Two things caught my eye of a Saturday morning while reviewing the box scores from a very busy (13 games) final Friday of the 2013-14 NBA regular season.
In Miami, the evening of the Pacer-Heat season series (the home team won all four games), LeBron James’s 36-point effort, even the peculiarity of Udonis Haslem’s emergence as the game’s leading rebounder garnered the attention of the pundits and number-crunchers.
Here, though, is the number that tells the story of this 98-86 Pacer defeat – 85, as in Indiana possessions for the game, their second-fewest total all season. Indeed, through the season’s first 19 weeks, the Pacers played exactly one game (out of 63) in which they’d amassed fewer than 90 possessions, a victory over Memphis (11/11, 89 poss.).But last night is the fourth time this fate has befallen them since March 11, losses to Memphis (3/22, 83 poss.) and San Antonio (3/31, 88 poss.) along with a victory over Boston (3/11, 87 poss.)
It would appear the struggling Mid-westerners fell victim to their more savvy foes last night in how this particular athletic contest would be conducted. Since St. Patrick’s Day – and omitting a double-overtime marathon against the Minnesota Timberwolves – the Heat have totaled more than 91 possessions during a game but once.
Let your opponent set the tempo, play the other guys’ game? Not a good plan, generally speaking.
Certain teams seem to find a way to win, especially when it matters.
Is that what happened in Chicago last night?
The Pistons entered the fourth quarter with 80 points on the board. Unfortunately, it took over seven-and-a-half minutes for them to crack 90. In the interim, Detroit had turned a double-digit advantage into a two-possession deficit that would never shrink. During that pivotal stretch – and as is their habit – the Pistons watched their foes drain seven of eight free throws while they misfired on two of their three attempts.
The Bulls’ eight-point victory, accentuated by a 36-18 closing-quarter shellacking, disguises a stat-line that reveals quite a bit of similarity. For example, each team made exactly 40 field goals, each team made exactly five three-pointers, each team totaled exactly 11 turnovers, each defense “stopped” the other guys exactly 51 times, each squad earned exactly 23 foul shots.
Only one team missed exactly two of the latter, only one team found a way to win a 50/50 game.