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Pelton: Data Supports Trail Blazers’ Cold Shooting Claims

The Trail Blazers Game 1 loss came down to poor shooting, and ESPN’s Kevin Pelton has the stats to prove it.

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers surrendered home court advantage by dropping Game 1 to the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite an inspiring fourth quarter run, poor shooting doomed the Blazers’ hopes of victory. While it is easy to blame a loss on shots not falling, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton unearthed the data that supports the claim.

Pelton had this to say in the aftermath of the Pelicans’ victory:

I was skeptical when Portland Trail Blazers players and coaches insisted after their Game 1 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans that they’d simply missed good shot attempts, but Second Spectrum tracking data backed up that belief. The Blazers’ quantified shot quality (qSQ) of 54.9 percent -- the effective field-goal percentage we’d expect given the location and type of their shots and nearby defenders -- was the best any team had in Saturday’s Game 1s. Even when we account for who was shooting using quantified shot probability (qSP), only the Golden State Warriors (56.0 percent) got better looks than Portland (55.3 percent). That’s good news for the Blazers because I’ve found that shot making tends to be more variable from game to game than shot quality.

The Blazers shot a dismal 37.8 percent from the field, and compounded their problems by shooting an even worse 30.8 percent from beyond the arc.

The good news for Portland is that they won the rebounding battle, committed fewer turnovers, and scored more fast-break points. If the Blazers can correct their shooting woes in Game 2, the final result could be much different.