Close Look to the Team Scores
What is the most important statistic in a basketball game? It is obviously total points scored by a team. All of other statistics that we measure have nothing more than a subsidiary role. To win the game, a team either has to score more points than its opponent or allow less.
In this analysis, we look into the 2013-14 NBA season for teams’ points distribution by quarters; overall points they scored and allowed; and a breakdown of the points into fast breaks, free throws, second chance points and points in the paint. In this manner, we try to compare teams’ strategies and performances in terms of scoring.
The following table summarizes team based points related statistics of last NBA season:
In 2013-14 season, the league wide average of points scored per game by a team was 101.01. On average, the most scorer teams were Los Angeles Clippers (107.93 points per game) and Houston Rockets (107.67) and the least one was Chicago Bulls (93.66). But note that Bulls was also allowed least points in its basket with 91.80 per game. On the other hand, Lakers and 76ers allowed most points with 109.90 and 109.24 respectively.
These statistics don’t give us much without considering teams’ possessions per game, because game pace is greatly important in determining how many points will be scored in that game. Thus regarding the possessions, we can see that Memphis Grizzlies (89.90), Bulls (90.67) and New York Knicks (90.93) were the slowest teams and 76ers (99.49), Lakers (98.63) and Denver Nuggets (98.15) were fastest. Using these possessions per games, we can calculate teams points adjusted by pace per 48 minutes; and it is the most reliable one to compare teams scoring performance. Looking to it, Clippers is the most scorer of the league last year and 76ers the least one. 76ers also the least successful according to the margin per game (-10.62) and San Antonio Spurs were the most successful one (+7.61).
The figure below shows the teams’ performance according to their points scored and allowed metrics.
By the league averages, we can split it into four regions. In the upper left quadrant, there are teams good on defense but not as good on offense. The examples are Bulls, Pacers and Memphis.
In the lower left quadrant, we see teams with bad defense and offense. The worst one is the 76ers which is even apart from the others in this area.
On the other hand, in the upper right quadrant, there are teams which are both good on defense and offense. The conference champions (Spurs and Heat) of last year are present in this area.
And finally at the lower right quadrant, we see teams that have good offense but bad defense. Lakers and Denver Nuggets are so bad in defense that their success in offense is pointless.
To be more precise, we draw the trend line with blue which separate the teams who are positive margin than the teams with negative margin. Thus teams above in this blue are winning teams on general.
In the second figure below, we reflect the margin versus the points adjusted by pace in 48 minutes. The trend line pattern in the distribution is in fact show us the teams power scale of previous regular season.
There are two additional findings in this figure: First, west teams dominated the east teams last season. Miami is the only team from the east that compete among the other, but the rest of the upper right corners are from the west. And second, except Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns, all the team from the upper half made the play-offs.
Quarters Based Points Analysis
In basketball, people believe some quarters are more important than other quarters. Especially it is important to begin strong and finish strong they say. In the following table, let’s look at the teams points scored, allowed and margins per quarters in 2013-14 season.
In 2013-14 total points scored per game increased nearly 2.5 points from the previous season. But the distribution of average points scored percentage per quarters didn’t change much. Both in the last two seasons, least points were scored in the fourth quarters and it is followed by the third quarters. Therefore, it is true that the defenses are more solid towards the end of the games.
Most successful teams in fourth quarters are Clippers (1.56 margin at this quarter), Miami Heat (1.61), Spurs (1.99) and Toronto Raptors (2.38).
Finally we can also look at the score distribution of teams regarding to points in paint, 2nd chance, fast break or free throw points. All those areas reflect different strategies of basketball. But we cannot distinguish them by pointing which one is more vital to win the game. These only serve teams’ style of plays.
For example, as a percentage of total points, more points in paint scored by Detroit Pistons last season. With the trio of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, it is not surprising either. Although points in paint are relatively simple way to score, Pistons couldn’t make the play-offs because of other deficiencies. Thus let’s look at this table informative without deducting any important results.
For 2nd chance points, we see Brooklyn and Miami scored least in this category showing their weaknesses on offensive rebounding. On fast break, Phoenix Suns and 76ers scored more points (as percentage of total). For free throw points, Houston Rockets scored most. They possess two players with most free throw attempts in the league: James Harden and Dwight Howard. Once again, it is not astonishing.
Home Court Effect
Until know, we didn’t make any distinctions between home/away games or wins/losses. Now, let’s look from this angle.
Comparing teams’ home and away performance according to points adjusted by pace statistics in 48 minutes, at home, teams scored 2.58 points more on average. Only three teams scored less points at home: Cleveland Cavaliers (-1.39), Atlanta Hawks (-0.50) and Milwaukee Bucks (-0.02). Phoenix Suns profited most at home with +5.98 difference at points adjusted by pace, followed by Miami Heat (+5.92), Brooklyn Nets (+5.75) and Indiana Pacers (+5.65).