pfrduke

03-08-2014, 08:51 AM

We've had a closing issue in all our losses:

Kansas - 73-72 Duke with 5:00 to play, Kansas closes 22-11 down the stretch

Arizona - 49-49 with 10:00 to play, Arizona closes 23-17

Notre Dame - 60-53 Duke with 12:00 to play, Notre Dame closes 26-17 down the stretch

Clemson - 50-49 Duke with 10:00 to play, Clemson closes 23-9 down the stretch

Syracuse is a bit of an exception (although we did give up 37 points in the last 16 minutes)

Carolina - 60-58 Duke with 5:00 to play, Carolina closes 16-6 down the stretch

Wake - 63-55 Duke with under 6:00 to play, Wake closes 27-9 down the stretch.

Yeesh.

I wanted to come back to the closing issues that we've had. Pomeroy has the "by quarter" scores for each of our games this season (treating each 10 minutes as a quarter). Not surprisingly, it shows that we have had a 4th quarter problem. Somewhat surprisingly, though, this has happened almost only in our losses.

Across all ACC games, we're +47 through the first 10 minutes, +67 in the second 10 minutes (by far our best performance by quarter), +47 for the third 10 minutes, and then +7 for the last 10 minutes and overtime. That's a big disparity - we're 40 points worse at the end of conference games than in any other quarter, and 60 points worse in the last 10 minutes of a game than in the last 10 minutes of the first half (where we are consistently excellent).

In only the losses, that disparity really rears its ugly head: we're -2 in the first 10 minutes, +11 in the second 10 minutes, +1 in the third 10 minutes, and then -45 in the last 10 minutes and overtime. Look at that again - in 5 conference losses we've collectively been ahead (by an average of 2 points, but still ahead) with 10 minutes to play, and then outscored by 45 points in the combined final 55 minutes. We break down on both offense and defense, but particularly on defense - by quarter, we scored 84, 95, 95, and 78 points and allowed 86, 84, 94, and 121(!). If we played a single 40 minute game the way we've played in 4th quarters in our losses, we'd be outscored roughly 88-57.* Yeesh.

*This not a perfectly representative approach. We've played at a much faster pace down the stretch in these games due to extra possessions from free throws at the end (and shortened offensive possessions as we try to score quickly) and the margin is also somewhat inflated by those free throws.

Looking at the wins only, the disparity completely goes away and we play consistent basketball across all segments: +49 through the first 10, +56 through the second 10, +46 through the third 10, and, critically, +52 in the last 10 minutes.

A more concerning way to look at the trend is to isolate out only those games that have been close (that is, within a single digit margin) with 10 minutes to play. 8 of our 17 conference games so far have been within single digits with 10 to play. Although we've been ahead at that point in the game in 7 of those 8 games - and in the 8th we were down just 2 (@ Syracuse) - our collective record in those games is 3-5 and we outscored our opponent in the 4th quarter only twice (@ Pitt, where we finished +12, and home vs Syracuse, where we finished +3*). Our collective 4th quarter performance in the 8 "close" games is -30.

In the 9 games that haven't been particularly close with 10 to play - that is, where we've had a double digit lead - we've not only won all of those games, but we've outscored our opponents in the 4th quarter in 6 of the 9 games, and only Virginia outscored us by more than 2 points (in the others, Wake cut our lead from 22 to 20 in the final ten minutes and BC cut our lead from 22 to 21).

*Note that we got 3 points from the Boeheim double technical, at which point Syracuse had been +1 over the 4th quarter.

So, we have had no problem (with one exception) closing out games where we're up 10 or more and had a big problem (with one exception) closing out games where we're not. The question is whether this is an actual flaw with the team (i.e., something likely to repeat) or just something that's happened to date. 17 games is not a huge sample size (and the sub-sets of 8 and 9 games are even smaller). And there doesn't seem to be a fundamental basketball reason that we play badly in close games down the stretch. But as we get to the point of the season where all the games are likely to be close, we need to reverse the trend or we're not going to get very far in either tournament.

Kansas - 73-72 Duke with 5:00 to play, Kansas closes 22-11 down the stretch

Arizona - 49-49 with 10:00 to play, Arizona closes 23-17

Notre Dame - 60-53 Duke with 12:00 to play, Notre Dame closes 26-17 down the stretch

Clemson - 50-49 Duke with 10:00 to play, Clemson closes 23-9 down the stretch

Syracuse is a bit of an exception (although we did give up 37 points in the last 16 minutes)

Carolina - 60-58 Duke with 5:00 to play, Carolina closes 16-6 down the stretch

Wake - 63-55 Duke with under 6:00 to play, Wake closes 27-9 down the stretch.

Yeesh.

I wanted to come back to the closing issues that we've had. Pomeroy has the "by quarter" scores for each of our games this season (treating each 10 minutes as a quarter). Not surprisingly, it shows that we have had a 4th quarter problem. Somewhat surprisingly, though, this has happened almost only in our losses.

Across all ACC games, we're +47 through the first 10 minutes, +67 in the second 10 minutes (by far our best performance by quarter), +47 for the third 10 minutes, and then +7 for the last 10 minutes and overtime. That's a big disparity - we're 40 points worse at the end of conference games than in any other quarter, and 60 points worse in the last 10 minutes of a game than in the last 10 minutes of the first half (where we are consistently excellent).

In only the losses, that disparity really rears its ugly head: we're -2 in the first 10 minutes, +11 in the second 10 minutes, +1 in the third 10 minutes, and then -45 in the last 10 minutes and overtime. Look at that again - in 5 conference losses we've collectively been ahead (by an average of 2 points, but still ahead) with 10 minutes to play, and then outscored by 45 points in the combined final 55 minutes. We break down on both offense and defense, but particularly on defense - by quarter, we scored 84, 95, 95, and 78 points and allowed 86, 84, 94, and 121(!). If we played a single 40 minute game the way we've played in 4th quarters in our losses, we'd be outscored roughly 88-57.* Yeesh.

*This not a perfectly representative approach. We've played at a much faster pace down the stretch in these games due to extra possessions from free throws at the end (and shortened offensive possessions as we try to score quickly) and the margin is also somewhat inflated by those free throws.

Looking at the wins only, the disparity completely goes away and we play consistent basketball across all segments: +49 through the first 10, +56 through the second 10, +46 through the third 10, and, critically, +52 in the last 10 minutes.

A more concerning way to look at the trend is to isolate out only those games that have been close (that is, within a single digit margin) with 10 minutes to play. 8 of our 17 conference games so far have been within single digits with 10 to play. Although we've been ahead at that point in the game in 7 of those 8 games - and in the 8th we were down just 2 (@ Syracuse) - our collective record in those games is 3-5 and we outscored our opponent in the 4th quarter only twice (@ Pitt, where we finished +12, and home vs Syracuse, where we finished +3*). Our collective 4th quarter performance in the 8 "close" games is -30.

In the 9 games that haven't been particularly close with 10 to play - that is, where we've had a double digit lead - we've not only won all of those games, but we've outscored our opponents in the 4th quarter in 6 of the 9 games, and only Virginia outscored us by more than 2 points (in the others, Wake cut our lead from 22 to 20 in the final ten minutes and BC cut our lead from 22 to 21).

*Note that we got 3 points from the Boeheim double technical, at which point Syracuse had been +1 over the 4th quarter.

So, we have had no problem (with one exception) closing out games where we're up 10 or more and had a big problem (with one exception) closing out games where we're not. The question is whether this is an actual flaw with the team (i.e., something likely to repeat) or just something that's happened to date. 17 games is not a huge sample size (and the sub-sets of 8 and 9 games are even smaller). And there doesn't seem to be a fundamental basketball reason that we play badly in close games down the stretch. But as we get to the point of the season where all the games are likely to be close, we need to reverse the trend or we're not going to get very far in either tournament.