Over the previous two games of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers have outscored the Golden State Warriors by 29 points. But based on the quality of each team’s shots and the skill of the players shooting, the Warriors should have scored about 19 more points than the Cavaliers.
How can that be?
Golden State has been getting better looks than the Cavaliers, but simply has not been making its shots.
Quantified Shot Probability (qSP) is the expected field goal percentage of a shot given a number of factors that affect the shot quality and the skill of the shooter.
* The Warriors have an effective field goal percentage that's about 8 percentage points lower than expected, given their shot quality and shooter skill over the last two games. If they had had an average shooting game for shooters of their skill, they would have averaged about 125 points per game.
* The Cavaliers have an effective field goal percentage 6.5 percentage points higher than expected, given their shot quality and shooter skill. If they had had an average shooting game for themselves, they would have averaged about 103 points per game.
Obviously, the Cavaliers deserve credit for knocking down their shots, but the Warriors’ shots have not been significantly more difficult than the ones they took in the regular season. The difference: They are not going in.
* Harrison Barnes is 2-of-22 in the last two games! He should have had an effective field goal percentage of about 50.5 percent, which equates to at least 22 points.
* Stephen Curry missed some usually makeable shots, and even after a better shooting night in Game 6, his effective field goal percentage is about 9 percentage points lower than expected.
* On the other end, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are taking difficult shots and making them at an above-average rate. They each have an effective field goal percentage at least 7 percentage points higher than expected.
In addition to James and Irving going off in the last two games, this series is largely defined by shot-making. Now, every game/series comes down to making shots, but it is more pronounced in this series than in the regular season.
In the regular season, the winning team had an effective field goal percentage about 3 percentage points better than expected, and the losing team had one about 1.6 percentage points worse.
Looking ahead, if the Warriors continue to miss shots at this rate, it would be their worst three-game stretch of shot-making this season.
The numbers suggest that both teams will return to form over time, but in a winner-take-all game, who makes the shots could again be the difference.