Pistons Free Throw Paradox
Three things are making the difference for the Pistons in this series: deadly jump shooting, terrific interior defense, and by far the largest free throw disparity in the 2006 NBA playoffs.
The Bucks have to be a little frustrated. They've played about as well as they can play, yet they still find themselves in a 3-1 hole.
On defense they have forced the Pistons to beat them with jump shots. 73% of the Pistons field goal attempts are shots from the outside. The problem is that the Pistons are making those shots. The Pistons effective field goal percentage from range is 50%. Their overall effective field goal percentage is 52.8%.
Unbelievably, though, the Bucks are shooting even better from the outside. Quite an accomplishment for such a poor shooting team. Their effective field goal percentage on jump shots is 52.1%. But, get this, their overall effective field goal percentage is actually lower at 51.9%, principally because the Pistons are playing such tough interior defense the Bucks are having a much harder time making the close in shots than the long ones. Strange paradox.
But here's the central paradox of the series. The predominantly jump shooting team (Detroit) is getting 12 more free throw attempts per game (33 to 21) than the team that's taking a much larger chunk of their shots inside the paint (39% for Milwaukee vs. 29% for Detroit). What hurts is the free throw line has essentially made the difference in the series. The Bucks are actually outscoring the Pistons from the field by a little over three points per game (82.8 to 79.8) but they are getting outscored in toto by five points per game (103.5 to 98.8).
Now, I got down on the Bucks hard for what I perceived to be a little bit of whining on their part over free throws following Game One. But, after examining the data, I think they may have had a point. The number of extra free throws awarded to the Pistons are way out of whack when compared to free throw attempt disparities in the other first round series.
In fact, the 12 extra attempts per game constitutes by far the largest free throw disparity of any of the first round playoff series. By far. In 6 of the 8 first round series the difference in free throws attempted between the teams is less than two free throws per game. The only other first round series featuring a wide disparity in attempts per game is the Bullets-Cavaliers series, where the Bullets (I refuse to call them the Wizards) enjoy a nearly nine attempt per game advantage.
Now, I'm not saying the Bucks are getting rooked -- they probably aren't. Its just curious that a three point shooting team like the Pistons could build up such an advantage. Its curious that the Pistons are averaging ten more foul shots per game than they averaged in the regular season, while the Bucks are somehow averaging nearly five less. Even the Phoenix Suns, who averaged a paltry 18.0 free throw attempts per game in the regular season, are getting more attempts in the playoffs than the Bucks. Go figure.
Game Five Preview coming up.