of Basketball Prospectus explores
the Portland Trail Blazers' strong point differential, noting that the team is both winning many blowouts and losing virtually every close game that it is in.
This really jumps out
I now have data on close games for a full decade, and just one team in that period has fared as poorly in games decided by five points or fewer as this year's Blazers have thus far. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets went 1-13 (.071). But those Nets were a dreadful team that briefly threatened the record for fewest total wins in a season. My research has found that better teams do tend to win more close games, albeit less decisively than in lopsided games. The other squad to win less than 20 percent of its close games (the 2008-09 Sacramento Kings) was similarly poor. Among 500 teams, the worst record in games decided by five points or fewer belongs to the 2006-07 Indiana Pacers, who won 41 games and reached the playoffs despite losing 22 games by five points or fewer (going 8-22, .267).
So it's clear that Portland will end up doing better in close games. The key matter is how much the Blazers will improve. Portland fans will point out that the team's woes in close games can be connected to the poor play the team has gotten from its point guards. There are two problems with this argument. The first is that decision making, while more stable than outcomes, is affected by sample size as well. A handful of plays loom large in the indictment of Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton in the clutch.
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-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter