. But the Blazers also got a lot of production from players like Travis OutlawSteve BlakeRudy FernandezJoel PrzybillaNicolas Batum and Greg Oden -- production that completely dried up against Houston.

There's a need for more players who can get their own shot instead of having Roy get it for them.

Jksnake99's two cents:  I still feel Portland's offense is excellent, albeit far from perfect.  Against most playoff opponents, defense still would have been our biggest concern.  However, against teams like Houston-- teams that don't have to double team Roy and have the horses to limit Aldridge and neutralize Portland's rebound advantage, the Blazers are still vulnerable.  Possible solutions include running more, establishing Oden as a legit option, or getting someone else who can create his own shot (Outlaw wasn't that guy in these playoffs-- could Rudy be that guy next year?).  I do think this series was still very winnable, despite the clear matchup problems presented by Houston-- the Blazers needed a better effort on the glass, more consistent production from Aldridge and a lot more out of Outlaw.  Rudy shot the ball well, but his ast/to ratio (better than 1 during the regular season) was a woeful 0.32-- that didn't help either.  There was plenty of blame to go around.

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Your turn:  

- What happened to Portland's Offense?  

- Why did Roy's ast % drop so much?

- How was Houston able to neutralize Portland's offensive rebounding?  Would this have happened against a different matchup?

- What needs to change against teams like Houston?

- What needs to change in general?

- Other thoughts?

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