Enter into any conversation about the NBA postseason and you are sure to hear many cliches. As you sift through platitudes like “It’s a make-or-miss league” or “Team X wants it more,” one has some truth to it: “The game slows down in the playoffs.”
This popular phrase is used often in analyzing playoff basketball, but unfortunately it is true. This postseason has been quite grueling when it comes to pace of play. In the regular season, the average pace for an NBA team was 99.75 possessions per game, but in the postseason the average is 97.02. Only two first-round series have averaged over 100 possessions, and if you remove those from the equation, we are talking about 95.45 possessions per game. Only five teams in the postseason — including Miami, which was eliminated last weekend — finished in the top 15 in pace this season, so it is not shocking to see the average drop. However, this is very slow considering that the slowest team in the league, New York, averaged 96.32 possessions per game. These playoff games are being played at a pace equal to the slowest team in the league! Surely these games must be some of the lowest-scoring we have seen, right?