Feeding the Corners
One thing that every military leader knows is that the supply line is just as important as the front line, whether that translates to building and protecting your own supply line or disrupting that of your opponent.
So we applied the science of network analysis, which is traditionally used in electrical engineering, computing and most recently, social networking, to better understand how Miami and San Antonio have been setting up their valuable corners three-point shots with such devastating effect throughout the playoffs.
Summary of Findings:
Table 1: Corner-Three Shooting
What makes corner threes even more interesting is that they are the only shot on the area of the court that almost requires a team effort to make.
As Table 2 shows, league-wide, nearly all (96%) of made corner-threes were assisted, compared to 80% for other threes and many fewer for other shots.
Table 2: Assisted Shots by Location
Then, looking at Miami and San Antonio in detail, some clear differences emerge -- not in terms of shooting, but in assisting:
Together, the two teams have hit 83 corner threes during the playoffs, the Heat hit 48 and the Spurs hit 35.
On both teams, the two players with the most threes accounted for about 54% of corner threes, and the top four players made up 80% or more. (Table 3).
Table 3: Corner-Threes by Player
Again, what is particularly interesting isn't so much who's shooting, but who's feeding the shooter.
Consistent with our assist rate stats above, 81 of the teams' 83 corner three-point field goals (97.5%) were assisted, however...
For the Heat, LeBron James had -- by far -- the most assists of any player (23), feeding almost 50% of Heat's corner threes and accounting for 69 assisted points in total.
For the Spurs, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker combined assisted on 63% of the Spurs corner threes.
Table 4: Corner-Three Assists
Figure 1 below shows the corner-three "network" for each team.
The "vertices" (the bubbles) show each player, with the size of each vertex proportionate to the number of corner-threes made.
The "edges" (the lines) show the number of corner-three assists made by each player to the shooter, with the direction of the arrow indicating the player assisted, and the width of the line proportionate to the number of assists.
It's clear that LeBron sits in the center of Miami's corner-threes, but LeBron has four good corner-three point shooters at his disposal and he doesn't play favorites.
Table 5: Corner-Three Assisting Player / Shooter Dyads