As Couper Moorhead stated in his game recap on HEAT.com, the problem for the Miami Heat in Game Four was the start and the finish. The game started with a 17-2 run by the Philadelphia 76ers and ended with a 10-0 run by the Sixers that cost the Heat the game.
According to Moorhead, "Spoelstra pointed out that Miami’s slow starts are more than a trend at this point and that they must be remedied."
Let's take a look at the numbers for the Heat at the beginning and end of their games with the 76ers to identify the problems.
This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48), a star player produces 0.200+ Est.WP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ Est.WP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:
First, here is the spreadsheet that provides the estimated wins produced for Game 4 from the box score stats.
In the first quarter, the Heat produced an estimated -0.047 wins to the Sixers' 0.541 estimated wins produced. It was the second time this series the Sixers produced more than 0.500 estimated wins in the first quarter (it only takes 0.501 estimated wins produced to win a game). The Sixers have produced three of the ten best quarters by a Heat opponent this season.
- 0.674 estimated wins produced in the fourth quarter of their first meeting on October 27.
- 0.577 estimated wins produced in the first quarter of Game One.
- 0.541 estimated wins produced in the first quarter of Game Four.
A summary of the wins produced stats for this series can be found in this spreadsheet.
For this series, the Heat have produced an estimated 0.0 wins in the first quarter while the Sixers have produced an estimated 1.5 wins. During the regular season, the Heat produced more wins in the first quarter than any other period:
- Period 1 18.3 estimated wins produced
- Period 2 16.4 estimated wins produced
- Period 3 11.8 estimated wins produced
- Period 4 12.1 estimated wins produced
- Overtime 0.2 estimated wins produced
In the regular season games against the Sixers, the Heat struggled in the first quarter with just an estimated 0.2 wins produced over three games.
The only two Heat players that have played above average in the first quarters of this playoff series are Big Z (0.342 est.WP48) and Joel Anthony (0.224 est.WP48). LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have played the most minutes in the first quarter, but LeBron has been way below average with just 0.028 est.WP48 while Wade has actually had a negative impact on the team at the beginning of games with -0.050 est.WP48.
Against all teams in the regular season, LeBron produced 0.292 est.WP48 in the first quarter (which was a little above his average for the entire game) while Wade produced 0.208 est.WP48 (which was a little below his average for the entire game). Against the Sixers in the regular season, LeBron's production dropped to 0.226 est.WP48. Wade was the least productive Heat player against the Sixers in the first quarter during the regular season with -0.148 est.WP48.
Here's a list of problems the Heat's players had in the first quarter against the Sixers (minimum 10 minutes played):
- They've taken more shots but made a lot less. The average shooting efficiency in the first quarter has been just 37.3 percent. For the game, the average shooting efficiency of those same players with the majority of the minutes in the first quarter was 45 percent.
- They've gotten to the line half as often. LeBron leads the Heat with an average of 12.7 free throw attempts per 48 this series but has only averaged 6.6 free throw attempts per 48 minutes in the first quarter.
- The poor shooting efficiency and decreased trips to the line have resulted in the Heat scoring 7.7 less points per 12 minutes than they average for the game.
- They've forced 0.6 less steals per 12 minutes.
- They haven't blocked any shots in the first quarter.
- They have committed nearly half as many fouls. Is that a good thing or a sign that the defense has lacked aggression or intensity?
- The few positives to take away from the first quarter were improved rebounds (more misses to grab), turnovers and assists.
What's more important for the Heat's success - Dwyane Wade getting off to a good start or LeBron James having a good finish?
As illustrated in Sunday's game, the Heat have made up for their bad starts with dominant second quarters. Sixty-six percent of the Heat production has come in the second quarters of this series against the Sixers and the Heat had a big second quarter on Sunday with an estimated 0.524 wins produced. In the regular season, only 44 percent of the Heat production came in the second quarter.
The Three Kings have reigned in the second quarter. LeBron has been nearly three times more productive, Wade has been nearly five times more productive, and Bosh has been more than twice as productive in the second quarter as the first.
Here's a list of things that have gone much better for Heat players in the second quarter against the Sixers (minimum 10 minutes played):
- They've shot 63.9 percent. That's a big improvement from the 37.3 percent shooting efficiency they've shown in the first quarter.
- They've taken six less shots per 12 minutes, but have gotten six more trips to the line in the second quarter.
- They've averaged two more assists per 12 minutes along with greatly improved shooting efficiency; extra trips to the line have resulted in 14 more points per 12 minutes.
- They've grabbed nearly five more boards.
- They've committed 1.8 more fouls per 12 minutes which could be seen as a sign of more aggressive defense that resulted in 1.5 more steals and two more blocks per 12 minutes.
In the fourth quarter of Game Four, the Sixers produced an estimated 0.238 wins while the Heat gave the game away with an estimated -0.115 wins produced. James Jones (0.332 est.WP48) and Joel Anthony (0.191 est.WP48) were the only two Heat players with above-average production in the fourth quarter of Game Four.
For the series, the two teams have battled to a virtual standstill in the fourth quarter, with each producing an estimated 0.1 wins over the first four games.
The Heat have used a six-player rotation in the fourth quarter against the Sixers in this series but only Jones (0.207 est.WP48) and Wade (0.194 est.WP48) have provided above average production. LeBron's performance in the fourth quarters of this series has been terrible at 0.016 est.WP48.
In the regular season, Wade was the most productive Heat player in the fourth quarter with an estimated 3.7 wins produced and 0.256 est.WP48 but his fourth quarter production has decreased to 0.194 est.WP48. If he provided that level of production in the regular season, then the Heat would have one less win.
Here's a comparison of the fourth quarter rotation's production in this series vs. the regular season:
- James Jones: 0.207 est.WP48 in playoffs, 0.058 est.WP48 in regular season
- Dwyane Wade: 0.194 est.WP48 in playoffs, 0.256 in regular season
- Chris Bosh: 0.086 est.WP48 in playoffs, 0.215 in regular season
- LeBron James: 0.016 est.WP48 in playoffs, 0.235 in regular season
- Mario Chalmers: -0.188 est.WP48 in playoffs, 0.010 in regular season
- Joel Anthony: -0.147 est.WP48 in playoffs, -0.014 in regular season
The Heat's big production in the second and third quarters has made the lack of fourth quarter production irrelevant in three of the four games, but the Heat won't be able to build giant leads in the second and third quarters against Boston. They will probably need LeBron and Bosh to get their mojo back in the fourth quarters to continue advancing in the playoffs.