Last year I did a stat heavy preview of the series against the Rockets and it was fairly well received. This year, it seems like there's even more content out there, so I don't know how necessary this is...but I thought I'd do a similar post and open it up for some stat geeky (or otherwise) discussion of the series. Whenever you have a team that has gone through as much transition as the Blazers have, season long stats are always a bit dubious, but I'm using them anyway.
Phoenix plays at the 4th fastest place in the league, averaging 95.3 possessions per game. As we're used to, Portland plays at the league's slowest pace, averaging just 87.7 possessions/game.
Portland ranks 7th in offensive efficiency at 110.8 points/100 possessions while Phoenix's offense has blown away the league with an offensive rating of 115.3, an unbelievable 3.4 points better than the #2 offense in the league, belonging to Atlanta.
As we're used to, Portland does a good job of getting more looks at the basket than its opponents, as the Blazers have the 2nd lowest turnover rate in the league and are 5th best on the offensive glass. The Blazers also rank 5th in FT/FGA. Collectively, these stats make up for a pedestrian effective field goal % of .499, 14th in the league.
Phoenix shoots a blistering efg% of .536, tops in the league. About 26% of the shots are 3s, compared with about 21.5% for the Blazers. The Suns have the 19th fewest TOs/possession, get the 7th most ORebs, and rank 11th in FT/FGA.
Portland's defense has come on strong of late, now that Batum and Webster are both healthy, and more importantly Juwan Howard is no longer the starting Center. The Blazers ended the regular season ranked 15th in defensive efficiency at 107.1. The Suns, always an underrated defensive team under D'Antoni (they were average, never bottom feeders) checked in at 23rd this year with a defensive efficiency of 110.2
The strength of the Blazer defense is controlling the defensive boards, not surprising given that Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla and current C Marcus Camby are all elite rebounders. The Blazers were 8th in this category on the season. The Blazers ranked 17th in efg% allowed, 16th in forcing turnovers and 14th in FT/FGA allowed.
The Suns allow a lower efg% than the Blazers, 11th best in the league. The Suns, however, don't force turnovers at all (dead last), are 16th in FT/FGA against and 29th in controlling their defensive glass. Portland will need to exploit the Suns weakness on the defensive glass to have any chance.
Individual Matchups Follow Below
Steve Nash needs no introduction. The guy just pulled off a 40/50/90 season shooting the basketball at age 35. He led the league in AST% at an absurd 50.9%, the best of his career. Unbelievable season for the ageless Canadian. 21.6 PER.
Goran Dragic wouldn't be a bad guy to consider for MIP. His PER has jumped from 9.8 to 14.8 as he's upped his 3 pt % to 39.4 and he now takes 4.7 of them a game. He's not the pure point that Nash is (but nobody is), as his ast % is 24.1 and TO% is 18.3, not a great ratio. However, he shoots the ball well, scores efficiently and runs the team. 14.8 PER.
Andre Miller has had a pretty typical Andre Miller year. His PER is at 18.0, right in line with his career averages. His AST is 30.3, well below the huge numbers he put up as a youngster in Cleveland but in line with his recent career. As he has been his whole career, he's in that tier right below allstar level. He will need to take advantage of Nash's defense in pick and roll and postup situations for the Blazers to compete in this series.
Jerryd Bayless has become easily the most divisive Blazer. Early in the season, he was scoring the ball extremely efficiently and playing very well. Of late, he's not looked good. Inevitably people will argue not over whether he's a pure PG or not, but whether he *needs* to be one. One the season, his PER is 14.3 (up from 8.2) as his shooting percentages are up (still not good except from the line), his assists are up and his TOs are down. Huge improvement from Bayless, though there's a long way to go. A boost from him would help.
Jason Richardson isn't shooting as much this year, and when he does, a higher percentage of his shots are 3s than earlier in his career. He's also not really making plays (career low USG and AST%), but he doesn't need to on this team. He's playing the role well, hitting 39% of his 3s and scoring the ball efficiently. 16.6 PER.
Leandro Barbosa is a familiar name who's having an interesting season, having appeared in just 44 games. He's been in the rotation lately, playing 21 minutes in the finale against Utah. He's more or less the same Brazilian blur, but he's had a rough year shooting the ball-- 32.4% from 3, 42.5% from the field, well below what he's used to. 14.0 PER.
Rudy Fernandez has not had a good year. Whatever you blame, he's just not been very good this year and it starts with his shooting numbers (a solid 37% from 3 but just 38% from the field). Rudy's rebounds and assists are up (but so are his turnovers), and he's got an excellent steal rate. Lately, he's been shooting the ball better, and he'll need to have a strong series. 13.1 PER.
Grant Hill is still at it, playing his role well. Similar to Richardson, his usage and ast% are well below his career numbers, but he still rebounds well and scores efficiently-- and this year he's making a career best 44% of his 3s. 14.0 PER.
Jared Dudley came into the league known as a defensive minded role player, and he still is, but now he's also a deadeye 3 point shooter at 46%. 13.6 PER.
Nicolas Batum missed out on a 40/50/90 season (though with few attempts, to be fair) as he missed some FTs in the last few games. His defense has been strong again and his offensive efficiency has been remarkable-- an offensive rating of 127 is pretty impressive, despite playing under 1000 minutes. His usage has increased as well. An encouraging 2nd season for Batum, who will be counted on for big things in this series. 17.3 PER.
Martell Webster has had an up and down season, brilliant at times and lost at others. On the whole, his offensive numbers are pretty similar to the ones he put up in his last full season, 2007-2008. Its been nice to see him grow into a very effective defensive player, however. 12.5 PER.
Amare Stoudemire is a beast, and it starts with his tremendously efficient scoring-- TS% of .615, outstanding for a guy with his high 27.3 usage. When focused on the defensive end, he's a handful. His poor plus/minus numbers this year might suggest he's not always been focused, or they could be noise (he was solid in plus minus the previous year). 22.6 PER.
Louis Amundson plays about 15 minutes a game, hustles, rebounds and defends like crazy. 14.4 PER.
LaMarcus Aldridge posted similar numbers to last year. His TS% is up a tick, his defensive rebounds are up (offensive rebounds are down), his TO% is down a bit and his AST% is up a bit. His blk% has fallen to less than a 3rd of what it was his rookie year. His usage has dropped a bit and since it hasn't come with a significant increase in efficiency, his PER is 18.2, down from 19.1 last year, and actually lower than his year 2 PER as well.
Juwan Howard rates as the worst rotation Blazer by pretty much any metric you can find and the worst player in the entire league by adjusted plus minus. 10.0 PER.
Dante Cunningham rates as a much better player than Juwan Howard, having posted a solid PER of 14.3 and looking sound defensively.
Robin Lopez, who's insertion into the starting lineup improved Phoenix's defense, will miss the series.
Jarron Collins has been starting for Phoenix, playing about 10 mpg, and has horrible numbers. He's awful offensively. He's good on D though, especially at drawing charges. 3.8 PER.
Channing Frye had 20 career made threes before this year. Now he has 192. He's made them at a 44% clip. Other than that, he's more or less the Channing Blazer fans are used to, though his assists are up a bit, turnover % is down a bit and his block rate is up to 2.4 (LMA's is 1.3). 15.0 PER.
Marcus Camby is 35, but still nothing short of elite as a rebounder. He led the league in rebound % and was also among the leaders in block %. 17.0 PER.
The Suns have the better point differential, are healthier and have homecourt advantage. Suns in 6.
I got lazy doing the player breakdowns. If someone wants to add some hoopdata stuff (on shot locations, for instance) or some 82games.com stuff, that would be cool.
I used basketball-reference.com for all these stats.