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Fun With Numbers: Breaking Down the Suns / Blazers Series

Hang on to your keyboards, boys and girl(s). We are about to blow your mind with numbers ... and charts ... and some graphs.

Earlier this week, I signed up for the new My Synergy product and finally had some time to really play around with it. Wicked cool stuff.

I decided to look at the Suns and Blazers play distribution and efficiencies and how they've changed over this series. So, how many pick and rolls do the Suns normally run, what FG% did they average in the season and how does that compare to this series so far.

If that doesn't get your heart pumping, you are not nearly the geek I am.


I grabbed the top four most frequently used plays for each team based on usage % and then the FG% and 3P% for those plays. I took the regular season average and then the results for Games 1 - 4 and the average for the playoffs so far.

That raw data can be seen in exquisite detail here and below. Same data, different display options.

Summary Results:


  • We know that the Blazers strategy has been to pack the paint and eliminate the pick and roll. They've been very effective at that, halving the number of P&R Roll Man opportunities from 7 to 3 per game and cutting the number of P&R Ball Handler attempts from 14 to 7.
  • We are talking about (mostly) Amare catching on the roll and finishing -- which he does at a rate of 56% during the season -- and we are talking about (mostly) Nash curling off the pick and getting into the lane or taking a jump shot. He's finished on 48.9% of those this season.
  • The Blazers also cut the number of Suns transition attempts from 15 per game to 10 and cut the effectiveness from 58.3% to 44.2%.
  • Basically, the Blazers have focused on taking away the Suns' three biggest weapons. Fortunately, that's created other opportunities.
  • In the playoffs, the Suns have compensated with increased in FG% in Isolation (+7.35), P&R Ball Handler (+21.2%) and P&R Roll Man (+17.6%) 
  • FG%, however, has dropped for Spots-ups (-3.9%) and Transition (-14.1%)
  • Game to game is a bit of mixed bag as you might expect given two blow outs and two close losses. In Game 4, for example, the Suns shot well on the P&R Ball Handler attempts (71.4%), but still have 5 fewer attempts than normal; the Spot-up shooting was a dismal 33.3% and accounted for 22.7% of all attempts; and Transition was a disaster with only 6 attempts, none successful (not counting foul shots)


  • The Suns' strategy hasn't been so much to take away any specific aspect of the Blazers game as much as to play better defense and force them into tougher shots. Overall, that's worked
  • The Blazers are below season averages in Isolation (-3.4%), P&R Ball Handler (-10.6%), and Spot-up (-6.8%)
  • The Blazers, however, are above season averages in Post ups (+7.8%) and Transition (3.2%)
  • The Post up numbers really stand out and mostly here we are talking about LaMarcus Aldridge. In Game 1 and 3, those FG%s were 37.5% and 27.3%, respectively, while in Games 2 and 4 they were 60% and 83.3%!! Obviously, stopping Aldridge in the post is a key focus for the Suns but as Coach Gentry said, he was hitting some crazy turn-around fade away shots. Those are not high-percentage looks, even if he was hitting them in Game 4
  • The Suns have done an excellent job stopping the guards since Game 1, where they shot 63.6%. They've been only 33.3%, 25% and 14.3% since. Excellent work by the Suns defense

And now for the fancy charts portion of our show. I have no idea if these help tell the story or not, but since I made them, I am posting them.





At the end of the day night, I don't think any of this tells us anything we didn't already know. The Blazers are taking away the Suns primary options but the Suns are stepping up and being more effective on the pick and roll opportunities they are getting, and the isolation play (mostly JRich, Hill and Barbosa) has risen to the occasion.

And shockingly, getting transition points does seem to be important to the Suns.

On the other side, the Suns defense is doing a good job, especially with the ball handlers since Game 1. Limiting Aldridge's effectiveness in the post is important moving forward and not letting Roy or anyone else for that matter get hot would be nice, as well.

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