Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Second Half of the First Half, Part 2

Sitting next to me at the game was my old friend, Ken Pomeroy.  Ken and I talked about how players' tendencies change depending upon game situations.  For example, when up big, teams tend to expend less effort on defense. When the game is tight, they work harder.  Something about the second half of the first half has become a time for poor play for the Cats.  It's not entirely clear what that is or what causes it, but it seems be an ingrained habit.  I was hoping to find a simple answer, but instead I found a number of contributory factors.  Here are a few.

 One of the first things that came to mind was that perhaps the Cats shoot more three's during this time of the game, thus lowering their field goal percentage, and indeed that is true.    Of all the shots that are taken, the graph below shows the percentage of which are threes for each quarter of the game.

From 10:00-20:00 into the game, the Cats have been most reliant on the three point shot.  In that game segment, 42% of our shots attempts have been taken from behind the three point line. During the Colorado game in that time frame, I was counting the missed three's.  1 for 7.  1 for 8.  1 for 9. 1 for 10.  1 for 11...   Do the Cats also shoot the three poorly during this time?

In general, the answer is no.  The percentage of three point shots made slowly declines over the course of games.  During the first ten minutes, the Cats are shooting at over 43%.  If they maintained that for the entire games, they would be the best three point shooting team in the country.  For the last ten minutes of the game, however, Arizona is shooting the long ball at just over 30%.  I assume this a product of tired legs.  Given this pattern, I would advise this team  to shoot fewer threes as the game goes on, or at least to take more early on.

Another factor driving poor productivity during the second half of the first half is poor shooting inside the arc, as shown above.  Notice that our two point shooting in the first half is generally poor compared to the second half.  It bottoms out in minutes 10-20 when the Cats shoot around 42%.   So why is this?  Does it have something to do with who is playing, or how those shots are being taken?

If your hunch was that this has to do with substitution and who is likely to be on the floor during this time of the game, that's probably not the case.  Here are the number of two point shot attempts per player from 10:00 to 20:00 into the game:

The top five in two point attempts are the same as our most common starting lineup.  In other words, it's not so much the bench who is slumping during this time, but it's mostly the starters.  Why are the starters shooting the ball poorly, and especially from two point range?  I'm not certain.  If you look at two point field goal percentage during this part of the game relative to each player's overall field goal percentage, here is what you find:

One surprise to me here was Kevin Parrom.  His 2P FG% is down 25% during this time frame compared to his overall shooting.  He is 1 for 11 shooting two's during the second part of the first half.  Bad inside shooting, though is not limited to Parrom. Angelo Chol and Kaleb Traczewski have also suffered, and most importantly, so do the team's volume shooters: Lyons, Hill, and Johnson.  Ashley and Jerrett shoot the ball a bit better in this game segment, and Jordan Mayes has been fine, bearing in mind that he is 4 of 6.

What does all of this mean?  Well, after the ten minute mark and before halftime, I would argue that a few things change: 1) The Cats become increasingly reliant on the three pointer; 2) When they take two's they shoot a very low percentage. 3) In terms of the overall poor shooting of the team and if we take into account the number of shots taken, the biggest contributors the late second half slump are Parrom, Tarczewski, Lyons, Hill, and Johnson in that order. The question of why these guys are struggling to score in this part of the game is difficult to answer.  My hunch is that team play begins to break down as players try to make more individual plays.  I will end with one more troubling graph, which also suggests that quality of play declines late in the first half.  Turnovers also peak at this time:

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