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Defensive Box Scores: Lakers-Wolves

Game charting by Patrick McCarthy

Patrick has charted all kinds of details for every play of the Lakers-Wolves NBA 2003-04 Western Conference Finals series and assigned defensive responsibility for field goal attempts, free throws, and turnovers. Admittedly many instances require subjective evaluation, and frequently the credit/blame is split between two players or even allocated to the "Team" as a whole.

Explanations: (all stats reflect assigned responsibility to a player).
FGM - Field Goals Made
FGA - Field Goals Attemped
FTM - Free Throws Made
FTA - Free Throws Attempted
T/O - Forced Turnovers (whether actual steals, charges taken, pressed bad passes, travels induced, etc.)
Pts - Points Allowed
RTG - a rough "points per 100 possessions" allowed number for a specific defender.

Please note the RTG is not currently adjusted by the quality of the opposing player guarded, although this is likely to happen in the future!

Lakers player defensive performance
Player
FGM
FGA
FTM
FTA
T/O
Pts
RTG
 Cook 0.5  46 
 Rush 16.5  14  66 
 George 21.5  51  10.5  49  75 
 Team 15.5  32  13  36  78 
 Malone 40  94  14  17  16  98  83 
 Fisher 16  41.5  11  12  47.5  89 
 Payton 25  62  12  15  8.5  70.5  92 
 Bryant 27.5  57.5  17  17  11.5  77  101 
 O'Neal 26  60  29  35  3.5  82  105 
 Medvedenko 16  28.5  39  123 
 Walton 1.5  0.5  142 
 Fox 7.5  8.5  21  165 

82games series defensive MVP: Karl Malone!
Matched up primarily with Garnett, Karl did a fabulous job, limiting the free throws, while leading the team in forced turnovers and holding the T'Wolves to a meek 42.5% FG shooting.

Timberwolves player defensive performance
Player
FGM
FGA
FTM
FTA
T/O
Pts
RTG
 Hassell 13.5  37.5  11  16  8.5  39  74 
 Team 11.5  25.5  1.5  1.5  10  27.5  76 
 Johnson 14  28.5  10  27  38  85 
 Sprewell 24  62.5  13  14  7.5  67  88 
 Olowokandi 18.5  38.5  13  29  5.5  50  89 
 Hoiberg 15.5  36.5  3.5  39  91 
 Martin 10.5  24.5  2.5  5.5  27  94 
 Garnett 47.5  96.5  19  25  11.5  116  98 
 Szczerbiak 18  45  11  19  5.5  58.5  100 
 Madsen 13.5  25  10  22  39  103 
 Miller 6.5  10.5  14  1.5  21  119 
 Cassell 16.5  1.5  27  132 
 Trent 300 

For the Timberwolves, Hassell played solid defense, but Johnson's good RTG is deceptive -- it came out because Shaq missed so many free throws awarded on Johnson's ticket! Szczerbiak's numbers look okay (40% FG allowed) until you realize he gave up 11 three-pointers!

-- How does the full charting compare to the "Counterpart Defense" statistics?

Since we've been publishing individual defensive stats derived from the matchups within a game (e.g. a player considered to be at PF at a given point of a game will be held accountable for the performance of the opposing PF in the game at that same time -- see for example Tim Duncan's counterpart production) it's an important point to understand: how reliable are the counterpart numbers in contrast to real charting?

Here are the counterpart stats for the same series, with the Charted RTG ('cRTG') for comparison purposes:

Lakers player COUNTERPART statistics
Player
FGM
FGA
FTM
FTA
T/O
Pts
RTG
cRTG
 Cook 52  46 
 Rush 23  22  77  66 
 Medvedenko 19  22  83  123 
 George 28  66  65  86  75 
 Malone 49  101  11  14  21  112  87  83 
 Bryant 35  74  18  18  17  93  94  101 
 O'Neal 17  48  30  36  64  94  105 
 Payton 29  68  14  17  79  98  92 
 Fisher 18  40  11  12  54  100  89 
 Walton 103  142 
 Fox 20  163  165 

Timberwolves player COUNTERPART performance
Player
FGM
FGA
FTM
FTA
T/O
Pts
RTG
cRTG
 Szczerbiak 25  73  10  18  67  75  100 
 Martin 10  27  25  77  94 
 Madsen 11  22  20  31  86  103 
 Olowokandi 13  29  13  29  39  87  89 
 Johnson 13  25  10  27  36  90  85 
 Hoiberg 15  32  37  95  91 
 Hassell 20  44  11  16  56  95  74 
 Garnett 40  81  19  25  11  100  98  98 
 Sprewell 38  83  15  16  12  104  102  88 
 Trent 111  300 
 Miller 15  21  131  119 
 Cassell 12  21  33  134  132 

Analysis: the majority of players have similar results for the RTG ratings on the "auto-defense" -- particularly those with substantial defensive possessions to count, but there are several notable exceptions, including Szczerbiak (75 counterpart versus 100 charted), Madsen (86 vs 103), Hassell (95 vs 74) and Sprewell (102 vs 88).

The big differences are likely to come mainly from one type of situation: when an opposing player drives past a perimeter defender to encounter the big men underneath. With the counterpart defense we charge the outcome of that possession (barring a block or foul) to the perimeter defender, whereas with real charting Patrick is often giving 1/2 or even full responsibility on the play to the interior defender(s).

Consequently real charting shows less shots against PG, SG, SF types and more shots against PF, C types. Now many people who have played the game of basketball will argue that this is the right way to do it (Dean Oliver in the excellent Basketball on Paper elaborates on charting individual defense at length).

Still, this leads to an imbalance perhaps in defensive ratings if the interior defenders are facing higher degree of difficulty in stopping a player on help defense versus their own one-on-one play. Likewise the perimeter players may be benefitting from not being charged full value when getting beaten off the dribble.

Unfortunately without a much greater supply of charted games to compare, we are hard pressed to get a good sense of the full effects. Of course in terms of our package of opposing defense numbers, we also like to consider rebounds allowed and per minute averages in creating the PER based ratings.

For now we'll rest with the belief that actual charting is preferable, but the counterpart defensive stats appear to hold their own reasonably well, with presumably better strength over the course of a full season than in a short series.


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