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Interesting stat: Teams score better in crunch time when they don’t call timeout

Mar 13, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

Coaches are micromanagers almost by nature. They want control, they want to set things up.

So in crunch time, when their team needs a bucket, they almost inevitably call a timeout to set up a play. Of course, that also lets the defense make substitutions and set themselves up as well, but coaches want that control.

However, teams perform better when no timeout is called. As we have seen Phil Jackson do, as Erik Spoelstra does at times, among others.

Beckley Mason scoured the data for ESPN’s TrueHoop and found this:

• In games within 5 points in the final five minutes, teams have an eFG% of 44.9 with no timeout, 38.1 after a timeout.
• In games within 5 points in the final three minutes, it is 43.4% eFG% without a timeout, 38% with one.
• In games within 3 points in the final minute, teams shoot 39.1 percent without a timeout, 36.4% with one.
• In games within 3 points and 9 or fewer seconds remaining, teams shoot 31.1% eFG% without a timeout, 25% with one.

And in all this data, to make it an apples-to-apples half court comparison, Mason removed fast break points so we are just talking half court sets. Those fast break buckets are another key reason to not call a timeout, to get the play off before the defense is set.

Miami’s Shane Battier told Mason this:

“I was born and raised in the Coach K school of ‘in closing situations, not taking a timeout,’” Battier says. “Defenses aren’t as prepared after a late bucket to tie or take the lead because emotionally teams aren’t as prepared to get that stop. If you call timeout you allow a team to set their defense, focus in. Everyone knows exactly what everyone runs anyway….

“Coaches want to show that they’re worth the millions that they’re getting paid, which is fair. And the public would say, “He drew up a great play, he’s earning his money.”

John Wooden used to be pretty passive on the bench, saying he did his coaching in practice and let the players have the game. Which was one of a handful of things he had in common with Phil Jackson. They liked to let guys play it out.

Part of it is personnel — if I can get the ball in the hands of LeBron James/Kevin Durant/Chris Paul/Stephen Curry then not calling a timeout and letting them play it out makes a lot of sense. If Brandon Jennings has the ball, maybe some structure is a good idea.

But maybe in the end coaches should trust their players a little bit more.

Everyone would like that… except the league’s television partners.

  1. pharohislife - Mar 13, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    Transition buckets, defense can’t get set up and plan how they want to defend.

    • spursareold - Mar 13, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      Failure to read:

      And in all this data, to make it an apples-to-apples half court comparison, Mason removed fast break points so we are just talking half court sets. Those fast break buckets are another key reason to not call a timeout, to get the play off before the defense is set.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Mar 14, 2014 at 12:10 PM

        reading is hard

  2. davidly - Mar 13, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    I’d like to see the same numbers for the playoffs; in other words, to see if the comparison holds true amongst playoff level teams under playoff pressure.

    It’s true that Phil Jackson was idiosyncratic with his timeouts, mostly relative to big runs by the opponent during which most coaches would call one, he’d let them play through the rough patch and try to figure it out on the court.

    Maybe he let them play out end-of-game scenarios more, I dunno. One thing for sure, when it is to tie, take, or hold the lead in the playoffs, there isn’t a coach alive with a timeout that doesn’t use it.

  3. RavenzGunnerz - Mar 13, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    I also see this in the NFL.

    When I watch the pats, even when the ref say it’s 1 foot short, New England does not protest or ask for a review, they just line up quickly, snap the ball, run it in, the defense is still trying to figure out who’s got who…

    That is the Blitzkrieg principle in sports. Confuse the D, give them no time to think.

  4. sellahh - Mar 13, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Thank you very well for posting the data base, I mean should I just guess teams shoots 45vs38 without a timeout for a game? Last month? This year? Whole season?
    Wow
    such article
    wow

  5. knoxxlive - Mar 13, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    I been saying this for the longest, keep the defense on their heels. And the coach guessing(defense). Real players always are focused on both ends

  6. nflcrimerankingscom - Mar 13, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Simple: timeouts are more effective for defensive strategy execution than offensive.

  7. jcmeyer10 - Mar 13, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Doc Rivers is mean mugging you right now.

  8. shadowgamesshades - Mar 13, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    Well it makes sense. Timeouts give opposing teams time to set up their defense. It’s easier to score in transition than in the half court.

    • spursareold - Mar 14, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      Failure to read:

      And in all this data, to make it an apples-to-apples half court comparison, Mason removed fast break points so we are just talking half court sets. Those fast break buckets are another key reason to not call a timeout, to get the play off before the defense is set.

  9. chiadam - Mar 13, 2014 at 9:45 PM

    Vinny Del Negro used to call timeouts in crucial situations and draw pictures of unicorns.

  10. dinofrank60 - Mar 14, 2014 at 1:18 AM

    You’d better know what you’re doing. Crunch time is not a time to make up stuff.

  11. abchome - Mar 14, 2014 at 2:13 AM

    I’d like to read the data by coach, if any. From eye test, a few coaches seem to be more successful than others in calling plays after timeout.

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