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Does Calling Timeout Actually Help?
A disproportionate amount of timeouts are called when a team is losing, so it would make sense that merely calling them wouldn’t change the outcome…
I also don’t know his they designed the study, but it sounds like all timeouts were treated equally, which would be a terrible design. Some timeouts are used to change momentum, but plenty others are used to draw up plays, sub players, and get players out of stuck positions.
Text from article in case WSJ paywall stops you:
In the NBA, calling a timeout to slow the opposition’s momentum is such a fundamental tactic that even the woeful Charlotte Bobcats managed not to get it wrong this season. But here’s the thing about timeouts: New research is challenging the notion that they have a significant effect on the final outcome of games.
In a recent study, three Northwestern University researchers analyzed the time and score scenarios of every timeout called by all 30 NBA teams over the last three seasons. They started with the hypothesis that timeouts do, in fact, change games. From there they focused on the score differential between timeouts and compared it to the expected score differential if timeouts were randomized.
The thing is calling a time out doesn’t necessarily improve your situation, but it can improve a teams situation significantly. Some of the time they help, and I would say in most cases they don’t hurt.
Time outs provide:
A chance for players to catch their breath. Playing basketball is tiring, especially when you’re getting demoralized by a heavy run.
An attempt to stop the momentum of a team. I’ve seen this work numerous times.
Set up a play. If an offense is struggling, the coach can provide a play to get a good open look which might open up the offense, and start a run in the other direction.
Motivation/Focus – The NBA season is a long one. Playoff series take a lot of you. I believe it can helpful for players to get a wake up call in games.
Overall, random stats are to be expected. A time out will not magically improve the teams situation, but it should put the team in the right direction. I would say that many time outs keep 10-2 runs from turning into 22-2 runs.
A good example is the Spurs game the other day. Although the Spurs ended up losing handily, they cut something like a 12-0 deficit, and eventually took the lead after a timeout. Also during game one they were told that Pop “wanted some nasty”, and that worked out very well for them.
Not like I play NBA ball or anything, but in my experience timeouts used to catch your breath too.