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Stats Corner: Losing the Close Ones

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It's no secret that TZ and I have often come to similar conclusions around the same time. That's what happens when you have two stat-focused guys following an inconsistent team and trying to make sense of it all. This morning, TZ hit the nail on the head when he wrote: "The Kings' point differential suggests they should be a .500 team. Yet, they're flirting with .400. One would assume that soon, some of those close games will start going the Kings' way".

We know what happens when you assume, but most statisticians will tell you that as more data is compiled, deviations eventually return to the mean. That's part of what has been so frustrating with this Kings squad, who one night will blow out a bad team by 25 (Philadelphia or Atlanta) and the next week or so, drop a pair to the Jail Blazers. The team has the horses to compete, but isn't quite getting over the hump to the point where they are winning when the final buzzer sounds.

Looking into the numbers, you can partially see why the Kings record is so much worse than their overall scoring differential would dictate. The Kings have lost nearly twice as many close games (decided by fewer than 5 points) as they have won, and when the margin of victory is less than 10 points, the Kings are a woeful 5-14. It's not that this team is getting blown out. They've actually been on the happy side of 10+ point beatdowns more times than they play victim, and they've only lost by more than 20 on one occasion. (vs. Phoenix on 12/5), while they've spanked four teams this way (Portland on 11/25, Atlanta on 12/10, Philadelphia on 12/27 and Golden State on 12/30).

KINGS WIN/LOSS MARGINS THIS SEASON
LOST BY >10 LOST BY
6-10
LOST BY
1-5
WON BY
1-5
WON BY
6-10
WON BY >10
7 7 7 4 1 9
That's why we are looking at an odd conundrum. The Kings have been outscored by a mere 15 points all year, yet we're seeing them in a six game tailspin, occupying a solid position in the Pacific Division cellar at 14-21. This isn't a .400 team on paper, but on the hardcourt, they just aren't doing what it takes to win the close ones. It'll take a more than a calculator and Microsoft Excel to figure out why.