The dreaded third quarter
Posted by disappointmentzone on 31 December 2006
The second game of a back-to-back in another time zone equals another loss. LeBron James went unconcsious for about two minutes in the third quarter and things looked rosey, but it was all downhill from there. The game got disgusting quickly, forcing me to flip back to the VT-UGA game, which means that I might be wrong about this, but I think the Bulls went on a 32-9 run. Or maybe it was 32-12. Either way, the Cavs got rocked out of Chicago in the third quarter. Even the last push in the fourth quarter never really looked too threatening. The Cavs cut the lead to four points, but the outcome was never in doubt. When playing back-to-back games the Cavs don’t win.
When in the third quarter the Cavs began to fall to pieces I was struck by a strong feeling of deja vu: didn’t we just see this the previous game, and the previous game, and the previous game? So I decided to quickly crunch some numbers. Instinct and impression can often lead to conclusions that are wildly unfounded. Not so with the Cavs and the third quarter.
Here is a chart of the Cavs’ scoring by quarter. The first row of numbers contain the averages for all games. The next row for the second game of back-to-backs (less than one day’s rest) and the final row is for games following at least one day’s rest (technically that should be a greater than or equal to sign; whatever). The results are telling.
Highlighted in red are the lowest averages. You can see that no matter the cirumstance the Cavs always tend to come out of the locker room at halftime a little sluggish. But whereas in all other games the Cavs usually bounce back in the fourth quarter, in the second game of back-to-backs the Cavs suck it up equally in the third and fourth quarters (18.625 ppq in both). The scoring difference between “no rest” and “rest” is quite dramatic. I don’t know if 15.3 points is a particularly large gap in the NBA, but a 15.3 point decline in scoring average is really tough to overcome for any team.
I wish I had advice for how the team could compensate for the decline in scoring in the third quarter. (Start Gibson instead of Snow in the third quarter?) But no matter the solution at this point I think it’s worth trying something. It’s painfully obvious that Mike Brown doesn’t like to mess with his rotations. But if that rotation is not productive then a change ought to happen. The philosophy that drives coaches and managers to always do the same thing no matter the circumstance drives me nuts (see: everything I’ve written about lineup optimization in baseball). The Cavs won’t win many games with such a huge dip in productivity in the third quarter.
Here are the opponents’ scoring averages by quarter. The rows for days of rest are days of rest for the Cavs, not the other team. This is but one of the many reasons why the numbers for the opponents are not nearly as meaningful as the numbers for the Cavs. Anyway, if you look at the chart you’ll see that while other teams struggle in the third quarter, they don’t struggle nearly as much as the Cavs. The Cavs’ defense remains fairly good throughout the team; there are no wild swings from quarter to quarter. This suggests that the problems are with the offense. But you knew that already.