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The Extra Pass: Boxed out and Thursday’s Recaps

Nov 8, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns Getty Images


You probably already know what I’m going to say about Shane Battier before I even say it.

For 12 seasons, Battier has largely defied conventional box scores by doing all the things that don’t show up there.

It’s been a long-standing feud between Battier and the box score, really, but it’s a feud that Battier is on the brink of losing.

Battier is maturing. Box scores are not. Box scores, actually, have stayed almost exactly the same over the last 12 years. They’re pretty much unaffected by time.

We are in the midst of the sport’s biggest analytic movement. Great strides are being made. Fantastic information is out there. But for the stat lines most commonly seen by 99 percent of fans? The best we can do for an advanced stat is a plus/minus number that is almost completely worthless on an individual game basis and borrowed from another sport, no less.

So why haven’t we seen any changes on the front lines, despite all the progress? Basketball takes its cue from baseball in this regard: keep things consistent, simple, and easy to digest. It doesn’t matter that there’s better information out there. RBI’s will be listed because RBI’s have always been listed, and also, how dare you try to sully RBI’s.

A changing sport with changing statistics requires change in representation and consumption. Would Dean Oliver’s Four Factors be nice to have available? Sure. Team efficiency numbers? Great. But I’m not asking for the world. We can walk before we run.

Tonight provided a perfect example for why things should be a little different.

Shane Battier was an afterthought on paper with 7 points in 22 minutes. But on the court? He completely changed the game.

Battier’s mobility allowed him to trap Chris Paul on pick-and-rolls, and the Clippers offense was completely stifled once the ball was forced out of Paul’s hands.

We’re still working on how best to convey that sort of thing, but there was something else Battier did in the Miami Heat’s 102-97 win that we could start listing tomorrow.

Battier drew three huge charges in the second half. Momentum shifting, backbreaking, gamechanging charges. But guess what — the stats give him no credit. That’s nowhere on his “line” for the night.

Isn’t that a problem?

It makes no sense. Blocked shots lead to a change of possession roughly 57 percent of time, but we’ll record that, we’ll base awards on that, and we’ll form opinions on that while a play that results in a change of possession 100 percent of the time only gets recorded by a few websites and never sniffs a box score.

Battier was unquestionably one of the most important players on the court Thursday night, and there’s been plenty of nights just like this one throughout his career. This particular one will be forgotten, unmarked and deemed unremarkable statistically like all the others. How many more times does that have to happen before something changes?

-D.J. Foster





Heat 102, Clippers 97: We covered this in greater detail, but the short version is that there was too much Dwyane Wade for the Heat and not enough Chris Paul for the Clippers. On a night where LeBron James was far from dominant, one more big time performance on the opposing team might have been enough to steal one in Miami, but the Heat’s strategy of making sure to key the defense on the game’s best point guard ended up being enough on a night where Wade was simply sublime when it mattered most.

Nuggets 109, Hawks 107: Denver held on for its first win of the season, but it was anything but easy and the team has real issues to work through if it’s going to once again make it to the playoffs. Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, and Nate Robinson did the bulk of the damage offensively, while new head coach Brian Shaw continued to shuffle his lineups, going 11 players deep while trying to find the right combination. Atlanta’s frontcourt of Paul Millsap and Al Horford was too much for the Nuggets’ starting unit inside, but three of Denver’s six players who scored in double figures came off the bench in this one to secure the team’s victory.

Lakers 99, Rockets 98: Steve Blake hit a three-pointer off of an out of bounds play with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the Lakers the victory, and despite the fact that the Rockets will be better over the course of the long regular season, it’s a comforting victory for L.A. nonetheless. The Lakers blew a big lead in this game, but it’s to be expected given the gap in talent between the two teams’ rosters. Plenty of Lakers fans wanted this one badly given the way Dwight Howard spurned the team in free agency over the summer, and they largely got their wish. Howard’s numbers were fine, but he was fouled intentionally throughout the final period and finished just 5-of-12 from the line in under six minutes of fourth quarter action. L.A. won this game on the strength of its three-point shooting and because the Rockets simply didn’t convert a high percentage of their shots. James Harden was an inefficient 9-of-24 from the field in scoring his 35 points, and Houston as a team shot just 37.7 percent from the field. Wes Johnson and Jodie Meeks were the stars for the Lakers on this night, which makes you wonder if this performance was at all repeatable under reasonably similar circumstances.

-Brett Pollakoff

  1. miamatt - Nov 8, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Shane Battier is the Heat’s 3-point shooting, perimeter defending version of Udonis Haslem. Haslem can’t play as many minutes anymore, but they are both huge reasons the Heat have won the titles that they have.

  2. davidly - Nov 8, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    It is absolutely true that Battier doesn’t get the respect he deserves because of the so-called intangibles–but that’s because people who rely on box scores alone to tell them how someone played either didn’t watch the game or, if they did, don’t know what they are watching.

    Still, a good reason not to put “drawn charges” in the box score is because it is based on a call on the floor that is more subjective than the others. Why not then put flops in their, too? Then, we übernerds could quote the CD/F ratio.

    It’s the age of the Internet. The info is available to those who want it, and quotable to everyone who finds it worthy. If you, as a sports journalist want to see it, it’s at least partly on you to start the trend. Yet, I didn’t see stats quoted in this article to reflect the unsung nature of Shane from last night’s game, just a description. But for me that’s fine. I know how important non-stats are.

    The same reason that Battier doesn’t get his props is the same reason Pippen haters refuse to consider his being up there with the greatest of the greats. And he has stats to go with the intangibles.

    I think people just need to learn how to watch the game. Some of that is on the analysts and journalists, and some of it is on stubborn fans who hate every team but their own.

    • antistratfordian - Nov 8, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      Personal fouls are in the box score and they’re all subjective. 30% of Durant’s points come from subjective calls and all of them are in the box score. The refs are part of the game, for better or for worse – have to accept that.

      • zoomy123 - Nov 8, 2013 at 5:11 PM

        Great point.

      • davidly - Nov 10, 2013 at 5:51 AM

        You do make a good point. Let’s be honest, though; Durant is not the only guy who benefits from the whistle–just a prominent example of someone who perfected a specific part of his offense with that in mind (and who just happened, oddly enough, to be one of the reasons the league modified rules on drawing a foul).

        The thing is: if we begin to put drawn charges in the box, there’ll be a bevy of elite players who’ll benefit from it over-proportionally. In other words, it’s a stat that doesn’t weigh in favor of the players it should, in my opinion. Certainly, scouts and players use some of this data, as they should. I just don’t think it’ll help the fans understand the game any better.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 10, 2013 at 6:54 PM

        I think your concern about who benefits the most is frivolous. Most “elite players” are not going to be leaders in that statistic anyway. It will bring to the forefront smart defenders who never get enough credit.

        And for the stars that don’t even want to play defense (there’s a lot of them) – it might actually get them hustling for good defensive position if they think their ego is going to be stroked because of a higher number there. That can’t be a bad thing if you’re a fan of that team or its coach.

  3. Anoesis - Nov 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Battier’s performance rewards those who actually watch the game, instead of trying to analyze it through stats. It’s the blue-collar guys who put teams over the top and watching those games allows you to see who really does the dirty work for wins.

    • Kurt Helin - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      You realize no guy understands and uses advanced stats in the league more than Battier, right?

      • Anoesis - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        I thought that was readily apparent when I complimented the work he does that is below the stat radar. My point was directed at fans who rely too heavily on the traditional statistics when forming opinions about players.

        If I were a player such as Battier I’d certainly make sure my agent knew to include those obscure stats (like drawing charges) in order to make a good case whenever my contract was up for renewal.

        It’s the casual, and sometimes not so casual, fan that gets too involved in stats in order to make a case for or against certain players. You do realize we’re arguing the same side of the case, right?

    • davidly - Nov 10, 2013 at 5:55 AM

      I think what he meant was that Battier pays attention to the advanced stats of his prospective opponents, not so much that he benefits from them, though he does, of course.

      I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment in your original comment, though.

  4. ryanrockzzz - Nov 8, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Great post today DJ man, I def. agree with you regarding the use of some more advanced analysis in the games box scores. Football isn’t far behind, but with thinngs like QB rating, YAC etc, they are starting to generate some good metrics. I think Basketball has some great advanced metrics being established, but like other sports, they aren’t easy for the average fan to understand or relate to.

    As a huge baseball fan, I see the merit in having more “tools” to evaluate a player, even if they shouldn’t be the begin all, end all in each debate. Maybe someone can come up with something built off the +/- rating. I like the IDEA of it, but sometimes I find it grossly misleading. Player A ends up a +3 when in reality the game he played was a -3 if you factor in all of the intagibles they brought, or lack thereof.

  5. somekat - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Who cares?

  6. mahhelo - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    At full strength, is the roster for Houston really that superior to the Lakers? So much so that we can ignore all the other intangibles that contribute to a teams success. Sorry, I’m not seeing it. Am I alone here?

    • Anoesis - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      At this point in the season perhaps not, but we’re a long ways from April. You aren’t alone at least as far as I’m concerned.

    • antistratfordian - Nov 8, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      “At full strength, is the roster for Houston really that superior to the Lakers?”

      Yes. At full strength and fully gelled I would say the roster for Houston is far superior to the Lakers.

  7. zoomy123 - Nov 8, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Shane Battier is all the evidence you need to realize that superstars almost never win championships, role players and benches do. TEAMS win championships. The playoffs are a physical and mental grind, and no player, no matter how talented, can withstand that grind by himself. Role players become anchors for TEAM defense, role players help facilitate ball movement and offensive TEAM chemistry, role players take charges, role players always get the 50-50 loose ball, etc. Superstars are who you call to carry you in the clutch and in the big games, but role players are who you call for the grind.

  8. mahhelo - Nov 9, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    “Fully gelled”… As in after relegating Asik to the bench because Howard cannot play with another big. As in praying that the pick and roll with Howard will improve even though deep down you know it won’t. D’Antoni was right on when he said Howard left LA to go to the same exact situation in Houston.

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