Saturday was just one of those games, really. When you post your second worst per possession scoring game of the season, your worst offensive rebounding game of the season and your fourth worst turnover percentage game of the season there really isn’t any amount of defense that you can play to overcome that sort of thing, especially on the road. In fact, the idea that the Panthers were but one bad call away from escaping the Garden with a huge road win probably should be encouraging…and it certainly would have been if it hadn’t also continued the worrying trend of struggling offensively in slower paced games.
There is quite obviously a natural variability in offensive performance over the course of a season. Teams can run hot and cold over the sample size of a few minutes, a few games or even a few months owing to a wide range of factors including opposition, talent level or simply owing to random walk and the capricious whims of the Gods of Basketball. However, if you begin to show a systematic weakness against one style over and over again then you probably have a problem that needs to be corrected. The mystifying thing to me about the “Slow Pitt” problem though was that nothing really seemed constant about the games other than a slower tempo and more inefficient scoring. In some of the games, such as against USF, turnovers were a major problem, in others, such as against Villanova, Pitt couldn’t grab an offensive rebound and sometimes, as against the Irish, the Panthers simply were unable to get to the free throw line. (and the St. John’s game combined all three of these problems, little wonder that Pitt lost that one!)
In other words, I was largely stumped about what I could possibly write about today. That is, until I took a slightly different approach this morning.
Ortg: 98.3 Drtg: 100.0 eFG%: 48.4% FTR: 39.1 A/TO: 0.88 OR%: 28.1%
Posted above are the respective shot charts for the games for the UConn and Marquette games, which were two of Pitt’s best and fastest offensive performances in conference play, as well as the charts for the Notre Dame and St. John’s games, two of the worst and slowest. I think that the difference here is immediately obvious, in the first two the Panthers were getting shots from all over the floor whereas in the latter two they are only attempting shots from certain “buckets” on the floor…when you see that you are seeing a team that is taking the shots dictated to them by the defense and not taking the shots that they want to take.
To me this backs up a lot of the anecdotal complaints that fans and observers have had watching the game in that the Panthers have simply been too passive on the offensive end when forced into playing slower paced games. The shot charts in the Notre Dame and St. John’s game are the charts of a team that isn’t getting any early offense and is typically left to take a shot from one of a few spots available late in the 35, typically from a lower leverage area such as a wing three or a short jumper from the high blocks or the short corner. This is a pretty common problem for a team to find itself in if it has players passing up open looks early in the shot clock as they typically find themselves pressed into the same locations over and over again as the clock winds down.
It is imperative going forward that this Panther team return to forcing the issue on the offensive end, especially by creating kick out opportunities off of the bounce. More importantly still the players on the receiving end of those kick out opportunities have to take those shots.
– Even after that performance the Panthers are still the top offensive and defensive team in the Big East although the lead offensively over Marquette has shrunken to nearly nothing.
– The passing wasn’t bad at all when the Panthers weren’t turning the ball over, assisting on 66.7% of made baskets.
– St. John’s attempted 9 free throws in 19 minutes before Lavin’s technical foul…they attempted 23 free throws in the 21 minutes after it.
– The only starter who posted a positive +/- was Tra at +6. Take from that what you will.
– Only two Panthers averaged over .9 points per possession on the day, Ashton and Dante (who had a strong second half).
– Gil turned the ball over on 33.3% of his possession on Saturday, the fifth time in the past six games that he has topped 22.2%.
– Welcome back Ashton indeed. Gibbs posted a true shooting % of 81.7% on Saturday, his third best effort of the season. Apparently a little rest did him well.