The Anatomy of a Streaker
By Jay Cipoletti
Tolstoy wrote that 'all happy families are alike' -- can the same can be said about streaking basketball teams?
On the offensive end it appears so. San Antonio (107.3 OffRtg) and Portland (107.7 OffRtg) are scoring with virtually the same degree of efficiency during their respective 11-game win streaks. They are getting scoring opportunities at nearly identical rates, their TOV% of 15.5% (Spurs) and 15.6% (Blazers) both slightly below the League average of 16.1%.
Where they differ is how they value initial and second chance shot opportunities. The Spurs 54.9% eFG during their streak is tops in the West over that span. While the Blazers' 51.3% eFG in their 11 wins is well above the 49.4% NBA average, it is their work on the offensive glass that distinguishes them. No team shooting at or above the 49.4% League mark has matched Portland's 29.5% Offensive Rebounding rate over the last 3 weeks. The Spurs have foregone second chance opportunities for the most part, rebounding only 20.1% of their misses in those 11 games.
Much of that discrepancy can be explained by each team's production in the Restricted Area, where offensive rebounds are plentiful. The Spurs are shooting 65.7% in the RA, second only to Lob City's 68.3% flush rate -- the most available misses are scarce for the Spurs. Not so for Portland, whose 56.4% eFG in the RA is surprisingly low for an elite offensive team.
Move further away from the rim, outside the arc, and both teams again look very similar. Both teams are shooting, and making, more Corner 3s than the League average.
The same is nearly true for Above the Break 3s, where both are making them at a higher rate although the Spurs' 195 AB3 attempts lags the League average of 213.
It is on the other end of the floor where these two happy families diverge a bit. Portland has played very good defense during their streak, limiting teams to below a point per possession (98.8 DefRtg). San Antonio has played exceptional D -- their 90.5 Defensive Rating over the last 11 games is better than any team outside of Indianapolis.
The Spurs are outperforming the League average in each of the Defensive Four Factors, three of them substantially. They are also outperforming the Blazers in all four categories. It is highly unlikely either team will carry their winning streak into their January 17th matchup, although if they do the Four Factors favor the Spurs avenging their most recent loss.