After an exciting, but long regular season, the NBA Playoffs are finally upon us. For each of the 16 teams that reached the postseason, there have been some compelling stats and trends which emerged that will loom large in their respective first-round playoff series.
Whether it’s something a team does well or poorly, or a player who’s been a huge key to a team’s success, here is one key stat per team that will make you think and keep you informed going into the postseason’s opening weekend:
1) Boston Celtics— 33.2
During the regular season, the Celtics excelled at defending the three. Boston’s opponents made just 33.2 percent of its 3-point attempts, the second-best mark in the NBA. It may not be as important against Chicago, but assuming the Celtics advance, this number will really play to their advantage.
The Bulls make just 34 percent of their long range attempts, 24th in the league, but they attempt just 22.3 triples per contest, the second-lowest amount in the league. And if the Bulls do try more threes than usual, the Celtics will be happy with that given their strong 3-point defense.
8) Chicago Bulls — 19
Chicago juuuuuust squeezed into the playoffs largely because of its defense, which was sixth in the league in points allowed per game and per 100 possessions. And a major factor for the Bulls is denying their opponents trips to the free throw line.
Chicago allowed just 19 free throw attempts per game during the regular season, second in the league. That’ll be put to the test by Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, whose 649 free throws this season was the 5th most in the NBA.
4) Washington Wizards — 15.3
The Wizards forced 15.3 turnovers per game during the regular season, good for third in the NBA. That helped Washington score 17.7 points off turnovers, also third in the league.
Its first-round opponent, Atlanta, turned it over 15.8 times this season, the second-most in the NBA. But the Hawks actually forced more turnovers, 15.4, than Washington this season. So turnovers are going to play a huge role in the series.
5) Atlanta Hawks — 34
This is a glaring statistic for a team that reached the playoffs. The Hawks failed to reach 100 points in a game a whopping 34 times this season, winning just six of those games.
Atlanta finished 22nd in scoring offense, 102.3 points per game, and 27th in points per 100 possessions. The Hawks finished fourth in defensive efficiency this season, but need an improved offense to advance in the postseason. In what could be a harbinger of things to come, Atlanta won four of its final five games, scoring 114, 123 and 126 points in wins over Boston and Cleveland (twice).
2) Cleveland Cavaliers — .679
That’s Cleveland’s winning percentage when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have been on the court for a single minute. 36-17. The Cavs had a bad last quarter of the season, going 10-14 after March 1, but they’re still going to be tough to beat as long as their big three is on the floor.
7) Indiana Pacers — 128
In six April games, that’s how many points the Pacers scored per 100 possessions with Paul George on the floor. Indiana went 5-1 this month to reach the postseason, with the only loss to Cleveland in double overtime. George scored 32.8 points per game on 54.8 percent shooting from the field and 42.4 percent from three to go with 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in April.
The only way Indiana can stay competitive with Cleveland is if George continues to go off and perform like an all-world player.
3) Toronto Raptors — 98.9
The Raptors fell to as low as fifth in the Eastern Conference during a poor midseason stretch. But during a 12-2 run to end the regular season, Toronto’s defense got especially stingy to lock up the third seed in the Eastern Conference, allowing just 98.9 points per game.
Toronto is 25-4 this season when it allows fewer than 100 points. Defense will be critical for the Raptors during the playoffs, especially given its difficulties on offense in previous postseasons.
6) Milwaukee Bucks — .739
As incredible as Giannis Antetokounmpo is, his sharpshooting teammate Khris Middleton really helps Milwaukee excel. A torn hamstring kept Middleton out of the lineup for the first half of the season, but the Bucks were great when he finally returned in February.
Milwaukee is 17-6 this season, a .739 winning percentage, when Middleton starts. In 29 total games this season, Middleton is shooting 43.3 percent from three. For the Bucks to have any chance against Toronto in the first round, Middleton needs to be at his very best.
1) Golden State Warriors — 43.5
It’s not only about offense for the Warriors. Golden State’s opponents hit just 43.5 percent of its field goal attempts, the best field goal defense in the NBA. The Dubs also led the league in opponent 3-point field goal percentage, turnovers forced and blocks and steals per game.
That challenge will face Portland going into its first round matchup with the Warriors.
8) Portland TrailBlazers — 11.6
Creating turnovers is vital in a playoff series, especially when facing a superior opponent. Unfortunately for the Blazers, they forced turnovers on just 11.6 percent of their opponents’ possessions, 27th in the league. Points off turnovers accounted for just 13.6 percent of the Blazers’ total for the season, the third-worst mark in the NBA.
4) Los Angeles Clippers — 15.1
When L.A.’s big four of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick are on the floor together, the Clippers are tough to beat. That quartet outscores opponents by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when they’re on the court in tandem.
In the 48 games this season when those four are on the floor together and even remotely healthy, the Clips are 34-14. In games when they weren’t on the court together, Los Angeles went 17-17. Just putting their core on the floor makes the Clippers a dangerous squad.
5) Utah Jazz — .809
As you may know, the Utah Jazz allowed the fewest points per game out of any team in the league this season, 96.8. Utah has held opponents to under 100 points a whopping 42 times this season. The Jazz won 34 of those games, a .809 win percentage.
The flipside of that is that Utah went 17-23 when it allowed 100 points or more in a game. Along with its strong 3-point shooting, the Jazz need to be elite defensively in order to win games in this postseason.
2) San Antonio Spurs — 16
It’s hard to find a way to beat a team like San Antonio, which won 61 games during the regular season. But this would even things out. Kawhi Leonard scored fewer than 20 points in a game 16 times this season, and the Spurs went just 9-7 in those contests. If Memphis can figure out a way to relatively neutralize Leonard, maybe it’ll have a chance.
7) Memphis Grizzlies — 37.8
The Grizzlies are among the elite teams at protecting the paint, as evidenced by their 37.8 paint points allowed per game, the fewest in the league. The problem for Memphis is that San Antonio hits 39.1 percent of its threes, which also leads the NBA. Memphis will need to play to its strengths to win, and that means keeping opponents off the scoreboard inside.
3) Houston Rockets — .947
Every opponent wants to try to stop James Harden. That’s obvious. But when a team can’t stop second-leading scorer Eric Gordon, then you’re really in trouble. Houston is 18-1 when Gordon scores at least 20 points in a game this season, a .947 win percentage. Limit Gordon to less than 20 and at least you have a chance.
6) Oklahoma City Thunder — 6
Six is the number OKC out-rebounds team on average, by far the best rebounding margin in the league. Its 46.6 total rebounds per game and 12.2 offensive rebounds per game also lead the NBA. Rebounding is the one big advantage the Thunder have over the Rockets, and they’ll need to leverage that in order to advance.