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2005 NBA Playoffs Scores Schedule Teams Stats History

The true studs on D

Stats illustrate defensive stars in Bulls-Wizards series

Posted: Wednesday May 4, 2005 12:50PM; Updated: Wednesday May 4, 2005 3:12PM

Kevin Broom, RealGM.com; Special to SI.com

Tyson Chandler
The Bulls' Tyson Chandler has been Chicago's defensive star in the series.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If you want to know the offensive value of Gilbert Arenas or Tyson Chandler, take a look in the box score published in any newspaper. If you want to know their defensive contributions, enter the Twilight Zone of opinion and guesswork. That is, until now.

For years, defensive statistics haven't painted an accurate picture of individual performance. Blocks, steals and defensive rebounds are useful, but don't cover much of what good defenders do. Roland Beech at 82games.com provides useful "on/off" data: measures of what the team does when an individual player is in the lineup vs. when he's not. That information tells a lot about a player's impact, but it doesn't tell us why.

For example, a fan might look up Wizards center Brendan Haywood's on/off information and find the Wizards are nearly 10 points better per 100 possessions defensively when Haywood is on the court. Only five other players with significant playing time -- Tim Duncan, Andrei Kirilenko, Dikembe Mutombo, Jason Collins and Jeff Foster -- have on/off impacts as large. But there's no way to know whether Haywood's "impact" is real or whether it's luck.

To answer that "real vs. luck" question, defensive statistics were collected possession-by-possession and shed considerable light on what individual players are doing on the defensive end. Categories include individual shooting statistics (field-goals allowed and forced misses), forced turnovers that aren't steals and fouls resulting in free throws.

This data collection yields intriguing information about the Bulls-Wizards playoff series. Game 4 hero Juan Dixon was the Game 2 goat -- but not because of his 3-of-12 shooting. Dixon was the proverbial gas on the fire, allowing scores on 12 of the 13 possessions for which he was at least partly responsible. The Bulls scored 27 points on those 13 possessions en route to a 113-103 win and a 2-0 series lead.

Dixon scored a career-high 35 points in Game 4, and was once again a defensive sieve. The Bulls shot 7-of-16 against Dixon, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, and totaled 22 points against the diminutive guard.

While Dixon has been picked on throughout the series, both teams have had outstanding individual defensive performances. For Bulls fans, this is probably a common experience -- Chicago had the league's second-best regular-season defense behind the San Antonio Spurs. Wizards fans have heard about defense, and even witnessed it on occasion -- usually played by the other team. In their first playoff appearance since the '90s, the Wizards appear to be learning the importance of defense.

For the series, Chicago has held Washington to 42.1 percent shooting from the floor. The Bulls' defensive star -- when he's been able to stay out of foul trouble -- has been Chandler. Against him, the Wizards are shooting just 32.5 percent and he has nine blocks in four games.

Antonio Davis has also done a good job forcing misses. The Wizards are shooting 36.3 percent against his defense.

Andres Nocioni was outstanding in the first three games of the series, drawing four charges and collecting defensive rebounds like Dennis Rodman. Despite pedestrian defensive play from Nocioni in Game 4, Washington is shooting just 39.1 percent against him for the series.