NBA

Michael Jordan v LeBron James: How the NBA greats' playoff numbers compare

By Sports Desk May 26, 2020

The debate over who is basketball's G.O.A.T has been reignited.

The release of 'The Last Dance' - ESPN's docuseries on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls - has brought Michael Jordan's exploits back to the forefront of people's minds.

And the suspension of the current NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic means current superstar LeBron James has, for the time being at least, been unable to respond on the court.

However, this week marks three years since James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sunk a deep three-pointer in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to pass Jordan and become the NBA's all-time playoff points leader.

Stats Perform has crunched the numbers on the two icons of the game to look at how they compare when the spotlight shines brightest.

 

PILING ON THE POINTS

That record-breaking shot from beyond the arc against the Boston Celtics moved James beyond Jordan's all-time haul of 5,987 points in his 212th game.

However, his boyhood hero's tally came in just 179 games, with Jordan having averaged a staggering 33.4 points per game, compared to James' 28.9.

There are still multiple postseason records Jordan holds too, including most points in a game (63 - which he accrued in the Bulls' incredible double-overtime loss to the Celtics in 1986) and consecutive games with at least 20 points (60).

Despite having seven-time All-Star Scottie Pippen also on the roster, Jordan was clearly the go-to guy for the Bulls on offense and he led them in scoring in 168 of his 179 playoff appearances.

James has led his teams in scoring (including ties) in an NBA-record 189 playoff games - out of 239 appearances - despite calling Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving team-mates at specific points.

 

JAMES: AN ALL-AROUND THREAT

While Jordan comes out on top in points per game, James has the edge in most other categories.

The current Los Angeles Lakers star averages more rebounds (8.9 to 6.4), assists (7.1 to 5.7) and blocks (0.97 to 0.88) per playoff game than Jordan, who does average more steals (2.10 to 1.75) - and it was robbing Karl Malone of the ball that famously helped MJ deliver championship number six 22 years ago.

James is, marginally, a more efficient postseason shooter, scoring from .491 of his attempts compared to Jordan's .487, though the two are neck and neck (.332) from three-pointers.

The all-around threat of James is perhaps best highlighted by the fact he has 23 playoff triple-doubles - second only to Magic Johnson's 30 - while Jordan made just two across his illustrious career.

 

COUNT THE RINGS

Of course, the ultimate goal for any successful team is to end the NBA Finals holding aloft the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, something Jordan has done on six occasions, twice as many as James.

Jordan went 6-0 in Finals - and was named MVP of each series - while James has a 3-6 record - and three Finals MVP awards - across stints with the Cavaliers and Miami Heat.

The Bulls' success in the 1990s - when they twice three-peated - means Jordan won 66.5 per cent of the playoff games he appeared in, a number that James (currently 65.3 per cent) will surely soon eclipse with his Lakers team primed for a deep playoff run when this season resumes.

Would another three rings see James surpass Jordan in the eyes of many? For now, it remains a fascinating debate.

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  • How does Upamecano compare to Liverpool's defenders amid transfer talk? How does Upamecano compare to Liverpool's defenders amid transfer talk?

    Liverpool may need to make a January move for a centre-back after Virgil van Dijk's serious knee injury. 

    The Premier League champions were dealt a huge blow with Van Dijk set to miss most - if not the remainder - of the season after a tackle from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby draw against Everton. 

    Liverpool have been left with just two senior centre-backs – Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – with Van Dijk's injury, although defensive midfielder Fabinho can also provide cover. 

    Unsurprisingly, there have been transfer rumours in the aftermath, with the Reds linked with RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back Ben White. 

    Having joined Leipzig from Salzburg for a reported €10million in 2017, Upamecano re-signed earlier this year, but he apparently has a €42m release clause in his contract – although that can only be triggered at season's end. 

    Upamecano is highly rated in Europe and, using Opta data, we assess how his performances compare to Liverpool's defenders.

    Bright future awaits, but would Upamecano improve Liverpool?

    Upamecano, 21, helped RB Leipzig finish third in the Bundesliga and reach the Champions League semi-finals last season.

    The France international's tackling numbers were particularly impressive when compared to Liverpool defenders Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip.

    In the Bundesliga last season, Upamecano had 1.95 tackles per 90 minutes – with Matip (1.66 per 90 in just nine Premier League games) the closest of Liverpool's trio. However, only Van Dijk (52.2) had a worse tackle success rate than Upamecano (58.8), with Gomez and Matip both above 69.

    In the Champions League, Upamecano had 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes , well above Van Dijk (1.08) and Gomez (1.59), and also at a better rate (56) than the Liverpool trio. Matip, often injured in 2019-20, played just 90 minutes in total in Europe's top club competition last season.

    Ready to do battle

    Upamecano contested the most duels (87) of the four in the Champions League, and went at a success rate of 71.26, similar to Van Dijk (70 duels and 74.29 success rate), while he also had a comparable number of headed clearances per 90 minutes (2.04 to Van Dijk's 2.28) and interceptions (1.63 to 1.08). Gomez had 2.64 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Champions League last season.

    Van Dijk's absence will also hurt Liverpool aerially, with the Dutchman an imposing figure in Jurgen Klopp's back four.

    Upamecano, who stands at 186cm, was between Van Dijk and Gomez when it came to aerial duels last season. He won 18 of 27 aerials in the 2019-20 Champions League, a rate worse than Van Dijk (33 of 47) but better than Gomez (24 of 41).

    It was a similar story in the respective leagues, although he contested fewer than Liverpool defenders. An area Upamecano fell short in, at least domestically, was in being dribbled past by an opponent, which happened 20 times in 28 Bundesliga games, a figure ranking him below both Van Dijk (seven times in 38) and Gomez (11 in 28), but ahead of Matip (seven in nine). 

    Boosting Liverpool's build-up play

    A problem set to be exacerbated by Alisson's injury absence, Van Dijk's passing ability in defence is also important to how Liverpool function.

    In this area, Upamecano may offer the Reds the most. In the Champions League last season, his passing accuracy in the opposition half was 83.1 – higher than the Liverpool trio, including Van Dijk (82.7). When it came to passing accuracy ending in the final third, Upamecano again topped the list (74.1), ahead of Gomez (71.6), and that included averaging 11.7 passes into the final third per 90 minutes.

    In domestic action, Upamecano also topped the list in these categories, and his passing accuracy in the opposition half to begin this Bundesliga season is 84.7, while Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip have all dropped off from last season in this area.

  • Mbappe chases Messi record, history weighs heavily on Pirlo – Champions League in Opta numbers Mbappe chases Messi record, history weighs heavily on Pirlo – Champions League in Opta numbers

    The Champions League returns this week after a short hiatus, with beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain looking to get back up and running – and exact a measure of revenge – against Manchester United.

    Juventus begin European competition under new head coach Andrea Pirlo, who faces one of the most experienced coaches in the game in Mircea Lucescu.

    Barcelona will endeavour to banish memories of August's 8-2 obliteration by Bayern Munich when they face Ferencvaros for the first time, while Chelsea will hope to improve the poor record Premier League teams have had of late against Sevilla.

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    Dynamo Kiev v Juventus: Pirlo feeling the weight of history

    Twice a Champions League winner with Milan in 2003 and 2007, Pirlo's first game in the competition comes away to Dynamo Kiev. None of the previous eight Juve head coaches have lost their first match in charge.

    In fact, Juve have only been beaten on matchday one in the competition once in 20 previous seasons, winning 11 of those games and drawing eight. That one defeat was a 3-0 loss at Barcelona three years ago.

    Dynamo boss Lucescu will be 75 years and 83 days old on Tuesday, making him the oldest coach in Champions League history, overtaking Jupp Heynckes (who was 72 and 357 days old in May 2018). If he wants to celebrate in style, he will need to inflect just a fifth group-stage defeat on Juve in 34 games.

     

    Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United: Mbappe chasing Messi record

    PSG's last home defeat in the competition was that famous loss to United in the 2018-19 round of 16, when Marcus Rashford's late penalty secured a 3-1 win for an understrength Red Devils and sent them through on away goals.

    If they are to start their quest for a return to the final with a win, Mbappe might be the man to do it. He has scored 19 goals in the tournament and, at 21 years and 305 days old, he needs just one against United to become the youngest player to reach 20. That would surpass Messi's record, set back in 2010 when he was 22 years and 267 days old.

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    Barcelona v Ferencvaros: Koeman's worrying numbers

    Barca have not lost any of their previous 31 home group games since Rubin Kazan stunned Pep Guardiola's men 2-1 back in October 2009. When you consider Ferencvaros have not been in the competition since 1995-96, when they conceded 19 goals in six matches, you would not expect that Barca run to be stopped.

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    Chelsea v Sevilla: Can Werner lift English spirits?

    Sevilla, who knocked United out of last season's Europa League semi-finals, have won all three major European matches against teams from England. Chelsea, meanwhile, have taken one victory from their previous nine Champions League meetings with teams from Spain, drawing five and losing three.

    Frank Lampard will hope Timo Werner can make the difference. The forward was involved in nine goals in his last 11 Champions League games for RB Leipzig (seven scored, two assisted) and could become the third German to score for Chelsea in the competition, after Michael Ballack (four goals) and Andre Schurrle (two). He has, however, never scored at home.

    Other fixtures:

    Lazio v Borussia Dortmund:

    3 – Dortmund's last Champions League win in Italy was a 1-0 victory over Milan in March 2003, courtesy of a Jan Koller goal. They have lost all three such visits since.

    8 – Only Robert Lewandowski (10) scored more group-stage goals last season than Erling Haaland (eight). Haaland averages a goal or assist every 50 minutes in the competition.

     

    RB Leipzig v Istanbul Basaksehir:

    6 – Istanbul Basaksehir are the sixth Turkish team to play in the Champions League. Only one of the previous five won their first match – that was Trabzonspor, who beat Inter 1-0 away in September 2011.

    14 – RB Leipzig's Hwang Hee-chan created the most chances in open play in the Champions League group stage in 2019-20 (14) when he played for RB Salzburg. He was directly involved in six goals in his six group-stage appearances (three goals, three assists) and was one of two players to both score and assist three goals in the group stage, along with Kylian Mbappe.

     

    Rennes v Krasnodar:

    2 – Rennes have lost just twice at home in major European games, winning five and drawing seven of those 14 matches, all of which were in the UEFA Cup/Europa League between November 2007 and December last year.

    36 – Krasnodar boss Murad Musayev is 36 years and 345 days old, the second-youngest coach in this season's competition (behind Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann, 33). He could become the fifth-youngest to win his first game and the youngest since Andre Villas-Boas in September 2011.

     

    Zenit v Club Brugge:

    11 – Artem Dzyuba has been directly involved in 11 goals in his 12 Champions League group-stage matches with Zenit (eight goals, three assists). That run includes goals in both games against Belgian side Gent in 2015-16.

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  • Was Lampard right to single out his keepers amid Chelsea defensive woes? Was Lampard right to single out his keepers amid Chelsea defensive woes?

    When Frank Lampard was questioned over Chelsea's poor defensive record in his tenure as manager, he suggested his goalkeepers were to blame.

    Ahead of Tuesday's home game against Sevilla, which will kick off the Blues' Champions League campaign, it was put to Lampard that his side were conceding enough goals for him to rank him among the club's worst bosses ever in that category.

    Indeed, Chelsea have conceded nine goals in their first five Premier League games this season – three coming in Saturday's 3-3 home draw with Southampton – and leaked 54 in the 2019-20 top flight, more than any other team to finish in the top 10.

    "I'm aware of the stats and the other stat is we have conceded second least shots," said Lampard.

    "That helps to narrow down the issue. It's something we are aware of with our recruitment and on the pitch with the players to make sure we set up well.

    "We want to concede less, as do all teams at the moment."

    As Lampard referenced with recruitment, Chelsea hope the signing of Edouard Mendy for around £22million from Rennes can solve their goalkeeping issues.

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    CHELSEA RANK HIGHLY IN PREVENTING SHOTS

    Since Lampard took charge at the start of last season, Chelsea have conceded 89 goals in 62 games across all competitions, an average of 1.44 per game.

    Of the 17 sides who played in the Premier League last year and this year, that puts Chelsea in the bottom half (11th of 17).

    The best two records, by comparison, are held by the two Manchester clubs, with City (61 in 65) and United (63 in 67) both averaging 0.94 goals conceded per game. West Ham are the worst, with 1.58 (79 in 50 matches).

    But, as Lampard suggests, there is a significant difference when it comes to shots faced.

    Taking all competitions into account, the Blues have faced 590 shots across their 62 games, an average of 9.52 per game.

    That ranks third of the 17 teams, only narrowly behind Manchester City (7.34 shots per game) and Liverpool (9.46), with Leicester City (9.76) the only other team facing less than 10.

    Of the shots Chelsea have faced, 215 have been on target, an average of 3.47 per game which ranks fifth of 17. 

    So, Chelsea have been reasonably effective in limiting the shots they face and the attempts their keepers have to save.

    However, 15 per cent (89) of opposing teams' shots have resulted in a conceded goal and by that metric, Chelsea are worst of all 17 teams.

    The best is Arsenal (eight per cent) and Manchester United also rank in single figures (nine per cent), so it seems Lampard has a point that his goalkeeping is the primary concern.

    KEPA STATS MAKE ABYSMAL READING

    Delving deeper into Opta's advanced goalkeeper metrics, we can look at expected goals and how their keepers rank in the goals prevented statistic.

    Unfortunately, it makes abysmal reading for Kepa. 

    There were 43 shot-stoppers who played a Premier League game since Lampard took charge of Chelsea and Kepa ranks last in goals prevented differential.

    In his 36 league matches for Chelsea since Lampard took charge, Opta's expected goals system projects the Spaniard should have conceded 39.21 goals. The actual figure was 51, giving him a goals prevented ratio of minus 11.79.

    For context, the next worst of those who played at least 25 matches in that time period, were England duo Nick Pope (minus 4.31) and Jordan Pickford (minus 4.17).

    Caballero also has a negative differential (minus 3.73), conceding nine Premier League goals from his six matches when his expected figure was 5.27.

    The best goalkeeping performance in that time has come from Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris (plus 9.87 goals prevented), closely followed by Martin Dubravka (plus 8.57), Dean Henderson (plus 8.35) and Vicente Guaita (plus 7.97) – with those four ranking well clear of the rest.

    As a team, Chelsea have conceded 63 in the league since August 2019, while the expected figure is 44.74, their minus 18.26 differential being far and away the top-flight's worst.

    Southampton are next worst at minus 9.91, while the best record is held by Sheffield United, who conceded 46 when they were expected to concede 56.59, giving them a plus 10.59 ratio.

    The poor goalkeeping is highlighted further when looking at Chelsea and their big six rivals.

    Chelsea (44.74), City (44.34), Liverpool (44.67) and United (46.61) all rank similarly for the Premier League goals they would have been expected to concede since the start of last season.

    By contrast, Arsenal (62.73) and Tottenham (62.72) rank more poorly.

    However, the actual figures show Chelsea (63) conceded the most of the big six, more than Arsenal (54) and Spurs (55), who were boosted by the positive differentials and fine performances of Bernd Leno, Emiliano Martinez and Lloris.

    City (42) fared best, with Ederson (plus 4.47) ranking well, while Liverpool (46) United (48) finished up relatively close to their expected figures, all highlighting just how badly Chelsea have been let down between the sticks compared to their nearest competitors.

    Chelsea will hope Mendy, once fully fit and settled, can resolve their goalkeeping woes, as it is clear the data backs up Lampard's statement.

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