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Wallace Watch: Big Ben vs the Cavaliers

By William Cade

Ben Wallace Defensive Player of the Year


[Editor's note: William wanted to examine in detail how Ben Wallace influenced a game on the defensive end of the court, and the Chicago-Cleveland game of Feb. 22, 2007 was randomly selected...a game that turned out to be an incredible one for Ben!]



Ben Wallace, who now plays for the Chicago Bulls and helped lead the Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA World Championships, is noticeably as dominant as a defensive player as ever. Thereby making him critically as valuable to the success of the Chicago Bulls and clearly a building block to the franchise (any franchise, for that matter!).

NBA Basketball is a beautiful game of offense and defense in which players from each side perform to their skill set in hopes that they collectively outperform the other. Simply put: “NBA Basketball, it’s fantastic!? Logically and bi-conditionally, better defense wins games due to subsequent lack of offense. And as a result, a player of Ben Wallace’s caliber significantly can be associated with winning games, as the aforementioned Detroit Pistons well know.

Let not forget! Ben Wallace is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006)…five-time NBA first team all defense (2002-2006)…three-time All-NBA Second Team member (2003, 2004, 2006)…two-time All-NBA Third Team honoree (2002, 2005)…four-time NBA All-Star (2003-2006)…His presence simply speaks for itself.

And now I clearly see why the cerebral Scott Skiles and the Chicago Bulls are poised to make some serious noise as the underrated giant killers in this year’s anxiously awaiting Eastern Conference Playoffs. I came to this Naismith-type premonition by eagerly, yet with a peculiar eye, watching Ben Wallace’s Chicago Bulls take on LeBron James?Cleveland Cavaliers (2/22/07). And boy, what a beauty. Especially, if you know what to look for.

Now remember, defense wins games. And games wins championships…and so forth and so on…So with that in mind, let’s universally take a look at a how Mr. Wallace’s performance on defense assisted in the destruction of the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers.

In this particular game, the Chicago Bulls were estimated to partake in slightly over 90 ‘set?defensive possessions, which may include defensive possessions within a possession. These particular possessions are inclusive of possessions in which defense is played more than once as result of a stoppage in play (i.e. foul committed), or simply just more than one attempt at a field goal (i.e. defense played again as result of offensive rebound or block shot). Consider the origin of a ‘set?defensive possession to be one in which the proposed team of interest (in this case, the Chicago Bulls) has exercised either a turnover (TO), field goal made (FGM), attempted field goal (FGA), or offensive foul while playing offense. With that in mind, the following tables provide information regarding the outcome of the Bulls?team defense after their own made field goals (Table A), as well as the outcome of Ben Wallace’s defense (Table B), while playing role of primary and/or help defender

Table A: Bulls' Defense after their own Made Field Goals
  FGM FGA T/O Foul Total Poss
 vs Cavs 9 26 6 2 34*
* - Number is equivalent to total FGM by Bulls

Table B: Ben Wallace defensive plays
  FGM FGA T/O Foul Total Poss
 vs Cavs 8 18 10 1 29*
* - Total number of Ben Wallace defensive possessions as a primary/help defender

Feasibly, aside from a stoppage in play (i.e. foul committed, timeout called, etc?, it can be agreed, among other fundamentals, that any team’s focus should include the imperative responsibility of setting its defense after a made field goal. In Table A, comparable to the 68% of subsequent defensive possessions that result in a missed field goal or turnover, it is clear that, of the 34 total FGM by the Bulls, only 26% result in a score by the Cavs. Furthermore, of the 29 approximated possessions in which Ben Wallace was either the primary and/or help defender, the opposing Cavs were unceremoniously found to have 28% (FGM) success compared to 69% failure (Missed FGA and TO).

Interestingly enough, these results do not and cannot include the intangibles. As a defensive game changer, Ben Wallace’s absolute productivity cannot be measured by his accumulated stats alone. However, a more just evaluation can be implemented by analyzing the productivity of the opposing team’s offense. Here’s a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers?stat-line for players that played at least 15 minutes or more:

Table C
 Player MIN  FGM-A  3PM-A  FTM-A  OREB  DREB  REB  AST  STL  BLK  TO  PF  PTS 
 LeBron James 43  13-28  1-4  2-8  29 
 Drew Gooden 15  2-5  0-0  0-0 
 Anderson Varejao 34  1-6  0-0  0-0 
 Larry Hughes 44  9-26  0-4  2-4  20 
 Daniel Gibson 37  3-8  1-3  1-1 
 Eric Snow 32  3-5  0-0  3-3 
 Donyell Marshall 18  2-6  2-6  0-0 

By game’s end, Ben Wallace’s stat line read as follows:

Table D
 Player MIN  FGM-A  3PM-A  FTM-A  OREB  DREB  REB  AST  STL  BLK  TO  PF  PTS 
 Ben Wallace 44  6-8  0-0  2-2  10  19  14 

According to Tables C and D, it is defensively apparent that in addition to the Cleveland Cavaliers shooting a low total field goal percentage (39%), Ben Wallace contributes to his own productivity by gathering just as many defensive rebounds (10) as the Chicago Bulls offensive rebounds (12) do, collectively. Furthermore, his 7:1 (BLK: PF) ratio not only suggests that he efficiently (without fouling) controls the paint, but also can be the implicit factor to a FG percentage of less than 50% among Cavalier starters, individually (excluding Snow and Marshall). Prime example: Anderson Varejao. The specific assignment of Anderson Varejao was just another day at the office for ‘Big?Ben Wallace. Within just the first 10 ‘set?defensive possessions, Ben Wallace had already forced Anderson Varejao into a turnover, block shot, and a steal. From that point on, it was downhill from there for Varejao (look at Table C). From a team standpoint, it was the beginning to an end for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Attribute that to Big Ben, among other things, defensively.

"Another Day at the Office"

JB = Jump Ball
BW = Ben Wallace
MFG = Missed FG
HD = Help Defense
PC = Possession Continued
QPOT = Quick Points off Turnover
SA = Significantly Active

 Qtr  Poss  Score  Nature  Description  End Result  Subs
 1  1  0-0  JB  BW - HD onto Varejo  TO  
 1  2*  0-2  TO  BW - HD onto Hughes - Block Shot (BS) - PC  PC - LeBron - FG  
 1  3  2-4  FG  NA  Gooden - FG  
 1  4  4-4  FG  NA  MFG  
 1  5*  6-7  FG  NA - P.J. Brown foul; NA  Gibson 3-point FG  Nocioni in P.J Brown out
 1  6  6-7  TO  BW strips ball from Varejo  TO  
 1  7  6-9  TO  NA  LeBron - FG  
 1  8  6-9  TO  BW creates TO violation on Varejo  TO  
 1  9  8-9  FG  BW - HD onto Gooden - TO  TO  
 1  10  11-9  FG  NA  TO  
 1  11  13-10  FG  NA  LeBron FTs  Duhon in Hinrich out
 1  12  13-12  TO  QPOT  Hughes - FG  
 1  13  13-12  MFG  NA  MFG  
 1  14  14-12  TO (TF)  BW - SA  MFG  
 1  15  14-14  MFG  NA  Hughes - FG  
 1  16*  14-16  TO  NA; NA  LeBron - FG  Hinrich in Gordon out
 1  17  16-18  FG  NA  LeBron - FG  Allen in Nocioni out
 1  18*  16-20  MFG  NA ; MFG  Hughes - FG  
 1  19  16-20  TO  BW - HD - stolen pass  TO  
 1  20  16-20  MFG  NA  MFG  
 1  21*  18-22  FG  BW block shot- PC- PC  LeBron - FG  
 1  22  20-22  FG  BW - HD - stolen pass  TO  
 1  23  22-22  FTs  NA  MFG  
 1  24  22-22  TO  NA  MFG  Gordon in Hinrich out
 2  25  22-25  MFG  NA  3-point FG  Sefolosha in Deng out
 2  26*  25-25  3PT FG  BW-HD on Snow (out of bounds) ; NA - Foul on Duhon; NA - out of bounds ; NA-TO  TO  
 2  27  27-25  FG  TO  TO  Wallace out (10:37) P.J. Brown in
 2  28  29-25  FG  MFG  MFG  
 2  29  29-25  MFG  TO  TO  
 2  30  29-25  MFG  MFG  MFG  
 2  31  32-25  3PT FG  MFG  MFG  
 2  32  34-25  FG  MFG  MFG  
 2  33  34-25  MFG  MFG  MFG  
 2  34*  34-25  TO  NA - offensive rebound, foul called ; NA  MFG  Wallace in P.J. Brown out; Deng in Sefolosha out, Nocioni in Allen out
 2  35  34-27  TO  QPOT  FG  
 2  36  36-27  FG  BW - HD (rbd)  MFG  
 2  37*  36-27  MFG  NA; NA-TO  TO  
 2  38*  38-27  FG  NA - out of bounds; NA-MFG  MFG  
 2  39*  38-27  MFG  NA-MFG ; NA-MFG  MFG  
 2  40  41-27  3PT FG  BW - HD onto Gibson  MFG  
 2  41  41-27  TO  BW - draws offensive foul on Gibson  MFG  
 2  42  41-27  MFG  BW - creates TO on Dwayne Jones  TO  
 2  43  41-27  TO  NA  MFG  
 2  44  41-27  TO  BW - HD onto LeBron - offensive foul  TO  Allen in Nocioni out
 2  45  43-27  FG  NA  MFG  
 2  46  43-29  MFG  NA  FG  
 2  47*  43-31  TO  NA - out of bounds; NA  FG - LeBron  
 3  48  43-33  TO  BW - HD  FG - Gooden  
 3  49  43-33  MFG  BW - HD and commited foul  Hughes - 2 missed FTs  
 3  50  45-33  FG  BW - HD onto LeBron  MFG  
 3  51  47-33  FG  BW - HD onto LeBron - creates TO  TO  
 3  52  49-35  FG  NA  FG  
 3  53  51-37  FG  BW - HD onto Hughes - FG  FG  
 3  54  51-39  TO  NA  Hughes - 2 made FTs  
 3  55  51-39  MFG  MFG  MFG  
 3  56*  51-41  MFG  BW - HD onto Hughes - MFG ; BW - HD onto Gibson - FG  FG  
 3  57  54-44  3PT FG  NA  3 point play  
 3  58  54-47  MFG  NA  3 point play  
 3  59  54-49  MFG  BW - HD onto LeBron - FG  FG  Duhan in Hinrich out ; Nocioni in Brown out
 3  60*  54-51  MFG  NA - foul committed - FG ; NA -MFG  FG and miss FT  Sefolosha in Gordon out
 3  61  56-51  FG  HD onto James - MFG  MFG  
 3  62  58-51  FTs  NA  MFG  
 3  63  58-53  TO  NA  FG  
 3  64  58-55  TO  NA  FG  
 3  65  58-55  TO  NA  MFG  
 3  66  60-57  FG  NA  Snow - 2 made FTs  
 3  67  60-60  TO  NA  Snow - FG and FT  
 3  68  62-62  FG  NA  FG  
 3  69  64-62  FG  NA  MFG  
 4  70*  64-62  start of quarter  NA - foul committed ; NA - MFG  MFG  Hinrich, Deng, Wallace, Griffin, Duhan - IN
 4  71  66-62  FG  BW - HD onto Gibson  MFG  
 4  72  66-62  MFG  BW - HD onto LeBron  MFG  
 4  73  66-64  MFG  NA  FG  
 4  74  66-66  TO  NA  FG  
 4  75*  66-68  TO  NA - foul committed ; BW - HD onto Hughes - Block Shot - FG  Hughes - FG  
 4  76  66-68  FG  NA  MFG  
 4  77  68-68  MFG  NA  MFG  
 4  78  68-68  TO  NA  Missed 2 FTs  
 4  79  68-71  TO  BW - Marshall - 3 pt FG  3 pt FG  
 4  80  68-71  TO  MFG  MFG  
 4  81  68-71  MFG  NA  TO  Hinrich in Griffin out
 4  82  70-71  FG  NA  MFG  
 4  83*  70-71  MFG  NA - MFG ; BW - HD onto Gibson - MFG  MFG  
 4  84*  72-71  FTs  NA - kick ball ; NA -TO  TO  
 4  85  74-71  FG  BW - HD onto Hughes - MFG  MFG  
 4  86  76-71  FG  BW - HD onto LeBron - MFG  MFG  
 4  87  76-71  MFG  NA  MFG  
 4  88  76-73  MFG  NA  Hughes - FG  
 4  89  78-73  FG  NA  MFG  
 4  90  80-73  FTs  NA  MFG  
 4  91  82-76  FG  NA  LeBron - 3 pt FG  
 4  92*  82-78  TO  NA - MFG; NA - FG  LeBron - FG  
 4  93  84-78  FTs  NA  MFG  

You see, Ben Wallace‘s true value is incapable of being perceived by a sense of basic descriptive basketball statistics. But when you look at the offensive performance of his team opponent(s), one is revealed the ‘tell- tell?signs to the reasoning behind the success of the Chicago Bulls, defensively. In essence, Ben Wallace brings an unmatched defensive element to his team that, in turn, willfully helps wins games…and games win championships…and so forth and so on…let not forget! Ben Wallace is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006)…five-time NBA first all defense (2002-2006)…I know I won’t!

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