After I explored blowouts in NBA history I quickly jumped into the opposite spectrum – close games.
Because if we exclude obvious factors like style and quality for fans who watch games and don’t cheer for any of the team involved close games are the most exciting possible outcome, right? At least that’s my opinion so with that premise I started digging into the same data-set as used in a previous post to search for games which ended with point differential equal to 3 or less and the results were surprising if not shocking…
I really could use your help here… because I have no idea what the hell happened in the last 4 seasons… we are at the all-time low number of close games!! Whaaaat?!?!
I’m not an advocate to get back to good old days with scores around 80 for each team but for me it is the most puzzling graph I’ve made on this blog.
I think two biggest changes can be attributed to two biggest changes in the rules of the game.
Because of 24-second shot clock it’s not possible to just keep the ball at the end of close game until time runs out and 3-point line added a new way to catch up… but also a new way to get away even more for better teams.
How do expansions fit into this picture?
In 1995-96 there was a standard season but then percentage suddenly dropped and got back two years later.
Between 1988 and 1990 four teams were added and there was also drop a year after and it got back two years later to previous levels. In 1976-77 was an immediate drop… but only temporary.
Between 1966 and 1971 NBA added eight teams and there was a change in both ways.
So it seems to me that expansion created only a temporary effect because of sudden increase of jobs to fill but with some influx of talent it got back to normal level. Am I right here?
Anyway, thanks for your eventual help to solve this puzzle…
Just for fun here are some curiosities for percentage of games ended with point differential equal 3 or less on a team level in the last 3 decades [I assumed continuity of franchises and mentioned when team had a smaller sample size]…
|[2000-11] 984 games||%||[1990-99] 788 games||%||[1980-89] 820 games||%|
|Boston Celtics||19,21||Toronto Raptors ||18,92||Atlanta Hawks||20,73|
|Denver Nuggets||17,68||Indiana Pacers||18,91||Chicago Bulls||20,37|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||17,68||Washington Wizards||17,13||New York Knicks||20,12|
|Houston Rockets||17,38||Minnesota Timberwolves||16,88||Sacramento Kings||19,76|
|Memphis Grizzlies||17,17||Cleveland Cavaliers||16,62||Seattle SuperSonics||19,76|
|Philadelphia 76ers||17,07||Los Angeles Lakers||16,62||Golden State Warriors||19,63|
|New York Knicks||16,97||Sacramento Kings||16,37||Detroit Pistons||19,27|
|Charlotte Bobcats ||16,90||Milwaukee Bucks||16,24||Houston Rockets||19,27|
|Toronto Raptors||16,77||Dallas Mavericks||16,12||Philadelphia 76ers||19,27|
|Milwaukee Bucks||16,67||Orlando Magic||15,99||Washington Bullets||18,90|
|Washington Wizards||16,57||Seattle SuperSonics||15,99||Indiana Pacers||18,78|
|Los Angeles Lakers||16,26||Charlotte Hornets||15,86||Dallas Mavericks ||18,43|
|Miami Heat||16,26||New Jersey Nets||15,86||Cleveland Cavaliers||18,41|
|San Antonio Spurs||16,26||Los Angeles Clippers||15,61||Los Angeles Lakers||17,80|
|Dallas Mavericks||16,06||Miami Heat||15,61||New Jersey Nets||17,80|
|Indiana Pacers||15,96||Chicago Bulls||15,48||Denver Nuggets||17,44|
|New Orleans Hornets||15,85||Atlanta Hawks||15,36||Milwaukee Bucks||17,20|
|Atlanta Hawks||15,75||Philadelphia 76ers||15,23||Portland Trail Blazers||17,07|
|New Jersey Nets||15,75||New York Knicks||15,10||San Antonio Spurs||17,07|
|Sacramento Kings||15,75||Denver Nuggets||14,85||Utah Jazz||16,46|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||15,55||Detroit Pistons||14,85||Boston Celtics||15,98|
|Orlando Magic||15,14||Portland Trail Blazers||14,72||Charlotte Hornets ||15,85|
|Detroit Pistons||15,04||San Antonio Spurs||14,72||Los Angeles Clippers||15,73|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||14,84||Houston Rockets||14,47||Phoenix Suns||15,24|
|Portland Trail Blazers||14,74||Phoenix Suns||14,47||Miami Heat ||14,63|
|Chicago Bulls||14,53||Boston Celtics||14,21||Average||18,04|
|Golden State Warriors||14,02||Golden State Warriors||14,21|
|Los Angeles Clippers||14,02||Utah Jazz||13,96|
|Utah Jazz||13,41||Vancouver Grizzlies ||11,15|
Obviously any team low on this list didn’t have to be boring or anything, it could end up there just by being a consistent contender like Jazz in the 90s. But there are also perennial losers mixed in.
On the other hand we have a lot of teams which… were close to average in terms of quality. Well, if your team has a point differential around zero it should be expected to have many close games…