NBA

NBA Finals: LeBron, Davis among Lakers greats – duo's dominance in Stats Perform data

By Sports Desk September 29, 2020

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are seeking history as the Los Angeles Lakers prepare for the NBA Finals.

The duo will lead the Lakers into the Finals against one of James' former teams, the Miami Heat, beginning at Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday.

The Lakers are in their first Finals since 2010, while James is bidding to win his fourth championship.

Using Stats Perform data, we assess James and Davis throughout the 2020 playoffs, and see how they compare to greats.

Among the best

James and Davis, unsurprisingly, already stand among the greats thanks to their dominance in this year's playoffs.

The pair have starred as the Lakers brushed past the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, winning each series 4-1.

James has four triple-doubles in the 2020 playoffs, including his stunning performance in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Nuggets as he put up 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Davis also got his signature moment against the Nuggets, drilling an incredible buzzer-beating three-pointer in Game 2.

While James has averaged 26.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Davis is going at 28.8 and 9.3 respectively.

James and Davis are just the third team-mate duo in history to average 25-plus points per game and seven-plus rebounds per game in the playoffs for a team that reached the NBA Finals.

All three have been Lakers pairs. Elgin Baylor and Jerry West managed it in 1963, although Los Angeles would go on to fall to the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the NBA Finals.

The other duo was Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in 2001. The Lakers rolled through those playoffs without losing a game until the Finals opener against the Philadelphia 76ers, but they responded to win the series 4-1. O'Neal dominated those Finals with 33 points and 15.8 rebounds per game to be named MVP.

It was a dominant era for the Lakers, and a fifth championship in 11 years came in 2010.

Kobe leads another powerful pair

The Lakers are in the NBA Finals for the first time since their incredible run came to an end.

Bryant won his fifth championship and second Finals MVP after a thrilling 4-3 series win over the Celtics. Pau Gasol and Bryant led the Lakers' charge, with the latter the dominant scorer and the former the key rebounder.

Combined, they averaged 48.7 points, 17.1 rebounds and nine assists per game during the 2010 postseason.

They are one of six team-mates to average 48-plus points, 16-plus rebounds and eight-plus assists per game and make the Finals, since the 2001 postseason and having played a minimum of 15 games each.

In the three such cases since 2010, James has been in each. He managed the feat with Kevin Love in 2017 and 2018, but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost the Finals to the Golden State Warriors in both years, having claimed a maiden championship in 2016.

This year, it is James and Davis have managed it, and more history awaits.

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  • Hat-trick or treat: Premier League history on Halloween Hat-trick or treat: Premier League history on Halloween

    It is that time of year again - Halloween is here!

    October 31 is a date synonymous with apple-bobbing, costume parties, carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating. And football, too, of course.

    This Saturday sees three Premier League fixtures take place, so can we expect to see plenty of ghouls - sorry, goals - during proceedings?

    Manchester City host Sheffield United in the early kick-off, Chelsea travel to Burnley and the schedule concludes with champions Liverpool welcoming West Ham to Anfield.

    With help from Opta, take a (scary) trip down memory lane with a look at Halloween through the years in the English top flight, including some be-witching scoring feats and those left having nightmares.

     

    HAT-TRICK TREATS

    Three players have scored a Premier League hat-trick on the final day of October, the most recent being Demba Ba in a 3-1 win over Stoke City for Newcastle United nine years ago.

    Newcastle were responsible for another of the trebles, with Kevin Nolan finding the net three times in a famous 5-1 win over, fittingly, the Black Cats – their bitter rivals, Sunderland – one year beforehand.

    The other three-goal haul came via Aruna Dindane for Portsmouth against Wigan Athletic in 2009. A spook-tacular feat, indeed!

     

    THE UNLUCKY 13

    It is perhaps somewhat appropriate that 13 red cards have been dished out on Halloween down the years.

    Stuart Pearce had a nightmare in Newcastle's meeting with West Ham in 1998 in the first of those incidents, the Toon going on to lose that match 3-0.

    Liverpool have had more players dismissed on October 31 than any other Premier League side, with Jason McAteer, Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher all seeing red.

    Kenwyne Jones, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Radoslav Kovac, Carlos Cuellar, Geovanni, Jlloyd Samuel, Titus Bramble and, most recently Russell Martin and James Collins in 2015, are the others to be given their marching orders on Halloween.

    OG HORRORS

    Arguably the biggest horror show a player can endure is scoring for the opposition, something only four players have done on this day since the Premier League was incepted.

    Alfie Mawson could not mask his misery in Swansea City's 3-1 loss to Stoke City in 2016, turning Ramadan Sobhi's shot into his own net.

    Craig Short did likewise for Everton against Manchester United 22 years ago, while Gary McAllister and Ian Brightwell – both in 1992 – complete the set.

    LONG LIST OF GHOUL-SCORERS

    Halloween is not all about chills, though - there are the occasional thrills, too!

    Eighty-eight different players can hold claim to scoring on the spookiest day of the year, 17 of those bagging more than once.

    As well as the aforementioned hat-trick heroes, the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Philippe Coutinho, Robin van Persie, Odion Ighalo and Ian Wright have scored multiple times.

    Ighalo and Mahrez are two of six current Premier League players to have found the net on Halloween, along with Branislav Ivanovic, Olivier Giroud, Christian Benteke and Jamie Vardy. 

    But Christian Benteke has the special honour of being the only one of those 88 goal-scorers from whose name you can create the words 'trick' and 'treat'.

  • Can Ravens hand surging Steelers a first loss? Can Ravens hand surging Steelers a first loss?

    The Baltimore Ravens came into the 2020 season among the favourites to win the Super Bowl, but they now face a fierce fight with the Pittsburgh Steelers in their own division.

    As expected, John Harbaugh's squad – boasting MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson – has made a strong start to the year and sit at 5-1 through six games.

    Pittsburgh, though, are the last undefeated team in the NFL at 6-0, meaning Sunday's game has become a huge AFC North battle in Baltimore.

    Ahead of the game, we have looked at some of the key areas to watch, with the help of Stats Perform data.

     

    Dominant defenses

    Baltimore go into the game as four-point favourites, boosted by a defense which has allowed just 17.3 points per game, best in the NFL.

    Pittsburgh (19.7, sixth in the league) are not far behind in that category and come out on top when it comes to yards allowed per game (286.3), with the Ravens ninth at 339.8 YPG.

    Both units have seen their regular deployment of the blitz pay dividends. Baltimore have blitzed on 46.1 per cent of dropbacks, while Pittsburgh have on 44.3 – the two highest rates in the league.

    T.J. Watt leads the NFL with 24 pressures for the Steelers, with Bud Dupree (17), Stephon Tuitt (15) and Cameron Heyward (13) all generating pass-rush too as part of a formidable front seven.

    For the Ravens, veteran Calais Campbell (4 sacks) is thriving up front while cornerback Marlon Humphrey is yet to allow a touchdown on 49 targets this season, with opposing passers restricted to a 73.1 rating. No other player in the NFL has been targeted as often in coverage without giving up a TD.

    A close game looks likely. Since 2008, 14 of 24 regular-season meetings between the teams have been decided by three points or fewer – the most of any matchup in that span.

    The quarterbacks

    Pittsburgh (30.5 points per game) and Baltimore (29.8) both have top-eight scoring units, but – so far at least – their QBs have not had to do the heavy lifting in the passing game.

    The Ravens lead the NFL with 164.3 rushing yards per game, meaning they have picked up victories despite having a passing yardage (177.8) that is better only than the woeful New York Jets.

    The Steelers have been able to lean on their defense and running game too, with their 129.7 YPG on the ground good for 11th in the NFL, compared to their 229 passing yards ranking 23rd.

    Ravens QB Jackson is yet to hit the heights of 2019 and has been held under 200 passing yards in four consecutive starts, though his team won three of those four.

    He has completed less than 60.0 percent of his attempts in three of his last four contests, dropping his season completion percentage to 63.0 – 26th among 32 qualifiers. But the third-year pro does lead the team with 346 rushing yards.

    As a team, the Ravens have rushed for 140 yards or more in five straight games and 100 yards or better in 29 consecutive matchups.

    The latter streak is one shy of matching the longest by any team in the last 40 seasons; the Panthers had a 30-game run from 2014 through 2016.

    Not since the Steelers won against them in Week 9 of the 2018 season have the Ravens been held under 100 yards rushing.

    Returning from injury this year, Ben Roethlisberger has an impressive supporting cast to throw to including JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron and rookie sensation Chase Claypool.

    He is on track for a career-best year in terms of completion percentage (68.2) but is producing a lower yards per attempt rate (6.8) than ever before (aside from 2019 when he played just two games).

    That highlights what has, so far, largely been an efficient but more conservative approach from Big Ben than we have been used to seeing.

    However, after throwing one interception in the first five games of 2020, he was picked off three times in the dramatic victory over the Tennessee Titans last time out and now faces a formidable Ravens unit.

    Including postseason games, Roethlisberger is 15-10 in his career against the Ravens. Though he is only 4-6 on the road, he did earn victories in his last two visits to Baltimore (2017, 2018), but the Ravens won the two 2019 games while he was out.

    Big picture

    With additional wildcard spots available this year, these two teams already look like locks to make the playoffs.

    But this is a pivotal matchup in the battle for the division between teams who have combined to win 14 of 18 AFC North titles, as well as crucial for playoff seedings down the line.

    The Steelers are 6-0 for the second time in team history and a win on Sunday would match the best start in franchise annals (the 1978 team started 7-0).

    But the Ravens would love nothing more than to end that unbeaten start and are eager for a statement win after suffering their sole loss at the hands of Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs.

  • Stats Perform's NFL Friday Facts: Franchise history awaits unbeaten Steelers Stats Perform's NFL Friday Facts: Franchise history awaits unbeaten Steelers

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are the last remaining unbeaten team in the NFL, but the Baltimore Ravens will hope to stop them earning a slice of history.

    For just the second time, the Steelers are 6-0 and victory at M&T Bank Stadium would see them match the franchise-best seven-game undefeated start set in 1978.

    Games between these NFC North rivals are typically tight affairs, though. Since 2008, 14 of their 24 regular-season meetings have been decided by three points or fewer – the most of any matchup in that time frame – and the Ravens have won eight of those 14 nail-biters.

    The Minnesota Vikings have the unenviable task of trying to stop an in-form Aaron Rodgers when they return from their bye week, while a significant milestone is in the offing for Travis Kelce.

    We use Stats Perform data to preview the standout matchups on the Week 8 slate.
     

    FEATURED GAME

    Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens – Sunday 1pm (all times Eastern)

    - Lamar Jackson has been held under 200 passing yards in four consecutive starts, though the Ravens won three of those games. Jackson has completed less than 60 per cent of his attempts in three of his last four contests, dropping his season completion percentage to 63 – 26th among 32 qualifiers.

    - Since 2000, the Steelers (226) and Ravens (210) rank second and fifth respectively in total victories (regular season and playoffs). The teams have combined to win 14 of 18 AFC North titles all-time, and, in 19 of the past 20 seasons, at least one of the two teams reached the postseason.

    - After throwing one interception in the first five games of 2020, Ben Roethlisberger was picked off three times in last Sunday's victory at the Tennessee Titans. Including the postseason, Roethlisberger is 15-10 in his career against the Ravens – but only 4-6 on the road. However, he was triumphant on his past two visits to Baltimore (2017, 2018).

    OTHER KEY GAMES

    Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns – Sunday, 1pm

    - The Browns' last-minute 37-34 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last week moved them to 5-2, giving them their best seven-game start to a season since re-joining the NFL in 1999. It is the fourth time since the merger that Cleveland has five or more wins through seven games (1977, 1993, 1994).

    Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers – Sunday, 1pm

    - Rodgers had four touchdown passes and no interceptions in a 35-20 win against the Houston Texans last time out. His 17 TD passes this year matches a career high through six games of a season, along with his 2011 MVP campaign

    New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs – Sunday, 1pm

    - Kelce has 6,966 receiving yards in 103 career games. If he gets to 7,000 on Sunday, he would be the second-fastest tight end in NFL history to reach that mark, behind only Rob Gronkowski (100).

    New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears – Sunday, 4.25pm

    - The Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 27-24 at home last week. Each of their past three games has resulted in a win by six points or fewer, just the third time they have ever had such a streak (three games across the 1990 and 1991 seasons; four games in 1988).

    San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks – Sunday, 4.25pm

    - The Niners are averaging 7.0 yards per carry when rushing to the right (483 yards on 69 attempts), more than any team in any direction this season. They have a combined 479 yards on 122 carries to the left and up the middle

    ELSEWHERE…

    Los Angeles Rams at Miami Dolphins – Sunday, 1pm

    - Tua Tagovailoa will be making his first career start on Sunday. The fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, he is the second highest-picked Alabama quarterback of all time (Harry Gilmer went first overall in 1948), and the second-highest QB ever selected by the Dolphins (Bob Griese went fourth overall in 1967).

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants – Monday, 8.15pm

    - With a 45-20 win over the Raiders last week, Tampa Bay have now had back-to-back wins of at least 25 points for the first time in franchise history (defeated Green Bay by 28 in Week 6). The Bucs had just two such wins over the previous seven seasons combined.

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