The NBA Playoffs: Does Defense Really Improve? (Part 3 of 3)

Disregard this article; it needs to be corrected.  Sorry for the bad link.

This is the third part of a three-part series on defense in the NBA Playoffs.  We often hear from NBA analysts that defense improves, or at least intensifies between game 82 of the regular season and Game 1 of the playoffs.  It seems intuitive enough, the playoffs start and there’s a lot to play for: pride, fame, and winning the ‘chip.  The table below compares and contrasts defensive performance in the regular season and the playoffs during the 2000s.  The two metrics used in this comparison are Pace (Possessions Per 48 Minutes) and Offensive 

Rating (Points Per 100 Possessions).
For the 2000s as a whole, the pace of the game slowed down by 2.3% in the playoffs, and the Offensive Rating decreased by 2.7%.  This result shows that there were fewer points scored in the playoffs, mostly because of the slower pace being compounded by the decrease in offensive rating.


Notables Facts About The 2000s:

The drop-off in offensive production from the regular season and playoffs was greater than the 1980s and 1990s.  

There were no years in the 2000s where the offensive rating or pace increased in the playoffs.

The last 5 years, 2007-2011, have been an era of increasingly stingy playoff defense.

The playoff pace decreased the least in the 2000s even as the playoff offensive rating decreased the most.

The conclusion that should be reached based on the tables is that playoff defense is better relative the regular season and has been becoming increasingly better from the 1980s to the present.  I originally thought it was analysts not looking deep enough into the stats. Why has playoff defense improved more as time progressed? I can’t really explain it.  Any ideas?


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4 Responses to The NBA Playoffs: Does Defense Really Improve? (Part 3 of 3)

  1. Very interesting article, one reason may be that defenses are allowed to adopt zoning, which prevents easier one on one chances. However to counter that, the hand check rule allows perimeter players easier access, hmmmmm. got me stumped.

  2. Sports Chump says:

    Offense wins championships.Oh, and my review of Scorecasting is up.

  3. You have a nice blog. I especially enjoyed your PED tracker. I have a few questions about your study.1. Is the RS Offensive Rating just for teams that played in the playoffs or the entire league?2. If it is just for teams that made the PS, did you weigh the RS offensive rating by the number of games they played in the post-season?As an example did you weigh the 2009-2010 Suns who made it to the WCF more than the 2009-2010 Bulls who didn't get out of the first round.

  4. Deron says:

    @sp6r: Thanks for checking out my blog. The questions you posed were obvious, yet insightful. That's a tough combination to pull off.Q: "Is the RS Offensive Rating just for teams that played in the playoffs or the entire league?"A: Yes, I used the regular season offensive rating and pace factor for the playoff teams only.Q: "If it is just for teams that made the PS, did you weigh the RS offensive rating by the number of games they played in the post-season?"A: This question made me double-check my work; the study would be imprecise and misleading if I got this wrong. When I checked my source, basketball-reference.com, I saw that their playoff averages were weighted; they weren't just averages of the teams' averages.

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