The Portland-Phoenix Matchup Part 1: A Look at the Numbers

This is the first post in a multi-part series detailing the upcoming Blazers-Suns series.  Today we're going to look at the raw numbers and what they might mean.  Ensuing posts will look at matchups and injuries, play-calling strategies, the history between the two teams this season, and more.

First, the playoff schedule:

  • Game 1:  Sunday, April 18th, 7:30 p.m. Pacific on TNT
  • Game 2:  Tuesday, April 20th, 7:00 p.m.
  • Game 3:  Thursday, April 22nd, 7:00 p.m.
  • Game 4:  Saturday, April 24th, 1:30 p.m.
  • Game 5: (when necessary)  Monday, April 26th, Time TBA
  • Game 6: (when necessary)  Thursday, April 29th, Time TBA
  • Game 7: (if necessary)  Saturday, May 1st, Time TBA

Since the numbers take up valuable space you'll have to click through to read the rest of the post.

HOW TO READ THE TABLES 

Statistical categories are laid out in four columns. 

  • The first shows Portland's number for that category.
  • The second shows Phoenix's number against for that category.
  • The third shows Phoenix's number for that category.
  • The fourth shows Portland's number against for that category.

In other words, the head-to-head stats are adjacent to each other.  Example from Row 1:  Portland scores 97.9 points per game while Phoenix allows its opponents 105.6.  Phoenix scores 110.4 ppg while Portland allows its opponents 94.5.  Or you can simple compare the same stat for both teams by looking at the "Offense" or "Defense" columns (1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th). 

Do not be confused by the terms "offense" and "defense" in the headings.  The "Offense" column doesn't always mean an offensive stat (e.g. Defensive Rebounds or Steals).  "Offense" means the team is trying to do this thing and "Defense" means how good the other team is at preventing said thing.  For instance Portland is 8th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage but Phoenix is 7th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage Allowed so that's likely to be a battle.

League rank is listed before the actual number to provide perspective.

For any Phoenix fans reading, the analysis is unabashedly Blazer-centric since this is a Blazer blog.  Here's the default position:  Phoenix is more likely to win this series.  Portland will have to do certain things to overcome the Suns' advantages.  Those things are discussed below.  Such discussion does not imply that said things are likely to happen, only that they need to happen in order for Portland to be successful against your fine team.

SCORING

POR Offense

PHX Defense

PHX Offense

POR Defense

Points Per Game

21st  (97.9)

26th (105.6)

1st  (110.4)

3rd (94.5)

Fast Break PPG

30th (9.5)

24th (15.3)

6th (16.0)

2nd (11.2)

Points in Paint

30th (36.4)

22nd (43.9)

3rd (45.5)

12th  (40.9)

Off/Def  Eff.

8th (107.6)

21st (107.2)

1st  (112.0)

13th  (103.8)

Shooting Eff.

13th  (1.080)

12th (1.063)

1st (1.155)

17th (1.075)

Pace

30th  (90.1)

----------

4th (97.9)

---------

Analysis: Right off the bat you can see that this series is going to be about tempo.  The Pace numbers (4th for Phoenix, 30th for Portland) are one thing, but you also need to look at the offensive columns beyond that.  Phoenix obliterates Portland in the metrics that aren't adjusted for pace:  1st to 21st in overall points, 6th to 30th in fast break points, 3rd to 30th in points in the paint.  The gap closes measurably, though, in the efficiency stats which ignore pace.  Phoenix is still scary, but not overwhelming.  In fact Phoenix is +4.4 in comparative Offensive Efficiency but Portland is +3.4 in comparative Defensive Efficiency.   Portland's Defensive Efficiency compares reasonably well when stacked up against Phoenix's Offensive Efficiency as well, while Phoenix's D.E. doesn't phase Portland a bit.  The question is, whose game will be played?  In order to win Portland is going to have to bring Phoenix down from the stratosphere enough that the Blazers' more mortal numbers prove adequate.  Pace is the key there.

That's not to say that Portland must always play slow.  To the contrary, they need to circle that 24th in the league Fast Break Points Allowed stat.  One of the ways to bring Portland's scoring up will be running out for easy hoops.  But they have to maintain that 2nd in the league Fast Break defense as well.  Portland's game can't be all-out crazy.  They have to strike, then control.  Strike, then control.

SHOOTING

 

POR Offense

PHX Defense

PHX Offense

POR Defense

FG Made

27th  (36.2)

26th  (39.6)

1st (40.8)

7th  (35.9)

FG Att.

26th  (78.6)

30th  (87.5)

13th  (82.9)

2nd (77.3)

FG%

15th  (46.0%)

11th  (45.2%)

2nd  (49.2%)

18th (46.4%)

Eff. FG%

14th  (49.8%)

12th  (49.2%)

1st  (54.6%)

17th  (50.1%)

True Shooting%

11th  (54.7%)

---------

1st  (58.6%)

---------

3pt Made

18th  (5.9)

22nd  (6.8)

3rd  (8.9)

5th  (5.8)

3pt Att.

21st  (16.8)

25th  (19.3)

6th  (21.5)

6th  (16.9)

3pt%

14th  (35.3%)

17th  (35.4%)

1st  (41.3%)

5th  (34.2%)

3pt Rate

18th  (21.4%)

15th  (22.1%)

5th  (26.0%)

13th  (21.9%)

FT Made

8th  (19.6)

21st  (19.6)

5th  (19.9)

6th  (16.9)

FT Att.

12th  (24.8)

21st  (25.8)

9th  (25.8)

8th  (22.7)

FT%

3rd  (79.0%)

16th  (75.9%)

11th  (77.1%)

3rd  (74.6%)

FT Rate

9th  (24.3%)

18th  (23.1%)

11th  (23.5%)

15th  (22.5%)

Analysis:  Once again you see some nasty numbers here in the Phoenix Offense column.  That bevy of firsts and top-five finishes is intimidating, especially when compared to the more homely middle-of-the-road offerings in the Portland column.  However there's hope here as well.  The Blazers look to be in trouble in the basic field goal stats.  But Portland's defense gets stiffer at the three-point arc (5th by percentage), which is a huge key for Phoenix.  Portland's free throw stats are actually better than the Suns'.  The Blazers can probably live with Phoenix shooting well overall if they can make a dent in the Suns' three-point production while scoring extra points themselves at the line.  If control is the cake in the playoff plan these extra points are the frosting.  Phoenix won't stop you from getting yours.  In fact they might allow you a few extra.  You just have to take a bit out of theirs at the other end. 

REBOUNDING

 

POR Offense

PHX Defense

PHX Offense

POR Defense

Off. Rebs

14th (11.2)

29th  (13.2)

14th  (11.2)

4th  (9.8)

Off. Reb%

4th  (28.3%)

29th  (29.3%)

7th (27.7%)

8th  (25.2%)

Def. Reb

28th (29.0)

6th  (29.1)

6th  (31.9)

1st  (28.3)

Def. Reb%

8th  (74.8%)

7th  (72.3%)

29th  (70.7%)

4th  (71.7%)

Total Rebs

25th  (48.2)

23rd  (51.0)

9th  (51.1)

1st  (46.7)

 Analysis:  Rebounding is the first key to ball control.  Ball control is the key to enforcing your tempo and your will.  Portland has a huge advantage in rebounding over the Suns.  Those percentage lines tell everything.  The Blazers are 4th best in offensive rebounding, Phoenix second-worst in preventing those O-rebs.  Portland's bigs hit the glass while the perimeter guys get back to build a fence against the break.  Phoenix can't run as easily if they're not sure they can get the ball.  Offensive rebounds also allow those extra points we talked about above.  Phoenix is also a good offensive rebounding team but the Blazers prevent them far better than the Suns do.  Plus the Blazers don't lose as much by taking their time securing the rebound as the Suns do.  This will be among the most important battlefields of the series...or at least Portland hopes to define it as such.  If Portland can't win on the boards Portland can't win. 

BLOCKS, STEALS, ASSISTS, TURNOVERS 

 

POR Offense

PHX Defense

PHX Offense

POR Defense

Blocks

24th  (4.3)

13th (4.5)

14th  (5.0)

3rd  (4.1)

Block%

23rd  (5.6%)

10th  (5.4%)

20th  (5.7%)

5th  (5.2%)

Steals

25th  (6.4)

26th  (7.9)

29th  (5.8)

1st  (5.9)

Steal%

21st  (6.4%)

26th  (7.2%)

30th  (5.1%)

2nd  (5.7%)

Turnovers

2nd  (11.5)

25th  (12.4)

20th  (14.1)

22nd (12.9)

Turnover%

2nd  (11.3%)

30th  (11.1)

18th  (12.9%)

15th  (12.8)

Assists

21st  (20.3)

14th  (20.8)

4th  (23.3)

6th  (19.3)

Assist/FGM

16th  (0.560)

5th  (0.526)

11th  (0.572)

8th  (0.537)

Assist/T.O.

4th  (1.764)

23rd  (1.682)

11th  (1.654)

12th  (1.495) 

Analysis:  Neither team relies on these categories overmuch except the Suns with their assists.  Portland usually defends well against the pass, so even that's not a huge deal.  But there's a hidden factor here, buried in Portland's miserly turnover rate and Phoenix's complete lack of forcing them.  If you can't control the boards one of the other ways to shift tempo is via the turnover, particularly steals.  Portland never gives them up.  Phoenix never collects them.  Unless things go completely wonky (which they could...more on that tomorrow) the Suns won't have this safety fallback.  They're going to have to play the Blazers straight up, possession for possession.  If Portland can turn the tempo in their favor the Suns will just have to lump it...a serious advantage for the Blazers.

Final Analysis:  Let Phoenix have their heads and you're dead.  Their defense is no great shakes but it's not as bad as their offense is good.  This isn't just a matchup of talent, it's a matchup of will.  Phoenix has a natural advantage there, having been deep in the playoffs before.  But Portland's had a few surprises up their sleeves lately, largely due to the heady play of the veterans they acquired this season.  While both teams have a chance to win at either end of the spectrum, there are enough stylistic differences between these teams that you'll be able to tell who has the upper hand in this series simply by what kind of game is being played.

There are other juicy tidbits in the numbers, I'm sure.  I'll let you sort them out in the comments.  Tomorrow we'll get more into matchups with emphasis on the ultra-critical roles of Andre Miller and Marcus Camby.

Don't forget to check out the preparations over at BrightSideoftheSun.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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