by Micah Hart
The 2011-12 NBA regular season will come to an end tonight, and one thing we can say for sure is the compressed 66-game slate certainly gave teams their share of challenges. Chief among those (in our eyes at least) were the back-to-back-to-back series that every team faced at least once throughout the year, a chore that never occurs during a normal 82-game calendar but was made necessary once again due to a lockout (the last time teams played three games in three nights was 1998, the last time the NBA played a shortened season due to a labor stoppage).
With 42 three-for-all sets built into the calendar, we made it our business here at All Ball to document each one, curious to see what information we might glean from them. Would it be an accurate predictor of postseason achievement? Would we see NCAA-tournament style cinderella runs from some of the lesser squads? Could anyone win what we assumed would be an incredibly grueling third game?
Let’s run through some of the numbers and see what’s what.
7 — Number of times teams went undefeated in their three for all challenge, led by the Spurs, who managed to do it twice within the span of less than a month. The Spurs’ second run saw them match the Heat with 15 points, the maximum possible score allowable for three road wins by double-digit margins. We’ll break down who’s was more impressive on Thursday night. In addition to those two, the other perfectionists were the Bulls, who maxed out their trip with 13 points (all wins were by double-digits, but they played only one road game), the Thunder, the Hawks, who amazingly found the strength to win the third game in four overtimes over the Jazz, and the Suns (more on them in a second). Of the six teams to taste perfection, only Phoenix will be sitting out the postseason.
6 — Number of times teams went winless. Would it shock you to learn that the Wizards were the only team to go defeated twice? Would it shock you further to learn the Bobcats, the worst team in NBA history, aren’t on this list? In addition to the Ashington Izards (No Ws – I R HILARIOUS), the Pistons, Clippers, Mavericks, and Suns found the going toughest. The Suns, incidentally, were the only squad to put up undefeated and winless marks, which really encapsulates their season in a nutshell, from being 12-19 to just missing out on a playoff spot after their loss in Utah on Tuesday.
4.5 — The average score for the 42 attempts was 4.5 points. The most common score was 2 points, accomplished 10 times, while no one scored 14 or 9.
22-20 — Record for teams in the third game of the three for all. I gotta tip my cap to these guys, I would have pegged this mark to be much worse before the season started.
And now for some superlatives, after the jump.
Worst Performance By A Good Team Award: The honor belongs to the Clippers, who went winless in their second run. The LAC started poorly, losing by double-digits to the Pacers and Thunder in Games 1 and 2, but the real shame came in Game 3, when they lost in New Orleans in Chris Paul’s first game back against his old squad.
Best Performance By A Bad Team Award: Tempted to give this one to Charlotte for somehow managing to avoid going winless, but the New Jersey Nets get the nod here. After scoring only 2 points in their first attempt, the Nets put up an 8 spot right before the All-Star break, beating the Bulls at the United Center in Game 1 and the Knicks at the Garden in Game 3. Perhaps this was a harbinger — for a team preparing to leave Newark after 35 seasons, they played their best ball away from home.
Three Games In Three Nights Isn’t Enough Award: How about a round of applause for the Hawks? Given their history of taking games off, one would think they’d be ripe for the picking in the three for all setting, but not this year. The Hawks posted 8 points in their first go-round, then went undefeated with 11 in their second try. That’s not bad in it’s own right, but then consider this: The Hawks played a total of 8 overtime periods during their two stretches! They lost a 3-OT contest to the Heat (a game Miami won without Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, by the way) and the aforementioned quad-OT win over the Jazz.
Missed It By That Much Award: The Magic had only one three for all stretch, and went into Game 3 looking for perfection after knocking off the Knicks and Bobcats. They almost got it too, but J.J. Redick‘s game-winning 3-pointer came just after the OT buzzer.
What Did You Expect Award: This goes to the Dallas Mavericks, who went winless in their attempt. You might be surprised to see a veteran team, a playoff team, let alone the defending champs, fare so poorly, but the Mavs played their three-play as the final segment of a nine-games-in-12-nights stretch. I doubt many teams would have much left in the tank at that point.
What were your favorite moments from the three for alls this season? Let us know in the comments.
Three for all Top Ten (Final):
– San Antonio Spurs II (15 points)
– Miami Heat (15 points)
– Chicago Bulls (13 points)
– San Antonio Spurs I (12 points)
– OKC Thunder (12 points)
– Atlanta Hawks II (11 points)
– Boston Celtics (10 points)
– Phoenix Suns II (10 points)
– Indiana Pacers II (8 points)
– New Jersey Nets II (8 points)