Analyzing The Anomalous: Anderson Varejao vs. Boston
In Shaky Ankles’ new feature “Analyzing The Anomalous”, I’ll be taking a look at a random player’s most recent performance—either fantastic or dreadful—and breaking down how it is they did what they did by way of advanced statistics and the always helpful Synergy Sports resource. The posts will begin with a rundown of the chosen player’s basic stat line, before bullet points are used to complete the examination.
On Sunday evening, as the Cavaliers roared back behind their valiant rookie’s unofficial coming out party, we saw one of this season’s five worst fourth quarter collapses take place in Boston. Irving was fantastic, most notably for his jaw-dropping game winner (if there were ever a reason to believe the Big 3 era has come to an end, a 6’4″ rookie slicing their defense to a million itsy-bitsy pieces in a one point game is it) and brief ability to make everyone in that city forget who LeBron James ever was. But the real catalyst on that comeback goes on the shoulders of a man who may be the league’s most underrated player. He was everywhere, taking charges, keeping possessions alive, forcing every Celtics fan watching the game to wish that one day a mysterious home invader would ruin one of his lavish two-a-day bathtub sessions by dropping a plugged in microwave on his lap. Varejao personifies the type of player you hate if he isn’t on your team, and guy you’d die for if he is.
Somehow, someway, Varejao upstaged Sunday’s fourth quarter performance with an entire game’s worth of play that’d humble the creators of Red Bull. Here’s what happened.
Anderson Varejao vs. Boston. Cleveland lost 90-93. 41 minutes, 20 points (10-17 shooting), 20 rebounds (10 offensive), 2 assists, 1 block.
- Varejao scored 20 points on 10 made field goals (meaning he never went to the free-throw line—a rarity for such a high scoring performance). He opened the game knocking down three straight mid-range jumpers, setting the tone for his own confidence and partially affecting the way Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Garnett wanted to defend him throughout the game.
- Six of his baskets came at the rim, and when you look at them closely they’re all founded on hustle. He was great at sliding unnoticed behind the defense and being fed for open layups that the Celtics couldn’t stop even if they wanted to. Like a slot receiver settling into open pockets that a zone defense tends to present, Varejao’s herky-jerky limbs and dancing hair managed to go uncovered a couple times during Cleveland’s remarkable comeback.
- Basing this on points and rebounds alone, so far it’s been the best season of Varejao’s career. For an energy player to do this in a shortened, super scrunched/hectic season is remarkable (he leads the league in offensive rebounds, averaging nearly five per game!) and can’t go overlooked any longer. He had 10 offensive rebounds last night alone. In other news: Sometime last week, modern science developed a special cloning serum, and made Anderson Varejao the first test subject.
- Three of Varejao’s offensive rebounds came when he was going up against not one, not two, not three, but four Boston Celtics (hat tip to LeBron James). This can be reasoned with three factors: 1) lack of a box-out, 2) insane hustle, and 3) luck. Watching Varejao start at the three-point line, then rush in like a bowling ball once a jump shot goes up, is an unorthodox beauty. For good measure, let’s throw in the fact that these hustle plays came when his team was trailing by double digits in the second half.
- The Celtics aren’t the greatest rebounding team in league history. Anderson Varejao exposed the ongoing weakness, causing an article like this to be written.
- Hustle players are mostly known for what they do on the defensive end, but Varejao’s the exact opposite. Last night he never stopped moving when his team had the ball, constantly setting ball screens, cutting to the basket, reacting off penetration. To exude that much energy for 41 minutes (a game high), and score as many points as Paul Pierce, is incomprehensible. Great game by him.