Previewing the second-round series between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers with shot charts, assist maps, offensive style charts and expected win probabilities.
Despite an early slip-up, the Toronto Raptors handled the Orlando Magic with relative easy in Games 2-5, with an average margin of victory of 18.25 points. While the Raptors offense was approximately on par with their own season average, they held the Magic to 92.0 points per game (96 per 100 possessions), a massive 15 points less than what the Magic averaged during the regular season. Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic were both held to sub 50 true shooting percentage, despite usages over 21 percent, by the smothering Raptors defense. As seen in the point per shot differential charts, the Magic were less efficient offensively at nearly every part of the court against the Raptors than they were in the Regular Season. The Raptors were slightly better across the court with their defensive performance compared to their regular season averages, but given the talent available, will likely be able to duplicate their defensive work for the matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Much like their second-round opponent the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers coughed up the first game of the series then paved their opposition, the Brooklyn Nets, the rest of the way. The Sixers did their work with their celebrated starting five of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, and J.J. Redick, despite Embiid missing the third game. According to Derek Bodner of The Athletic, this five-man rotation outscored the Nets 141 to 70 in 49 minutes over the course of the season. Adding on to the display of star dominance, Nylon Calculus’ own Sebastian Pycior determined that based on Daily RAPM, Joel Embiid had the best performance of anyone in the playoffs as of April 24. Based on the points per shot surfaces, Brooklyn’s defensive efficiency in the series was worse in the key than in comparison to the regular season, giving up 49 points in the paint per game. Given that the Raptors have a crushing defense and individual players that can match up physically with the Sixers huge starting five, the series looks to be a fantastic matchup.
— Andrew Patton (@anpatt7)
Offensive style chart
These charts are not meant to evaluate whether an offense is good or bad. They are designed to help illustrate how teams go about the goal of trying to put the ball in the basket. Each team’s offense is evaluated on four stylistic spectrums.
Ball movement is measured with the average touch time for each team, from the NBA’s player tracking statistics. A lower average touch time means the ball is moving from player to player more quickly.
Player movement is measured with a combination of different NBA.com tracking statistics and works out to average distance traveled per 24 seconds of offensive possession.
Pace is measured with the average length of an offensive possession from Inpredictable, a more accurate representation for how quickly a team is working than traditional pace.
Shot selection is measured with MoreyBall percentage — in this case the percentage of a team’s true shooting opportunities that came at the rim, from the free throw line, or on a 3-pointer. It’s a generalized measure but captures something about how much each team hews to the shots that are, on average, the most efficient.
— Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh)
Assist maps: Marc Gasol
After more than a decade as a team leader and offensive focal point in Memphis, Marc Gasol is adjusting to a new role in Toronto. At the start of the season, Gasol led the Grizzlies in minutes (33.7) and touches (84) per game, but he played fewer minutes (24.9 per game) and touched the ball less (53.5 touches per game) in his 26 games with the Raptors. In particular, Gasol has seen his post-up chances cut nearly in half with his move north of the border; a drop from 7.7 post-ups per game in Memphis to just 4.2 per game in Toronto.
That dip in Gasol’s post-up rate has had the effect of shifting his assist chart away from the basket — you can see how very few of Gasol’s recent assists originated within 15 feet of the baseline. Of course, in those increasingly rare instances when Gasol does get the ball deep in the post, he’s still very capable of distributing the ball out to the perimeter or into the lane.
Despite his reduced playing time in Toronto, Gasol has remained impactful. Per PBPstats.com, with Gasol on the court, the Raptors have scored 120 points per 100 possessions with an impressive +14-point net rating.
And, in truth, Gasol is still getting plenty of touches in Toronto. On a per-minute basis, Gasol’s touch rate is higher than that of his teammates Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, or Kawhi Leonard, trailing only Kyle Lowry’s on the team, and similar to his own previous mark with the Grizzlies earlier this year (2.2 touches per minute down from 2.5). Likewise, Gasol’s rate of assists per minute is pretty much the same in Toronto (0.16) as it was in Memphis (0.14). So then, Gasol’s offensive activity hasn’t necessarily diminished, it’s just that everything he does is more perimeter-oriented now. He’s still getting the same rate of elbow touches — from which he can kick out to shooters or hit back-door cutters — but he’s also incorporating an emphasis on offensive creation around the arc.
The Sixers have a 7-foot-tall All-Defensive center in Joel Embiid whom the Raptors will be eager to pull away from the rim whenever possible. Gasol’s new-look perimeter offensive playmaking and his hot 3-point shooting (44 percent since arriving in Toronto) could be key to opening things up in the middle for Toronto during the series.
— Todd Whitehead (@CrumpledJumper)
To project the series, I am using my in-season game projection model. The model is trained off historical game data and accounts for rest, travel, team strength, and matchup. Since I began using the model to predict outcomes, I have been able to correctly identify the winner in about 70 percent of games and has correctly identified the winner in 78 percent of games in these playoffs.
The Raptors come into the series as strong favorites, winning in 87 percent of the 10,000 simulations. The average length of the series was 5.5 games, with the Raptors given nearly a 20 percent chance to sweep the series. Both teams come off of strong showings in round one and will have the same amount of time to prepare, game plan and get healthy. An important thing to watch for in the series will be to what degree the Raptors’ bench can take advantage of the 76ers’ lack of depth. Both teams have great starting units, so winning the non-star minutes will be key. The Raptors will be tested against the 76ers, but ultimately should prevail.
— Jacob Goldstein (@JacobEGoldstein)