The NBA Playoffs: Does Defense Really Improve? (Part 2 of 3)

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


This is the second 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 1990s.  The two metrics used in this comparison are Pace (Possessions Per 48 Minutes) and Offensive Rating (Points Per 100 Possessions).

For the 1990’s as a whole, the pace of the game slowed down by 4.0% in the playoffs, and the Offensive Rating decreased by 1.7%.  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 1990s:

Unlike the 1980s, there was evidence of defense becoming better in the playoffs in the 1990s.  The pace in the playoffs slowed down by 4% in 1990s, more than the 3.5% in the 1980s.  While the 1980s’ playoff offensive efficiency was no different than the regular season, the playoff offensive efficiency during the 1990s decreased by a small, but significant 1.7%.

The regular season pace decreased in 9 of 10 years in the 1990s.  Anyone who watched the NBA in 1990s knows that when the Bad Boy Pistons came to prominence, the league became progressively slower and a great deal of physical play was allowed until the “Derek Harper rule was instituted.(Unofficially around ’97 or ’98 and than officially in 2001)

Only two years in the 1990s saw an increase in offensive rating during the playoffs; those increases were only .1% and .2%.  Part 1



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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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The NBA Playoffs: Does Defense Really Improve? (Part 1 of 3)

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

This is the first 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 1980s.  The two metrics used in this comparison are Pace (Possessions Per 48 Minutes) and Offensive Rating (Points Per 100 Possessions).


For the 1980’s as a whole, the pace of the game slowed down by 3.5% in the playoffs, but the Offensive Rating remained the same.  This result shows that there were fewer points scored in the playoffs, but the sole reason was that the pace of the game slowed down; playoff offense operated with the same efficiency as that of regular season. 




















Some Notable Facts About The 1980s:

At least in the 1980s, there was little evidence of correlation between the change in pace during the playoffs and the change in offensive efficiency.

In 1981, the playoffs were played at a 7% slower the pace than the regular season; the largest drop-off in the 80s.

In 1985, both the pace of the game increased and offensive efficiency improved, by 1.2% and .8%, respectively. 

In 1987, playoff pace decreased by 2.6%, but was almost made up for with the 2.1% increase in offensive efficiency.





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