Thanks to Utah Jazz fan, Taylor Berthelson (@utahmankiyi), this week’s study was devoted to determining the importance of the first quarter to the game result. I used years of data to determine that winning teams typically performed well in the first quarter earlier this week, but it doesn’t hurt to add some 2012-2013 statistics to prove the trend true for this season.
Taylor estimated that 60% of teams that win the first quarter win the game, and he was pretty darn accurate. For this study I didn’t count games that were tied after one quarter, so the sample size was 45 games (four games were not counted). Teams that were leading after the first 12 minutes won 29 times (0.644 winning percentage), with seven of those teams either drawing even or losing the remaining 36 minutes. For the week as a whole, the 45 teams that lead after one quarter of action went on to win the remainder of the game by an average of 1.03 points. There were two outliers in this week’s set of data, but they essentially offset one another. The Pistons beat the Bucks by nine points in the first quarter but lost the game by 27 points (-36 points) while the Rockets beat the Jazz by six in the first quarter on their way to a 45 point win in Utah (+39 points).
Thus, the hypothesis stands. The 2012-2013 season seems to be trending in the same direction as seasons past where the first quarter holds a stronger correlation to success than any other quarter.
Taylor took me up on my offer to break down a stat of his choosing and verified a belief that he had. Now it’s your turn. Have a stat that you’re curious about? Or maybe you did something real well back in the day and want to see if that skill set would have an impact on an NBA team. Whatever the case may be, your insight is important to us here at Hickory-high. What would you like me to dive deeper into over the next seven days?
If you need help thinking of odd stats and trends, here are 35 of the best from last week.
- The Rockets have scored 125 points this season in both instances in which James Harden has scored 25+ points while making less than nine free throws and only a single three pointer.
- It didn’t take long for Andrew Bogut to make an impact on the already surprising Warriors. In his first game he swatted four shots, and averaged more points (0.5)/rebounds (0.33) per minute than his all star teammate David Lee. He helped balance the Warriors offensive attack as Golden State scored 62 points in the paint, 28 more than the Raptors. In their final two games with him, the Warriors totaled 60 points in the paint and surrendered 76.
- I like the Grizzles as much as anyone, but Zach Randolph’s recent road struggles are a bit concerning. Memphis’ muscle is averaging 8.5 points on 33.3% shooting over that stretch, and while he has been rebounding a good rate (10 rpg) in those games, the team could use the help scoring (tallied 85 or fewer points in three of those four games). The winning percentage of the teams faced (.559) would rank as the seven seed in the West and if the season ended today the Grizzles would play the five seed. I’m not pushing the panic button, but Memphis is lucky the season doesn’t end today.
- What is standing in the way of DeMarcus Cousins and greatness? Well, besides that thing that sits atop his shoulders, it is his inconsistency. In the three games since snagging 15 rebounds against the Suns Cousins has totaled 14 rebounds. Over that three game stretch Cousins has a game in which he: made only one field goal (totaling three points in his 22 minutes of action), recorded seven turnovers, handed out only one assist. He has the talent to be great, dare I say “elite”, in today’s big man starved NBA, but greatness includes a consistent effort, something we have yet to see from Cousins.
- Andre Iguodala made one of two free throws with less than a second left to beat the Pacers on his 29th birthday. Winning the game is nice, but since when has he become such a liability at the line? He canned five of 10 tonight, dropping his free throw percentage at home (where you would think he would be more comfortable) to an embarrassing 55.3%. For reference, Omer Asik of the Rockets (a career 51.2% free throw shooter as compared to Iguodala’s 73% career mark) is shooting 60.3% at home this season
- It is commonly said that basketball is a game of runs, but it must be noted that not all runs are created equal. The Pistons went on a 28-11 spurt that last nearly 10 minutes in the first quarter against the Bucks. If you extrapolate that serge over an entire game, Detroit would win by a final tally of 112-44. Milwaukee promptly responded with a 72-28 “run” over the next 24 minutes, a pace that would result in a 56-144 loss for the Pistons.
- The Lakers have allegedly “figured things out”, but color me a bit pessimistic. Their three victorious have come against teams with a cumulative record of 73-62 (a .541 winning percentage which is the equivalent the seven seed in the West), but more concerning is this “changing of roles” that everyone seems to focus on. Steve Nash has been successful for many years in this league distributing the basketball, and while he is a capable scorer, I fear that LA is not maximizing its potential by making him a scorer. Prior to this three game stretch, Nash had averaged one assist every 3.65 minutes of floor time, but during the past week, he is averaging one dime every 8.42 minutes despite playing with the most talented team he has even been a part of.
- Another flaw of the Lakers that is being overlooked because the team is winning games is their inability to play consistent defense. The point total for their opponent has risen by at least 10 points each game, including 106 points allowed to the sixth worst scoring offense in the league. In fact the Hornets, who rank 25th in fast break points per game, tripled their season average for transition points against the Lakers. “You play to win the game” but you analyze stats to determine if said team will win enough games to continue playing late into the season.
- Damian Lillard is averaging 18.1 points as we approach the midway point in his stellar rookie campaign but his statistical production has not been tied directly to victories this month. In three of the Trailblazers last five wins over teams currently sitting in playoff position, Lillard’s total PA (points + assists) has been 18 or lower.
- On a day where the Lakers played well (111 points), the NBA’s highest scoring starting unit (Trailblazers) had every member play at least 36 minutes, and Brandon Jennings scored 20 points in a single quarter, the league’s highest scoring duo came out of a game played in Cleveland. The Cavs hosted the Warriors, so naturally you’d assume that Kyrie Irving would be involved if Cleveland did well or all star David Lee (or all star snub Steph Curry) would lead the Warriors; but none of those players were part of tonight’s highest scoring twosome. Instead, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson combined to score 58 points on 57.1% shooting from the field. The sweet stroking backcourt scored 46.6% of their points from behind the arc on 75% shooting.
- January was Emeka Okafor’s highest scoring month of this season as he increased his points per game from December by 38.3% and from November by 60%. Ironically enough, January was also his best month in terms of rebounds per shot attempt. Despite being his highest scoring month, the Wizards big man averaged more rebounds per FGA (1.27) than he did in December (1.05) or November (0.85).
- Don’t get me wrong, I love the direction the Pistons are headed in, but there are going to be nights like this. Detroit struggled from distance (3/18) and from the free throw line (12/27), a direct result from their focus on big men and lack of consistent guard play. They attempted four more three pointers than the Pacers and were outscored by 12. They attempted six more free throws than the Pacers and were outscored by seven. Both teams made 29 two point baskets, meaning the 19 point disparity in traditionally guard dominated stats (FT and 3P) was the exact margin of victory for Indiana.
- LeBron James had 24 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists tonight in Brooklyn, otherwise known as just an average day against the Nets. Over the last three seasons, James has tallied at least 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists against the Nets in seven straight games. Look even further and you’ll notice that he has done so in 13 of his last 15 games against the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets (averaging 26 points).
- The New York Knicks rely on the three pointer , this is not news. Last night, however, was a true example of a team living by the triple. They accounted for 37 more points via three pointer than free throw, far and away the top mark in the NBA tonight. In fact, 60.9% of teams in action tonight failed to score 37 total points on free throws and three pointers added together (including Orlando, who lost to the Knicks). On the other hand, the Utah Jazz scored 20 more points at the free throw line than from behind the arc.
- Some players need to produce across the board (points, rebounds, and assists) to help their team achieve its maximum offensive output, but Blake Griffin is not one of them. The Clippers are improved to 6-1 when he hands out one or zero assists, a vast improvement over their 3-4 mark when their scoring/rebounding machine adjusts his game and notches at least seven helpers.
- In his first two games back from injury, Andrew Bogut blocked a total of seven shots resulting in two victories. Ironically enough, the last two game stretch that he blocked at least seven shots and his team won both games started two season ago to the day as his current streak did (January 28th).
- O.J. Mayo was the Mavericks leading scorer against the Warriors, not very surprising given the fact that Dirk Nowitzki was inactive. This season, Mayo has scored 67.8% of his points in games played without Nowitzki (52.2% of the Mavs games).
- Zach Randolph struggled from the field (4/17) despite dominating the glass (his 19 rebounds were more than double any other player in the game). This, however, has been the trend over the last four rebound heavy games for ZBo. In his last four games with t least 15 rebounds, Randolph is shooting only 32.4% from the field. The drop off in shooting percentage was sudden, as in the four 15+ rebound game previous, he was shooting 52.9% (5.6 percentage points above his career field goal percentage).
- In a game being played without Rudy Gay and the pieces they acquired for him, the Grizzles offense didn’t at all resemble what we have seen in the season’s first half that has them positioned the four seed in the West. Memphis takes the second fewest three pointers per game (13.9) in the league but attempted 78.6% more triples than the Thunder (the third best three point shooting team by percentage) tonight.
- The Warriors won their sixth straight and improved to 7-1 in January games in which Klay Thompson makes at least three three pointers but shoots less than 10.
- Goran Dragic recorded a season high eight rebounds against Dallas tonight, finishing just one assist and two rebounds shy of a triple double. Dragic had gone 58 straight games without recording more than eight rebounds in any two game stretch.
- The Nuggets offense is rolling right now (113.9 points per game in their last eight wins) and Ty Lawson’s ability to score the basketball has been a big reason why. He scored 21 points last night, the fifth time in those eight Denver wins he has scored at least 20. In the Nuggets previous 22 wins, their starting point guard reached the 20 point plateau on three times.
- The Wizards attempted (and made) only three free throws, tied for the third fewest in the shot clock era, and totaled a mere 18 points from the three point line and free throw line combined. As unimpressive as those numbers are, they actually held a 1 point advantage in total points scored from three’s and free throws over their opponent (Memphis).
- Thaddeus Young has a unique way of continuing to produce even when Philadelphia is struggling on the offensive end. In the 76ers six victories with 93 or fewer points, Young is averaging 14.2 points and 8.7 rebounds, remarkably comparable to his season average of 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds.
- It’s easy to point to Pau Gasol’s track record as a reason to play him over Earl Clark, but it’s not that cut and dry. Clark is averaging one rebound every 3.45 minutes while Gasol boasts a considerably worse mark of 4.12. If Dwight Howard is going to be sidelined for an extended period of time (and/or traded), the Lakers need a player to replace his team leading 3.04 minutes per rebound.
- Typically teams that assist on a high percentage of baskets do well, but today was a very odd day in that respect, as the teams that excelled at passing couldn’t connect from the free throw line. The Magic led a group of three losing teams and one winning team) that recorded a higher percentage of baskets assisted on than free throws made. Orlando assisted on a remarkable 78% of their baskets against the Bucks but made a mere 50% of their free throws (+28%). Washington (+19.5%) and Atlanta (1.5%) also distributed the ball well in losing efforts while the Warriors shared the ball at an elite level (75.6% of baskets were assisted on) and made a respectable 70% of their free throws in a blowout win over the Suns.
- The New York Knicks bench scored 82 points against the Kings (81 total points). They combined with the Timberwolves for 150 bench points while the other seven victorious teams had a total of 167 bench points (23.9 points per bench unit).
- The Bobcats’ guards took 78.5% of Charlotte’s field goals against the Rockets, whose backcourt took only 31% of their team’s shots. Wait … who spent a lot of money to bring in high profile guards this offseason?
- The Wizards fell to 1-5 in games in which John Wall attempts a three pointer. That may not seem like a big deal given the teams .239 winning percentage for the season isn’t much different than the .200 winning percentage when their PG attempts a triple, but Washington is 5-2 in games this season when Wall doesn’t attempt a three pointer.
- What do Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings have in common over the last 14 days? They are the only two “point guards” in the NBA at least as many 3PM (41) as Randy Foye over the last 30 days.
- The Raptors held a six point half time lead but ultimately fell to the defending champion Heat by 15 in Rudy Gay’s first start. Critics of the Gay trade pointed to the lack of a “true” point guard heading a group of athletic swingmen, and for one game at least, that analysis was spot on. Toronto’s starting back court tallied six assists, a number that Jose Calderon matched or exceeded in 16 of his final 22 games north of the boarder.
- Jeff Green isn’t exactly known for his three point game in frequency (2.6 attempts per game for his career) or accuracy (0.9 makes per game over his career), but he knocked down all three of his triples in an upset victory over the Clippers. Green’s team had lost five of the last six games in which he made multiple three pointers. Maybe this is the start of a trend, as prior to Green’s team losing five of six such games they had won six of seven.
- Metta World Peace recorded more rebounds than points scored (minimum three points scored) for the second consecutive game, the first time he has done that in his 14 year (956 game) career.
- Andre Drummond made one of his four free throws, good enough to raise his free throw percentage over the last 12 days. The Detroit big man has made just five of 26 freebies since the 22nd of January, meaning he is less likely to make a free throw (19.2%) than Dwight Howard is to make a three pointer (25%).
- Paul Pierce connected on four three pointers and four free throws, the seventh time in his last 18 games in which his 3PM has been at least matched his number of FTM. For his career, Pierce averages 4.3 more free throws made than three pointers made.