Using a modification of the BoxScores formula, and applying it to single games, I’ve developed an estimate of Points Created (which accounts for both points scored by the player’s team (positive), and points scored by their opponent (negative)) for each player on both NBA finalists for each game through the end of the Conference Finals. The result is a very accurate estimate of player contributions to victory in each game–the big stars often rise to the top, but in an 82-game season, followed by a 15- or 20-game playoff run, role players often make the difference. Bryant, Gasol and Odom often lead their team’s production, but even Walton and Radmanovic have lead the Lakers to victory. The Celtics appear even more balanced in this sense–while Garnett, Pierce, and Allen often top the Points Created table, Rondo and Perkins often play huge roles–even leading their team to victory in the fifth game of the Conference Finals against Detroit.
One of the more interesting things about this representation is the different types of games each player has–indicated here by coloration. Games in which a player primarily contributes with scoring are redder, those in which he does “interior” things–blocks and rebounds–are bluer, and those with mainly perimeter contributions–assists and steals–are greener. Most games fail to fall easily into a single category, and so color combinations identify the degree to which each player’s performance can be characterized in each of these three ways. Thus, a purple box indicates a scoring performance by an interior player, a yellow box shows scoring/perimeter, etc. It is interesting to note that these colors often reflect commonly held notions about playing style–Bryant is often relatively red, leading his team offensively, and occassionally green, when he passes out assists or locks down on defense. Garnett is every possible color in the graphic, revealing his multifaceted ability to do whatever his team needs.
Below is a crudely compiled comparison of the teams’ head to head matchups during the regular season (click through to get a top-to-bottom matchup of both teams’ entire seasons). Boston won both meetings decisively, though the Lakers had not yet gained Pau Gasol (though they did have Bynum, who will not play in the finals). Garnett and Pierce had huge second games, creating 37.9 and 34.5 points, respectively. Bryant’s performance in the first was below his average, and in the second was dismal–focusing mainly on scoring (orange/pink coloration), and failing to create much difference between the teams. I would be interested to hear any comments you might have, or things you notice in the graphics. There is a ton of information to glean here, and I haven’t begun yet to absorb much of it.