Sunday, November 01, 2009

Doing what great teams do?

One of the things that I remember, whether accurately or not, about the greatest basketball team that I ever watched regularly, the 1986 Boston Celtics, was the third quarter domination. It seemed to me at the time, and I see no reason to think that it wasn't true, that the team had a tendency to start the second half very strong, dominating the competition, and many times putting games away during the first half of the third quarter. A game would be competitive for a half, and then get out of hand quickly after halftime.

There are reasons for that phenomenon. It's hard to come out emotionally ready every night, and sometimes there's a feeling out process. Maybe the starters need a little while to get into the flow of the game. But after a half of play, everyone's starting the second half with their starters on the floor, both warmed up and rested, ready to go, and mentally ready to play. And the great teams, at least if my perception is correct, really shine in that situation. I noticed some of it from the 2007 Celtics, too, and assume that it existed for other great teams.

Whatever the case, it's certainly happened in the first three games for the 2009-2010 Celtics. They've played an excellent team on the road, a bad team at home and a decent team at home. In those games, they've outscored the opposition by a total of 67 points, 22 1/3 points per game. Nearly half of that differential, 33 points, was racked up in the first six minutes of the third quarter. Part of that is the 15-0 run that they put up against Charlotte, but they've outscored the opposition badly in the first 6 minutes of each third quarter.



Celtics - First three games
First 6 minutes, 3rd quarterGame

PointsPADifferencePointsPADifference

At Cleveland137695896

vs. Charlotte15015925933

vs. Chicago2412121189028


It's obviously ridiculously early to be drawing any conclusions. And one of the things that is true about great teams is that they've probably got a decent point differential at any subset of the game that you want to look at. That said, and let me emphasize that I've never looked at it closely or statistically, the beginning of the third quarter really looks to me like a time when great teams put games away.

I'll revisit as the season continues...

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