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Stats Corner: Teams Don't Push the Tempo All Game Long

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Back of the hand statistics say that two evenly matched teams have about a 50% chance of outscoring the other in any game or fraction a game. Extrapolating that fraction out four times, for the four quarters of a basketball game (1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2), you could argue that in one of every 16 contests, one team will outscore the other in each of the four quarters.

Ed Note: Of course we know there can be ties in a specific quarter. In 260 quarters thus far, the Kings have tied in 18, around 7% of the time, so in more than 93% of quarters, one team beat the other...

Taking into account the Kings' performance this season, where it's safe to say they are a below average squad, how many times would you guess the 2006-07 Kings have been outscored by their opponents in all four quarters of a single game?

Did you guess NEVER? In the closest example, on February 14th, against the Hornets, the Kings were outscored in each of the first three quarters, and managed a tie in the 4th.

Conversely, how many times would you believe the the 2006-07 Kings have outscored their opponent in all four quarters of a single game?

The answer? Just once. On February 28th, against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Kings topped the Bobcats by 3, 1, 4 and 7 from the first to fourth quarters. On two previous occasions (Nov. 28th vs. Clippers and Feb. 10 vs. the Sonics), the Kings tied the opposition in one quarter and outscored them in the other three.

Why does this happen? With 65 games complete, a 1/16th fraction would suggest around 4 games would have seen one team beat the other in all four frames. But in the NBA, for coaching courtesy or other reasons, once a team has a lead through three quarters, they send in the "B" squad, while the losing team tries to make it respectable and keeps in their starters.

The Kings have been shown this courtesy seven times this year, allowed to close the gap from the ridiculous to the acceptable. Only once (against Boston on Jan. 19th) they actually did come all the way back to win.

Nov. 19th vs. San Antonio, the Kings trailed in each of the first three quarters, and eventually lost by 9.
Dec. 1st vs. Dallas, the Kings trailed in each of the first three quarters, and eventually lost by 19.
Jan. 20th vs. Detroit, the Kings trailed in each of the first three quarters, and eventually lost by 17.
February 22nd vs. Washington, the Kings trailed in each of the first three quarters and eventually lost by 3.
March 16th vs. Miami, the Kings trailed in each of the first three quarters and eventually lost by 6.
March 19th vs. Atlanta, the Kings trailed in each of the first three quarters and eventually lost by 23.

Yeah, well so what? What does this tell us?

What it tells me is that often it's said that as the Kings have only been outscored by a grand total of 66 points on the entire season (just over 1 point per game), that they are actually a better club than their record portrays - that their current position of nine games under .500, the lowest in the season so far, is a fluke, one that results from them losing the close games from an aura of bad luck and bad coaching. The record would somewhat bear this out, as the Kings are 9-12 in games decided by 5 points or less, and 7-11 in games decided by 6-10 points, but I think the artificial fade put on by teams blowing the Kings out in the first three quarters is knocking the stats askew. Teams like San Antonio, Dallas, Detroit and Miami, if they really tried, could have beaten the Kings in a bigger way than they did, and this team's record, in this case, is pretty darn accurate.

For all the latest stats, Download the Database (Updated on 3/21/07).