Finishing quarters strong is huge for building momentum. A great finish to an overall bad first quarter can propel a team into a fantastic second quarter, and so on. The value that good finishes can have doesn't change in the NBA Finals. If the Thunder or Heat finish a quarter well, they'll probably come out with the same, if not more confidence in the next quarter. As a general rule, momentum from finishing quarters or games strong only carries over in that particular game, each game has it's own feel and factors that make one team more confident. How have the Heat and Thunder done scoring the ball in the last two minutes of quarters?
Throughout the first three games of the Finals, the Thunder are +10 in points in the last two minutes of quarters. Miami lost the battle of points in the last two minutes of quarters in games one and two, but had a huge advantage of +16 in game three. What's the trend here?
The team that finishes quarters well mostly controls the stat throughout the game, but the team that scores more in the final two minutes of quarters doesn't always win. Two-thirds of the games have been won by the team scoring more in the last two minutes of quarters (game two being the exception). This magnifies how finishing each quarter does help, but even 12 minutes of NBA basketball can have massive momentum swings.
What importance will this stat have going forward in this series? The more games into this series we get, the more important finishes quarters will be. Why is that? The more pressure builds up, the more these teams understand one another and the importance of sheer skill increases, the more vital confidence is. Let's say the Thunder have a lousy third quarter, but then things begin to change around the three minute mark of the third. James Harden hits a three and the foul and the Thunder bench cheers in excitement.
Not only does that mean four points are likely going on the board, it means the team is in a better state of mind. That makes them raise their own expectations of themselves. They're thinking, "if James can hit that kind of shot, why can't I?" So the Thunder add that confidence from that one play to their game. Then they go on to finish the last two minutes of the third +8.
While that may not get them the lead, that will get their most positive leaders believing a comeback is possible. Scott Brooks will preach to the quire about how great this team can be, why they should go for the win and how to do so. Then Kevin Durant will realize it as the fourth gets underway and start putting the ball in the bucket.
The power of finishing quarters strong is it sends waves of confidence to each person involved with the team. Not only do Westbrook and Durant believe they can comeback and take that game, but Scott Brooks and Mo Cheeks will sense it too. Finishing quarters is something that's easy to track, but not easy to magnify in impact.
Finishing each quarter will always have a high importance in basketball. It's just like scoring; you can't win without it. Expect the Heat and Thunder to finish each quarter with the best of their abilities in an attempt to build team morale. Whoever does it consistently will win most of the games, the stats show. Load up and attempt to aim and fire in the last two minutes boys, they're of utmost importance!
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