February 22, 2020

Wizards vs Pacers Game 6 Preview: Will The First Quarter Decide The Winner?

By the end of the first quarter on Thursday night, it’s very possible that we’ll know who’s going to win Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Washington Wizards and the Indiana Pacers. While there will still be three quarters, 36 minutes, of basketball left to play, the first quarter will ultimately decide who wins.

Seriously. Follow me on this one.

The Wizards have played in 10 postseason games thus far, five against Chicago and now five against Indiana. In seven of those 10 games, Washington finished the first quarter with the lead. Of those seven games, the Wizards have won six of them. Their lone loss was Game 3 against the Bulls.

Of the other three games this postseason, Washington was tied in two of them and losing at the end of the first period in another. On all three occasions, they lost. Interestingly enough, all three of those games have come against the Pacers.

It’s an interesting phenomena that may be nothing more than an anomaly, but there is some merit to this theory and trend. You see, this isn’t exactly a “new” trend that developed in the playoffs. Let’s look back a little further.

In Washington’s final month (and two days) of basketball, they finished with a 13-9 record. Of those 13 wins, 11 times did they leave the first quarter with the lead. In those nine losses, six times did they finish the first quarter behind or tied on the scoreboard.

Still not convinced? Luckily, I put a pot of coffee on last night and continued to crunch some numbers.

As the season wore on, the trend picked up speed. In month one of the regular season, the Wizards went 9-11. Of those nine wins, five of them were after leading at the end of the opening period. Of those 11 losses, however, Washington was on the wrong end of the scoreboard seven times.

Let’s move on to month number two. Washington went 11-9 over that period of time. Nine of those 11 wins came in a game where the Wizards won the first quarter. In six of their nine losses, Washington was behind or tied after the opening period.

Finally, month number three (we’ve already analyzed month four). The Wizards, like month number two, went 11-9. Of those 11 wins, in 10 of them were they ahead after the first 12 minutes. However, there’s a bit of a break in the trend as they were leading after the first quarter in five of their nine losses. Though, all trends have a break in there somewhere, nothing is perfect.

Before we get to the final count, let’s take a look at how this trend has fared against Indiana. In the regular season, the series was split at one win apiece. In Indiana’s victory, they were tied with Washington following the first quarter. In Washington’s win, they were beating Indiana after the opening period. Oh by the way, Washington is 2-0 against Indiana this postseason when ahead after one, but 0-3 when they are tied or losing.

The Wizards won 44 games this past regular season. Of those 44 wins, 35 times did they win the first quarter. That’s a success rate of 79-percent. Overall, Washington won the first quarter 50 times, but went on to win 35 of those games, a success rate of 70-percent. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?

As you can tell, there’s an obvious connection between Washington winning the first quarter and then going on to win the game. This postseason, their success rate has dropped thanks to their Game 3 loss, but that doesn’t mean the trend doesn’t exist. While it may not seem like much, after all they do play more than 12 minutes of basketball, it’s still a very interesting detail buried amidst the chaos of the box score.

Is it a mental thing? Possibly. After taking it to your opponent for a full 12 minutes and having the lead, it’s got put a little pep in your step. You’ve shown them what you’ve got and it’s obviously better than what they brought to the table. How can that not be an early confidence boost?

It also leads to a very important key to Game 6, and every other game that follows. For them to find success, they must start out hot. Getting off to a slow start has proven to be very costly throughout the entire season and now is certainly not the time to fall victim to that again.

The numbers never lie and right now they say that we’ll know who will win Game 6 by the time these two teams have played 12 minutes of basketball on Thursday night. Like all great trends, however, there’s a break in there somewhere. Will Game 6 be just that?

Washington puts their playoff hopes on the line once again, this time inside the comfort of the Verizon Center in D.C. Tipoff for the elimination Game 6 is set for 8 PM EST.

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Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area. He’s had work published on Yahoo Sports and Rant Sports, and has made several radio show appearances across the country to discuss his works. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

About Brian Skinnell

Brian Skinnell is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Nationals and college football. He is a born-and-raised follower of Washington, D.C. sports, “The” Ohio State Buckeyes and auto racing. A graduate of Shepherd University in December of 2014, he has a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies with a Concentration in Sports Communications. Prior to joining District Sports Page (for his second stint), he spent time with Rant Sports, Yahoo Sports and the Washington Redskins. For his day job, he is an Editor for Team Velocity Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Skinnell.

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