Why the 41st Minute of Tonight’s Game May Decide the NBA Champion

The Game Tracker is hands-down my favorite Are You Watching This?! app, and hearing how much everyone is enjoying it makes me love it even more. There has been a flood of people getting introduced to RUWT?! via the Game Tracker (StumbleUpon is still in business? Seriously?), but sometimes they arrive when there aren’t any games in progress.

I want to make sure we have cool data for everyone, so today we rolled out a version of the Game Tracker just for the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Not only can you track all in-progress NBA games, but you can also break down games series by series. There’s tons of great data to sift through, and I found an interesting pattern with the defending champs.

The first round matchup between the Lakers and Hornets ended pretty much the way you’d expect. When you pit the defending champs trying to peak at the right time against a 7 seed with an All-World guard at the point, a Lakers win in six games seems about right. Looking at the series as a whole, there’s a pretty average mix of so-so and great games.

Let’s take a closer look at just Game 1 and 4–the two games L.A. lost. See anything interesting? The graphs are almost exactly the same for the two games where the Hornets prevailed. Coincidence? Maybe. But maybe something much more. In both games, trailing just a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the Lakers let the game slip from a one-possession game to a four-possession game in the blink of an eye. In Game 1 it happened between 8:45 and 7:00 to go, and in Game 4 the spurt was between 9:31 to 8:04.

The Lakers valiantly tried to mount comebacks, but in the 41st minute of each of both games they dug too large a hole–they never got closer than three points. Is it a concentration issue? Have the Lakers gotten too old to mount late game comebacks? Already down 0-2 to the Mavs, does it matter?

Only time and RUWTbot will tell.

What interesting patterns can you find?

Pssst. Hockey fans…stay tuned.

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