Friday, May 6, 2011

Heat Check: What to Expect in Boston?

The Peninsula Is Mightier blog posted some audio clips with the Miami Heat players and Coach Erik Spoelstra previewing Game 3 against the Boston Celtics in the TD Garden. In one clip, Dwyane Wade mentioned that he hasn't won a game in Boston in a long time.

Let’s take a look at how the Heat have produced wins on the road this season and at the TD Garden, in particular.

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential (i.e. points allowed per possession minus points scored per possession) and wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48), a star player produces +0.200 Est.WP48 and a superstar produces +0.300 Est.WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

Simple Models of Player Performance
Wins Produced vs. Win Score
What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say
Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

The Heat won 28 games on the road this season. They scored 107.8 points per 100 possessions and allowed 101.3 points per possession for an efficiency differential of +6.5 on the road that translates into 28 wins over 41 games.

Based on the box scores, the Heat players produced an estimated 27 wins on the road during the regular season. This spreadsheet illustrates which players were responsible for producing those wins.

Road Notes:
  • LeBron James was the most productive player on the road with an estimated 8.7 wins produced and 0.280 est.WP48. LeBron averaged 0.269 est.WP48 at home.
  • Dwyane Wade was the second most productive player on the road with an estimated 6.6 wins produced and 0.225 est.WP48. Wade averaged 0.272 est.WP48 at home. His production declined by 17 percent on the road.
  • Chris Bosh produced an estimated 4.3 wins on the road and 0.146 est.WP48. Bosh averaged 0.208 est.WP48 at home. His production declined by 30 percent on the road.
  • The only other Heat players in the playoff rotation that played above average on the road (minimum of 100 minutes played) were:
    • Mario Chalmers with an estimated 1.6 wins produced and 0.100 est.WP48 and
    • Mike Bibby with an estimated 0.6 wins produced and 0.106 est.WP48.
  • The conventional wisdom states that role players don’t play well on the road but Chalmers, Bibby and Joel Anthony maintained similar levels of production on the road as they did at home. On the other hand, Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ production declined by 97 percent on the road and James Jones’ production declined by 78 percent.

Bosh was the most productive Heat player in Games 1-2 in Miami, but if the regular season and the playoff series against the 76ers are any indicator, then Bosh can’t be expected to be as productive in Boston. Wade was the second most productive player in the first two games, but his production should be expected to slightly decline on the road, as well. My guess is that LeBron will lead the way in Boston, as he has on the road all season.

The Celtics have an efficiency differential of +9 at home, according to Compared to the Heat’s efficiency differential of +6.5 on the road, the Celtics have a 69 percent chance of winning the games in Boston. The Heat may need Wade, Bosh, Big Z and Jones to play better than they have all season if they want to win a game in TD Garden.

Speaking of the TD Garden, this spreadsheet illustrates how the Heat players have produced in Boston this season.

Boston Notes:
  • Focusing solely on the Heat’s regular season performance in Boston reveals one big problem - Udonis Haslem probably isn’t walking through that door. He was the most productive Heat player in Boston and played like a superstar with 0.340 est.WP48. On Wednesday, he told Dan LeBatard that he didn’t think Spoelstra would play him in this series.
  • Of course, Haslem only played one game in Boston this season. Of those that played in both games, Bosh was the most productive player but he only produced 0.127 est.WP48 (27 percent less than his season average).
  • The second most productive player from both games was “The Warden” with 0.185 est.WP48. That’s nearly seven times higher than his regular season average but he is producing 0.154 est.WP48 against the Celtics in the first two games of this series so maybe he can continue being so productive in Boston. Of course, it will take more than a good game from Joel Anthony to beat the Celtics in Boston.
  • The rest of the playoff rotation with significant minutes played in Boston were well below average during the regular season. LeBron only provided 6 percent of his normal production on the road in the two Boston games on October 26 and February 13.
  • If Wade and Jones’ declining production on the road wasn’t enough of a concern, they were the two least productive Heat players in Boston. Wade produced -0.128 est.WP48 in Boston and Jones produced -0.099 est.WP48.

The problem with this series, however, is that it’s tough to know what to expect.

I predicted the Heat to win this series in seven games, but after two games I don’t see any advantages for the Celtics to exploit and neither does Jay Glassie, the NBA analyst for ESPN 980 in Washington DC that's well-respected by TNT's David Aldridge and ESPN's Tony Kornheiser. The Celtics outplayed the Heat at point guard and center in the first two games, but they only have advantages at those positions for certain stretches of the game. For example, they had an advantage at point guard with Chalmers on the floor in Game 2, but Bibby was more productive than Rondo. Big Z was terrible at center but “The Warden” was dominant at that position in Game 2.

The only thing fans can expect in Game 3 with any certainty is that it will be tough, as Bosh told reporters earlier today.
“It'll be the hardest game of the year. Game 3 is going to be the hardest game of the year, probably of our lives to this point. I think we should expect that because their goal is to win a championship and the only way to come back from that, from a 2-0 deficit, is to come out with everything you have for Game 3."
Unless referenced otherwise, original game data used for this post was taken from and

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