Western Conference Finals: 10 Numbers to Know About the Warriors vs. Rockets Series
The elimination of the Houston Rockets seemed to be just a formality when they trailed the Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Sure enough, the Clippers did Clippers things and blew a 97.41 percent chance to advance, eventually allowing the Rockets to take on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
In their four regular season matchups, the Warriors hung 115.0 points on the Rockets (who scored just 99.8 of their own), but do all the numbers suggest that Golden State will run away with the series? Or do some indicate possible advantages for Houston?
Let's dig in.
Houston's Free Throw Rate: 31.2%
This number seemed significant during the Rockets' series with Los Angeles, and it surely did play a factor. The Rockets attempted 39.2 free throws per contest against the Clippers.
The Warriors, for as good as they are defensively, aren't foul averse. They allowed 2,011 free throw attempts during the regular season, seventh-most in the league, and their opponents' free throws per field goal attempt rate of .217 tied for just 22nd in the NBA this season.
Houston's free throws per field goal attempt mark of .223 ranked sixth. Getting to the line is always crucial for Houston, and they might be able to do it again in the Western Conference Finals.
Golden State's Effective Field Goal Percentage: 54.0%
Golden State's Effective Field Goal Percentage was the best in the NBA this season. Houston's mark of 51.2 percent ranked seventh.
The Warriors also had the best Effective Field Goal Percentage against (47.0 percent), and the Rockets were again seventh (48.6 percent).
Golden State's all-around efficiency was unmatched this year, but the Rockets -- despite their perceived lack of defense -- were top-seven in both. Golden State had Houston's number in the regular season, but this Rockets squad has balance as well.
Josh Smith's Playoff Offensive Rating: 111.9
Either incredibly good news or incredibly bad news, Josh Smith has shot the ball well through two rounds. His Offensive Rating of 111.9 through two rounds ranks fifth among playoff performers seeing at least 20 minutes per game. He's shooting 37.0 percent on 3.8 threes per game in the playoffs, and he's hit multiple threes in five of Houston's 12 games.
The career 28.5 percent shooter from deep -- though, in fairness, he did shoot a more respectable 33.0 percent with Houston this regular season -- might be trigger happy because of his recent success.
Andrew Bogut's Field Goal Percentage Against at the Rim: 41.4%
During the regular season, Andrew Bogut continued to prove his rim-protecting ability. Among the 83 players who defended at least five field goal attempts per game at the rim, Bogut ranked third in percentage against. Teammate Draymond Green posted a percentage against of 46.9 percent, which ranked 20th.
What's most relevant is that Houston attempted 30.9 percent of their field goal attempts within three feet of the rim this season, sixth-most in the regular season. Bogut and Green will have plenty of shots to contest around the rim.
Houston's Playoff Possessions per 48: 104.8
Houston's regular season possessions per 48 (96.5) was a number to note in their matchup against the Clippers, as well, but the team has upped its possessions in the postseason and is averaging more per 48 than any other team in the playoffs.
Only one team in the regular season played at a faster pace: Golden State.
The Warriors' 98.3 possessions per 48 in combination with the Rockets' 96.5 should indicate that this will be an uptempo, something the Warriors haven't experienced in the playoffs. The Grizzlies and Pelicans finished 26th and 27th in regular season pace, and now Golden State's 94.3 possessions per 48 in the playoffs rank just 14th among the 16 playoff teams.
Now, they can open things up.
Golden State's Playoff Net Rating: 8.6
Golden State's regular season Net Rating (the difference between a team's Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating) of 11.4 was undeniably impressive (the Clippers' 6.9 was a distant second), but the Warriors are still maintaining a Net Rating of 8.6 in the postseason. That was because they beat up on the Pelicans, right? Well, not exactly.
Golden State maintained a Net Rating of 7.6 against the Pelicans in the first round, which ranked fourth. Against the Grizzlies, the Warriors turned it on -- despite their two losses -- and finished the series with a Net Rating of 9.3, the best mark in the second round (only Cleveland's Net Rating of 7.0 was better than 3.4 among the remaining teams).
James Harden's Offensive Rating vs. Golden State: 103
During the entire regular season, Harden sustained an Offensive Rating of 118, which ranked 19th in the NBA among qualified players. If you exclude some super efficient, low usage guys, that rank climbs. His Offensive Rating ranked seventh in the league among players with a Usage Rate of at least 15.0 (Harden's 31.3 Usage Rate ranked third, by the way).
Against the Warriors in four games, he managed an Offensive Rating of just 103. That was his third-worst mark against any opponent (it was 96 against Boston in two games and 100 against San Antonio).
Golden State's Three-Point Percentage: 38.9%
Golden State posted the league's best three-point percentage during the regular season. The Atlanta Hawks finished second (38.0 percent), meaning that the Warriors were quite clearly the league's best team from beyond the arc.
Houston's Three-Point Percentage Against: 32.2%
As was the case for Golden State's own percentage, Houston's three-point percentage against was very clearly the best in the league. The Pelicans and Bulls finished tied for second (33.5 percent). Of course, three-point percentage against isn't a great indicator of a team's actual three-point defense, but the Rockets were substantially the best in the league, and we can't just ignore that.
Unfortunately for Clutch City, the Warriors shot 38.4 percent from three against the Rockets in their four regular season games. Only Sacramento and Philadelphia managed better percentages against the Rockets this year.
Golden State's Win Odds: 80.59%
According to our algorithms, this is going to be a one-sided series. Golden State's all-around efficiency gives them a win percentage north of 80 in this series, and their NBA Finals odds sit at 62.65 percent. No other team left has odds better than 20 percent.
Then again, the Rockets just toppled the second-best team in our power rankings despite the seemingly unconquerable odds.
And if the NBA playoffs have taught us anything, it's that anything is possible.