Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gotta "Love" It -- 34 Points, 8-of-10 on Treys, in First Quarter Alone

As most NBA fans have probably heard by now, the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love scored 34 points in the first quarter last night in leading his team to a 137-125 victory over visiting Portland. It was a record for most points in the first quarter, but not for any quarter.

Golden State's Klay Thompson once scored 37 points in the third quarter of a game. Although Love's single-quarter point total last night (34) approached Thompson's record, Thompson's is truly one of a kind, in my view, for another reason. Whereas Love missed a few shots last night in the first quarter, going 3-of-4 on two-point attempts, 8-of-10 on shots from behind the arc, and 4-of-4 on free-throws, Thompson didn't miss a single shot of any kind in his big quarter.

Love's 8-of-10 performance on first-quarter threes is nothing to sneeze at, however, and it is the aspect of his record night that I'd like to focus on. Love is a career .363 three-point shooter in a little over eight years in the NBA and his season-specific three-point shooting-percentages have been very consistent in recent years (.376 in 2013-14; .367 in 2014-15; .360 in 2015-16). Thus far in the current season, before last night's game, Love was hitting on .316 (18-of-57) of his treys.

Using Love's career .363 baseline success-rate, we can ask what is the probability that he would make 8 (or more) three-pointers in a 10-attempt sequence. Using a binomial calculator, the answer is .006 or 6-in-1,000.

In one sense, Love's scoring outburst might be considered more impressive than Thompson's. Compared to Thompson's .417 career NBA three-point shooting-percentage (and .444 for the season coming into his record-setting game), Love's career and season-to-date baseline success-rates were several percentage-points lower. It is, of course, harder for someone with a lower baseline success-rate to enter a stretch of hitting at a torrid pace.

Love scored only 6 more points after the first quarter last night, finishing with 40. Cleveland led comfortably for most of the game, entering the fourth quarter up 112-92, so was able to rest its starters.