Tuesday, June 19, 2012

HEAT Check: Was Third Quarter of Game 3 Turning Point of the 2012 Finals?


Dwyane Wade outplayed Russell Westbrook in the third quarter of Game 3 and Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks panicked. Was that the pivotal moment of the 2012 NBA Finals?

This article uses Estimated Wins Produced. Since an average team's winning percentage is 0.500, an average player produces 0.100 estimated wins per 48 minutes (est.WP48). A star player produces 0.200 est.WP48 and great players produce 0.300 est.WP48. See the HEAT Produced Page for more information on Estimated Wins Produced.

Wade vs. Westbrook
Westbrook's been 2.5 times more productive than Wade in the NBA Finals after 3 games with 0.171 est.WP48 by the Thunder point guard compared to 0.071 est.WP48 for the 2006 Finals MVP.

The third quarter was different.

Wade produced 0.459 est.WP48 in the third quarter from 9 points, 67% shooting efficiency, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover to almost single-handedly keep the HEAT alive after the Thunder took a 10-point lead with a 14-2 run.

His patented pump fake drew Kevin Durant's 4th foul, forcing Brooks to put the Thunder superstar on the bench.
"I knew he had three," Wade said. "When I went in there and he jumped, I knew I had him."
By the time Durant returned to the floor, the Heat would be in front.
"We got the momentum from there," LeBron said.
-from Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The HEAT got in front because Westbrook only produced -0.534 est.WP48 in the 3rd quarter from 2 points, 25% shooting efficiency, 2 turnovers and 1 foul.

It got so bad that Brooks benched his all-star point guard with 5 minutes left in the quarter after he killed 4 consecutive possessions on offense:
  • Westbrook Turnover : Bad Pass (1 TO) Steal:Chalmers (2 ST) 06:23
  • Westbrook 3pt Shot: Missed 05:54
  • Westbrook Driving Layup Shot: Missed 05:18
  • Westbrook Foul: Offensive Charge (1 PF) 05:01
  • Westbrook Turnover : Foul (2 TO) 05:01
  • Westbrook Substitution replaced by Fisher 05:01

While Brooks panicked and benched his 2nd most productive player in The Finals, Erik Spoelstra let Wade skip his scheduled rest in the third quarter and keep playing, according to Berardino from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
"Coach asked me to come out," Wade said of a conversation with Erik Spoelstra during the third quarter. "I wanted to keep going."

By the end of the third quarter, Wade produced an estimated 0.193 more wins than Westbrook. The HEAT ended the game with a 22% higher chance of winning than the Thunder. That wouldn't have been the case without Wade's incredible 3rd quarter (or his terrible 4th quarter, but that's another story).

2012 Finals No Chess Match In Games 1-3
Brooks and HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra both felt their rotation was good enough to win Games 1-3 and they were right since the point differential in the Finals is only 1. Neither coach made any adjustments to their rotations in the first 3 games.

Check out the number of substitutions in Games 1-3 of the 2012 NBA Finals.
  • Game 1: 36 substitutions
  • Game 2: 34
  • Game 3: 34

The 2011 Finals were more of a chess match between Spoelstra and Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle. Check out those substitution patterns.
  • Game 1: 43 substitutions
  • Game 2: 34
  • Game 3: 39
  • Game 4: 44
  • Game 5: 37
  • Game 6: 31

The HEATcast discussed Spoelstra panicked in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals after Chris Bosh's abdominal strain, but he recovered to make decent adjustments in Games 4-6. Will Brooks bounce back after panicking in Game 3?

It will be interesting to see if he changes his rotation in Game 4. As stated previously on this blog, the only positive adjustment Brooks can make is to give more minutes to Nick Collison instead of Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins. If he panics, then there's a good chance he makes an adjustment that backfires and could hand the HEAT Game 4.

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