Throughout the 2018 NBA Playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have been a dominant team after halftime, especially in the third quarter. It’s a trend that lasted for quite awhile.
During this regular season, the Warriors outscored opponents by 18.5 points per 100 possessions, more than twice the margin of any other team in the league. This was the fourth straight season they have lead the NBA in third quarter point differential, with marks ranging from plus-12.6 per 100 possessions in 2015-16, to plus-22.8 per 100 possessions last season.
If you watched Game 6 and Game 7 there was an emphasis on the Warriors’ third-quarter dominance and for good reason. The table below shows the average third-quarter point differential for each team.
Notice the plus-7.6 point differential for the Warriors. This is the highest point differential for any quarter for any team in the playoffs. To be clear, here we’re looking at the raw differential, not per 100 possessions.
Clearly this advantage isn’t just about Kevin Durant, as the Warriors have led the league in the third-quarter differential for the entirety of this era of dominance. As the graphs below show the massive third quarter advantage, at least in these playoffs, could be attributed more to Stephen Curry than any of their other scorers.
As the graphs show, the third quarter is by far Curry’s most productive quarter. His average third-quarter points are nearly double any other quarter and his true shooting percentage is near 80 percent.
The Warriors third quarter dominance was on full display in Game 4 and Game 6, both played in Oakland. However, Game 7 showcased that their dominance is not just due to homecourt advantage. While the Warriors have averaged a plus-9.9 third quarter point differential at home, this value is only good for third-best in these playoffs. On the road, they have averaged a plus-5.1 third quarter differential, Boston is second with plus-1.1 on the road.
The graphs below show the offensive stats for Golden State in blue and their opponents in red.
All of the Warriors’ shooting percentages are the highest in the third quarter, which explains why it’s their highest-scoring quarter of these playoffs. The most impressive part is that the entire team averages 46 percent from 3 during the third quarter.
The offense isn’t the only reason for the Warriors’ success. Their defense in the third quarter is improved as well. The lowest field goal percentage and a drastically lower 3-point percentage for their opponents both occur in the third quarter. Opponents shoot only 25 percent from 3 and attempt the fewest three-pointers of any quarter.
The third quarter dominance is an important factor for much of the Warriors success in the 2018 Playoffs. In both Game 6 and Game 7, the Warriors were able to erase large halftime deficits and start the fourth quarter with a significant lead. With improved shooting and increased effort on the defensive end, they were able to turn the entire third into a typical Warriors run.