Time to Seal the Deal

The Close Out: head coach after head coach has called it one of the most difficult things to do in basketball. But what exactly makes it so grueling? How does it differ at all from the other games in a series? It’s one thing to hear analysts and players toss around platitudes about “energy,” “heart,” and “desire.” It’s another thing to go look at where on the court this energy is visible and what has actually occurred in previous close-out games. Keep in mind I’m looking at the first opportunity a team has to close out the series. I strongly believe that mentality/strategy changes on successive attempts.

Let’s look at it statistically:

I examined a sample of last year’s first opportunities at closeout games, of which there were 15, to see if any trends stood out. The team attempting to close out went 10-5.

My strategy was to look at how teams shot, rebounded offensively and defensively, got fouled, fouled, turned over, and forced turnovers in the close out game as opposed to the previous game. Here are the numbers:






Previous/Close Out Differential










Previous/Close Out Differential





A few things are immediately obvious. First, the eFG% rarely came into play (in fact, with all previous season data points taken into account, the change was even smaller at 0.015). This means that the other three factors determine the outcome of closeout games more than in other games in a series since the eFG% differences aren’t nearly as small for the others.

Second, the physicality greatly increases in the first elimination game, as evidenced by the much higher FT/FG rates for both teams. This series has been physical enough as it is, with all the Game 1 altercations and then the Kidd-Pargo incident. But if the numbers from last year tell us anything, it’s that the Hornets better buckle up for an even more hostile game.

Third, both sides elect to get back on transition defense instead of crashing the offensive glass. This is more marked a phenomenon in the team that will be potentially eliminated. I wouldn’t expect that to change tonight since the Hornets burned Dallas in transition in Game 4. That should be fresh on their minds, so perhaps Game 5 will be our first respite from the crazy rebounding of Brandon Bass and Co.

Last but not least, the team closing out showed a tendency to turn the ball over a lot more than its opponent. So far this series, the Hornets have been simply outstanding at ball control so it’ll be very interesting if a spike in turnovers does indeed occur.

Go Hornets!!!


4 Responses

  1. Consider it closed out.

  2. Indeed. That was one awesome game our guys played. Kind of scary at the end, but honestly, how many times is Devean George going to hit, what, 3 threes in a row?

  3. Just enough to make you think he deserves to be in the NBA…

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