Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published daily that focuses on stats that go beyond the numbers.
If you believe in numbers and stats and karma (and if you’re anywhere near a roulette wheel) you may want to put money on Miami’s LeBron James scoring 32 points tonight in Game 1 of their NBA Finals series against Oklahoma City. In Game 1 of the three previous series in this year’s playoffs, James has scored 32 points in each game. Oh, did I mention that the Heat won each Game 1 in the three previous series?
James averaged 33.6 points in the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Celtics, scoring 30 or more in six of the seven games. For this year’s playoffs, James has scored 30+ in 11 of the 16 games. This would lead a lot of people to guess that we’ll see a 30-point game from James in tonight’s contest.
But here’s an interesting stat to ponder: James has played in 10 NBA Finals games (six with Cleveland in 2007 and four with Miami last year). He has scored 25 or more points in only two of those 10 games… and he did not score 25 or more points in any of the six games in last year’s finals. Here’s another quick stat to consider: In the two opening games of the finals that James has played in, he scored 14 in Game 1 in 2007 and 24 in Game 1 in 2011.
What will his Game 1 performance look like this year?
Keeping with the Game 1 in the NBA Finals theme, here’s a look at the players in the last 30 years (since 1982) that have scored the most points in the first game of the NBA Finals.
Points in Game 1 of NBA Finals, Player, Team (Year)
48 Allen Iverson, Philadelphia (2001)
44 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers (2001)
43 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers (2000)
39 Michael Jordan, Chicago (1992)
36 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers (2002)
36 Michael Jordan, Chicago (1991)
34 Shaquille O’ Neal, L.A. Lakers (2004)
34 Adrian Dantley, Detroit (1988)
33 Tim Duncan, San Antonio (1999)
33 Michael Jordan, Chicago (1998)
33 Isiah Thomas, Detroit (1990)
33 James Worthy, L.A. Lakers (1987)
33 Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston (1986)
* Since 1982, there have been 45 players who have scored 25 or more points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals; teams were 27-18 (.600 winning percentage) in those games. Twenty-three players scored 30 or more points in the opening game; teams were 16-7 (.696 winning percentage) in those games. In the four games where players scored 40 or more points, teams were 3-1.
* The last time teammates each scored 25 or more points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals was 2004 when Shaq scored 34 and Kobe added 25 . The Lakers lost that game. In the last 30 years, at least one player has scored 25 or more points in Game 1 of the finals in 28 of those 30 series (2008 and 1989 were the exception).
Who will score 25 or more points in tonight’s game?
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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on stats that go beyond the numbers.
While there are many subplots to this series, the one that has garnered significant attention is the match-up between Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. ESPN Stats & Information noted that this is the fifth time that the No. 1 and No. 2 regular season scorers are facing off in the playoffs. This Kobe-Durant battle may not have the sexiness of a Magic-Bird matchup, but it’s still worth watching.
Here’s a look at some stats you might not know about when Kobe and Durant have faced off against each other since Durant came into the league in 2007 (includes last night’s game).
1. The Lakers and Thunder (they were the Sonics in Durant’s first year in the league)… and Bryant and Durant… have played against each other 23 times since the start of the 2007 season. The Lakers have won 16 of the 23 games. The Thunder, however, have won four of the last five. They have faced off in the playoffs seven times with the Lakers holding a 4-3 edge. The home team has won all seven games in the playoffs between these two teams.
2. In the 23 games that Bryant and Durant have faced each other, Kobe has scored more points than Durant in 11 games, Durant has scored more points than Kobe in 11 games, and they have had the same number of points in one game. In the last 14 games, however, going back to March 26, 2010, Durant has outscored Kobe in 10 games of those 14 games.
3. Both Bryant and Durant average just under 21 shots per game when their teams play against each other. Bryant averages 20.9 shots per game, Durant 20.5 shots per game.
* Bryant: Home, 27.1 ppg; Away, 24.6 ppg; Wins, 26.0 ppg; Losses, 25.3 ppg.
* Durant: Home, 25.0 ppg; Away, 25.3 ppg; Wins, 26.7 ppg; Losses, 24.4 ppg.
5. Bryant averages 27.0 ppg in regular season games against the Thunder. His playoff average versus the Thunder is 23.0. Durant averages 25.2 ppg in regular season games against the Lakers; his playoff average is 25.0.
6. Kobe’s high game against the Thunder in the Bryant-Durant era was 48 on January 14, 2008. His low game was 11 on March 26, 2010. Durant’s high game against the Lakers was 35 on April 22, 2012. His low was a 15-point performance on February 24, 2008.
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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a biweekly blog that is published every Wednesday and Sunday with a bonus “SIX STATS…” posting every Friday.
Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to score 57 points in the most recent NBA All-Star Game. That was the second-most points in an NBA All-Star Game history by teammates; the Miami duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 60 points in that same game and now hold the record for most combined points by teammates in an NBA All-Star Game. The two pairs became the sixth and seventh teammates to score 50 or more points in an all-star game (see my blog of February 24, 2012 for more on this stat).
Durant and Westbrook are looking to join James and Wade in another elite group. As of games through March 5, Durant is averaging 28.1 points per game and ranks second in scoring in the league. Westbrook is averaging 23.7 points per games and ranks fifth in the league. If Westbrook can bring his average up and over the 25 points per game mark by the end of the season, they would join 15 other sets of teammates to both average 25 or more points per game in a season.
Following are the teammates who both averaged 25 or more points per games in an NBA season.
Year, Team, Teammates (Scoring Average)
2010-11 Miami Heat, LeBron James (26.7) and Dwyane Wade (25.5)
2007-08 Denver Nuggets, Allen Iverson (26.4) and Carmelo Anthony (25.7)
2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal (27.2) and Kobe Bryant (25.2)
2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal (28.7) and Kobe Bryant (28.5)
1986-87 Boston Celtics, Larry Bird (28.1) and Kevin McHale (26.1)
1983-84 Denver Nuggets, Kiki Vandeweghe (29.4) and Alex English (26.4)
1982-82 Denver Nuggets, Alex English (28.4) and Kiki Vandeweghe (26.7)
1972-73 Atlanta Hawks, Lou Hudson (27.1) Pete Maravich (26.1)
1971-71 Los Angeles Lakers, Gail Goodrich (25.9) and Jerry West (25.8)
1966-67 Los Angeles Lakers, Jerry West (28.7) and Elgin Baylor (26.6)
1964-65 Los Angeles Lakers, Jerry West (31.0) and Elgin Baylor (27.1)
1963-64 Los Angeles Lakers, Jerry West (28.7) and Elgin Baylor (25.4)
1961-62 New York Knicks, Richie Guerin (29.5) and Willie Naulls (25.0)
1960-61 Cincinnati Royals, Oscar Robertson (30.5) and Jack Twyman (25.3)
Note #1: Of the 15 pairs listed, three played on title teams (Lakers 1971-72, 2000-01 and 2001-02). Three lost in the NBA finals… Lakers 1964-65; Celtics 1986-87; Heat 2010-11. Only two of the 15 did not make the playoffs that season… Royals 1960-61; Knicks 1961-62.
Note #2: Of the 15 pairs listed, 11 played on teams that had a regular season record better than .500.