Kit Shepard | April 15th, 2019
The playoffs are only just underway, but after a wild opening weekend, a few interesting statistics have emerged. With each team having played their first game of the postseason, what can be learned, or ignored, by the numbers from the eight exciting game ones?
Living and Dying by the Three
Every winning team this weekend shot better from deep than their opponents, and they occupy eight of the top nine spots in three-point percentage. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder had their worst shooting night from behind the arc this season, and the Philadelphia 76ers their second-worst, as they came up short to the Portland Trail Blazers and Brooklyn Nets respectively.
It is no secret that the outside shot dominates the NBA, and has done for at least half a decade, but this weekend was a brutal reminder of just how crucial it is. After last season’s Conference Finals were decided by a pair of three-point collapses in game sevens, the beginning of the playoffs this time around indicates more of the same. The three-point revolution is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Raptors are in their Element
On the surface, the Toronto Raptors‘ loss to the Orlando Magic was a stunning upset, as the second-seeded Raptors relinquished homecourt at the first hurdle to a seventh-seeded Magic outfit that sneaked into the playoffs in the regular season’s final week. Yet historically, the result was not particularly surprising. Toronto has played 16 playoff series in franchise history, and has lost the opening game on all but two occasions.
For whatever reason, the Raptors are perennially slow out of the blocks at the beginning of the postseason, but have shown the ability to recover in recent years. Excluding series that feature LeBron James, the nemesis of Canadian basketball, Toronto has lost three game ones in the last three seasons and has come back to win the match-up in each of them.
Kyle Lowry‘s horrendous night from the field is a cause of concern, as is the tough, gritty style that the battling Magic play. However, the Raptors still have history on their side, and should not be panicking just yet.
Can Play Kanter
The playoffs have not been kind to the Thunder since they made the Finals in 2012, and they endured a heavy dose of cruel irony this weekend. Enes Kanter‘s final postseason appearance for Oklahoma City ended in disgrace, as head coach Billy Donovan was caught sharing his thoughts on the center in front of millions.
P&R lob to Capela causes Billy Donovan to tell Mo Cheeks, “Can’t play Kanter.” pic.twitter.com/4ROFSNpFw6
— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) April 17, 2017
Since then, Kanter’s defensive flaws have been deemed to outweigh his talent on the other side of the ball, but his efforts last night against OKC suggested otherwise. The Turk, now the Trail Blazers’ primary option at the five with Jusuf Nurkic out, was highly impressive against his former squad, becoming only the second player this decade to score 20 points, grab 18 rebounds, and shoot over 50% from the field in under 35 minutes of playoff action.
Of course, he is still a liability on the defensive end, with old team-mates Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams exposing Kanter’s on-going frailties on the pick and roll. Despite this, he was not abysmal on defense, particularly on the glass, and his effectiveness on offense more than made up of it, as shown by that superb stat-line. If he can deliver another strong performance in game two, then Donovan may start wishing that Kanter was not playing once again.
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Main Credit Image:Embed from Getty Images