The following post — which we hope is a regular feature during the playoffs — is from Andres Alvarez:
This year — thanks to an increase in staff — the Wages of Wins Network is able to offer series wrap-ups as each playoff round finishes. Inspired by Arturo’s 30-16-1 pieces from last year, we’ll take a look at the winner and losers in the playoffs and figure out who will be champ.
The Bulls finished off the Indiana Pacers in five games. This was a surprise to virtually no one. In the Wages of Wins Smackdown, not a single analyst picked against the Bulls and only Ian Levy (a Pacers fans) had the series lasting longer than four games. With the league’s best record, the front-runner for MVP, and the only opponent with a losing record this series played out exactly as it was supposed to. Or did it?
A Close Series?
The best line I’ve heard about this series was “Is it possible to have a close sweep?” Despite losing their first three games — and getting finished in five — the Pacers made this series seem tight. Of course sometimes our perceptions don’t match reality. What did the Pacers vs. the Bulls look like game by game?
Table 1: Game by Game Breakdown of Indiana vs. Chicago
Up until game five when they were blown out, the Pacers kept this series “neck and neck”. After game 4 the Wins Produced difference stood at 2.34 to 1.63. Not too shabby. Of course in the end the Bulls showed they were the better team and a possible feel good story ended.
Table 2: Chicago Bulls Numbers
Despite the close series, the Bulls actually improved their WP48 relative to the regular season. It wasn’t the clutch play of Derrick Rose though. Noah, arguably the team’s best player, was able to play close to his regular season levels (but played more minutes relative to his regular season numbers). This helped the Bulls look even better. Keeping with their regular season strategy of playing good players (and yes, every team doesn’t do this), the Bulls managed to employ a roster of some very good players, with only C.J. Watson, Taj Gibson and a surprising Carlos Boozer playing significantly below average.
Table 3: Indiana Pacers Numbers
Despite some close games, the eventual game 5 blowout had the Pacers finish off playing worse than their regular season numbers. Danny Granger was a bright spot, finally playing up to the star expectations of his contract. Unfortunately Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Foster and Josh McRoberts weren’t able to keep up their regular season play.
Towards the Championship
Arturo’s Half Baked Notion is that in the playoffs a team’s top six players in terms of minutes played decide their fate. The Bulls are looking strong after round one, but a key question remains: Where is Carlos Boozer? Despite playing the fourth most minutes on the team, his performance ranks him below Rasual Butler, who has only played four minutes! Noah, Deng, Rose, Korver and Bogans are looking very strong, but against tougher teams like Boston and Miami the Bulls will need Boozer to show up.
Another question to ask is if this team is for real? The Bulls minus Boozer put up very respectable numbers and do look to be for real. Of course, against a stronger opponent that may not be the case. I still predict them to take down Boston in round two and both teams will be well rested for the match.
Any Pacers fans should be proud of the performance put on in the first four games of the post season. There’s a little room for optimism with Danny Granger playing well (although four games is not much of a sample in our evaluation of Granger). That being said, this team is far removed from being a threat. With Jeff Foster and Mike Dunleavy getting older, this team needs some new blood to make it a contender. The plus side is that this team is in the East where a losing record can still mean a playoff berth. However, with such teams as Miami and Chicago looking to stay strong, just making the playoffs for the Pacers may simply mean more first round exits.