The Other Winning Streak
|Nuggets Streak By The Numbers|
|W-L||34-22 (.607)||11-0 (100.0)|
By Jay Cipoletti
While the Miami Heat have gathered the national headlines with their 22-game winning streak, the Denver Nuggets have won 11 straight without much attention. The names James, Wade and Bosh offer more sizzle than Lawson, Gallinari and Iguodala, but both teams are unbeaten in the month of March as they march toward the postseason.
After going 17-15 in 2012, the Nuggets have posted a 28-7 mark in 2013, inclusive of winning streaks of six games, nine games and their current 11-game streak, which is just one game shy of tying a franchise record set in 1983.
After Friday night's win over Memphis, the Nuggets' 45-22 record has them fifth overall in the West, just a game behind the Clippers (46-21) and Grizzlies (44-21) in the race for the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
Spread the Wealth
On a team whose Offensive Rating is 107.7, nobody in their nine-man rotation has an OffRtg higher than Kostas Koufos' 109.8, but they have five other players above their team mark: Gallinari (109.4), Lawson (108.8), Faried (108.1), Iguodala (108.1) and Miller (107.8).
They share minutes -- six play between 22-32 minutes, with only McGee (18), Iguodala (34) and Lawson (35) falling outside that range.
They share possessions -- eight using between 17.6% (Miller) and 23% (Brewer), with only Koufos using fewer (14.3%).
During this 11-game win streak, the Nuggets have seven players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Ty Lawson's 19.8 points per game.
They play a democratic, entropic style of basketball that has been shown to be the most efficient way to play.
For some time the San Antonio Spurs have carried that mantle. The team known for sharing the ball, making the extra pass, getting everyone involved, so on and so forth. In terms of minutes, the Nuggets have copied that blueprint. Almost literally.
In terms of Usage Rates, the Nuggets are even more democratic than the communal Spurs.
As the study linked above showed, offensive entropy -- a high degree of randomness -- correlated positively to winning games. The Nuggets' egalitarian style is as entropic as any team in the NBA.
For those not inclined to read an academic paper to further their enjoyment of the game, this is why entropy matters: More randomness creates more things for a defense to try to take away, which ultimately leads to more things not being taken away. The end result is each player getting more good looks.
More Good Looks
Nowhere is that illustrated more vividly than right around the rim, within the Restricted Area. The Nuggets have made 1,620 shots in the RA on 2,528 attempts -- 366 more than the Detroit Pistons, who are second in the League in RA shot attempts. The Nuggets have MADE more Restricted Area shots than 11 teams have ATTEMPTED.
Restricted Area shots are the highest value shots on the floor. Scoring efficiency within the circle this year is 1.18 per shot across the league. The Nuggets are scoring 1.28 points per RA shot attempt. They aren't forcing shots into the circle that aren't there, they are sharing the ball to create open shots within the circle. That is the impact of balanced usage.
That's not the only place they have concentrated good looks either. They rank eight in Corner 3 shot attempts. Other than aforementioned Restricted Area, no other zone on the floor delivers points at a higher rate -- 1.17 per shot -- than 3s attempted from below the break.
Tactics > Performance?
The Nuggets do not shoot the ball well from the corner. In fact, they shoot it poorly -- 35.5%, 26th in the NBA and well below the league average of 38.9%. The Lakers shoot 35.5% on Above the Break 3s, 15th in the NBA. The easy conclusion is this -- teams can afford to shoot below the league average's percentage when they take more shots from zones that produce more points.
That is the tactics over performance argument, oversimplified. The Nuggets force teams to play better than them relative to what they are trying to execute, in order to be equal to them on the scoreboard.
That's not to suggest that the Nuggets lack talent. They clearly have a talented nine-man rotation that plays very well together. The question that persists, however, is whether Denver has that one All-Star caliber talent that can get buckets in late game clutch situations ... the type of situations that arise many times throughout the playoffs.
If Andre Iguodala's clutch numbers this season carry over into the playoffs, the Nuggets may have that guy. Through 65 games Iguodala boasts a career-best 107.9 Offensive Rating on a moderate 19% Usage Rate.
In 34 games in which the margin was no more than +/- 5 points in the last 5 minutes, his OffRtg increases to 115.6 while maintaining 18.6% Usage.
Inside of the 3 minutes in those two possession games, the improvement is even more pronounced. His OffRtg jumps to 122.0 on a slightly higher Usage Rate of 20.1%, largely because he cuts his TO Ratio nearly in half, from 12.6% to 6.4%.
In the final minute of those close games, Iguodala produces an OffRtg of 127.4, albeit on a lower Usage Rate of 15.2%.
Finally, in the final :30 of twenty one possession games this season, Iguodala's OffRtg has been 142.7 with no turnovers.
Those numbers suggest Iguodala can assume the go-to role in clutch situations. That question will ultimately be answered in the playoffs.