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Random Stat: How often does the team that scores first or last in a period/overtime win the game?

Q: How about a stat on the correlation between wins and either: a)scoring the first basket of the game or b)the first basket of the fourth quarter...thanks, you guys do a great job.
-- Alan Straus and others

A: An NBA game is a minimum of 48 minutes of action packed excitement (well, there was that one game last season that didn't quite make the full 48...) and with so many possessions and scoring plays we wouldn't expect there to be much to who scores first, with the exception perhaps of overtime periods. Let's go see though!

How often a team wins scoring first/last
Period
First Score Win%
Last Score Win%
 1st Quarter 54% 56%
 2nd Quarter 52% 52%
 3rd Quarter 57% 54%
 4th Quarter 54% 59%
 Overtime* 65% 65%



Looking at data for the 2005-06 season through March 26th, these are the numbers.

With overtimes, we looked at whether the team scoring first/last won the game eventually not whether they won in that specific overtime.

In some ways then it's a little stronger than you might expect, and interestingly the third quarter is the one where the team that scores first has shown the most connection to winning the game at the end.

If you revisit the Overtime question, and examine how often the team scoring first in the first overtime period wins in that period, then the record shows 45 wins, 22 losses, and 12 ties (head on to a second overtime).

Another related question to this is:

Q: How often does the team that comes from behind to send the game to overtime end up winning?

If we look at the team that scored last in the fourth quarter (thus being the final "come from behind team" since leads can go back and forth), they have won 44 of 79 overtime games, good for a mild 56% win rate which given the sample size doesn't suggest momentum plays a big role. In multi-overtime games, the team scoring last in an overtime period to send it on to another OT round, is only 5-9 (36%) and so if we combine the two (scoring last in the fourth quarter/overtime to send it to overtime/another overtime) the "momentum team" is just 49-44 (53%).

Ultimately since basketball has so many possessions and back and forth scoring, it's not going to be the effect you'd see say in the NFL where the team scoring first and last in a quarter would undoubtedly have a much higher correlation to winning the game.


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