The End-of-Quarter Killers

The play of the NBA last night was Rudy Fernandez ending the third quarter with a nifty baseline drive to catch a Sergio Rodriguez pass and then swoop in for a little reverse.
Only the quarter wasn't exactly over. Phoenix inbounded for the final tick, Fernandez picked off the pass and nailed a 3.

It was the chalupa shot -- it took the Blazers to 100 points, and the whole place just went insane.

After it happened, it occurred to me that Fernandez seems to have a particular skill in scoring at the end of quarters. That baseline drive to catch a pass from Rodriguez ... I've seen that before.

Haralabos Voulgaris has his own massive database of just about everything you could imagine that happens on an NBA court. I e-mailed him to see if he could confirm that Fernandez has scored a lot at the end of quarters. A few minutes later he replied with all kinds of fascinating data, which he has given me permission to share.

This is his list of 2008-2009's (through play of 3/26/09) highest scorers on plays that initiated within the last 24 seconds of any quarter (with desperation heaves filtered out):

  1. Chris Paul 98 points, on 92 plays (1.07 points per offensive action.)

  2. Dwyane Wade 88 points on 106 plays (.83)

  3. Brandon Roy 82 points on 68 plays (1.22)

  4. Andre Iguodala 76 points on 77 plays (.99)

  5. Devin Harris 71 points on 70 plays (1.01)

  6. Lou Williams 70 points on 70 plays (1)

  7. Nate Robinson 68 points on 83 plays (.82)

  8. Vince Carter 65 points on 66 plays (.98)

  9. Kevin Durant 64 points on 56 plays (1.14)

  10. Jason Terry 64 points on 56 plays (1.14)

  11. LeBron James 64 points on 82 plays (.78)

  12. Richard Hamilton 61 points on 54 plays (1.13)

  13. Kobe Bryant 60 points on 68 plays (.88)

  14. Raymond Felton 58 points on 74 plays (.78)

  15. Jarrett Jack 57 points on 56 plays (1.02)

  16. Jamal Crawford 55 points on 56 plays (.98)

  17. Paul Pierce 55 points on 49 plays (1.12)

  18. Baron Davis 54 points on 70 plays (.77)

  19. Ben Gordon 52 points on 56 plays (.93)

  20. Randy Foye 51 points on 67 plays (.76)

  21. Manu Ginobili 51 points on 48 plays (1.06)

  22. Rudy Fernandez 51 points on 46 plays (1.11)

I bolded everyone who totaled more than 1.1 points per play, which appears to be a special threshold.

Chris Paul just missed that cut, but at his size, and with that volume -- everyone knows he's little, and everyone knows he's going to take the shot -- he clearly has a special ability to elude the defense.

Also it occurs to me that the Thunder, Sixers, and Blazers all have surprisingly good end-of-quarter scorers. Brandon Roy is something special -- highest efficiency in the list, and among the higher volumes. Kobe Bryant and Roy both have 68 plays, but Roy turned then into 82 points, instead of Bryant's 60.

Worth noting, though, is that Roy clearly tends to make his move earlier than some -- very few of his plays ended in the final three seconds, which I know because Voulgaris also sent over a similar listing, sliced and diced to show plays that ended in the final three seconds of a quarter, and Roy was nowhere on it.

The points per play were lower in that list, as the clock is clearly a good defender. And the standouts here were mostly guys who play alongside superstars -- perhaps they have a better chance of getting open? Jason Terry (27 on 27 plays), Roger Mason (24 on 24), Jeff Green (21 on 21), Andre Iguodala (31 on 32), Kevin Durant (18 on 19) and Fernandez (18 on 19).

Superstars were less efficient: LeBron James has 33 points on 42 plays, Chris Paul 31 on 49 plays, Dwyane Wade 25 points on 46 plays (the lowest efficiency of the 19 biggest scorers in the last three seconds), and Kobe Bryant 18 points on 30 plays.

Also interesting -- plenty of good teams, including Orlando, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, and Utah -- have nobody on either of these lists.