The 44-Minute Game: Four minutes shorter and a better flow?

On Sunday afternoon, the Nets and Celtics participated in one of the NBA’s most interesting preseason experiments in recent memory: a shortened, 44-minute game with four 11-minute quarters.

The idea follows suit with the MLB considering a “pitch clock” along with other initiatives to speed up games that routinely go past three hours. There has also been a lot of talk about shortening the 162-game MLB schedule as well as the 82-game NBA schedule.

Possibly, in lieu of a schedule with less games, the NBA believes a move to shortened quarters would lessen injuries and the physical toll on players — as opposed to the players’ favored solution of shortening the season by 15-20 games. It was this idea that was tested in the Nets-Celtics tilt, which Boston won 95-90 and took exactly two hours to complete (or 1:59, depending on the source).

What did the players think of the quicker game, you might ask?

“I didn’t feel a different at all,” said Celtics forward Jeff Green told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald article. “When you’re playing, you don’t think about it too much.”

This sentiment was shared by most of those involved with the game, such as Boston coach Brad Stevens, who said he was not sure about how much impact the four less minutes had. Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins noted that for his team, only bench players’ minutes would be impacted by a shorter game, as his starters played roughly the same amount as they usually do.

Stevens said the game had a bit of a better flow with the timeouts taken outi n the second and fourth quarters (h/t Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston):

You noticed it a little bit when you were subbing at the start of quarters, but I thought the flow with one less [timeout] was actually a little bit better in the second and fourth [quarters]. I didn’t notice it other than that. When I am subbing and I’m looking at the clock and it’s seven or six [minutes] on the clock, and I have to get myself back on that only five minutes has gone on if it says six on the clock. That is a little bit different, but I had it mapped out, so I kind of knew what I was going to do. I didn’t notice it a whole lot, and I don’t know how much impact it had on the game.

In addition to the 11-minute periods, one media timeout that is normally mandatory was eliminated in both the second and fourth quarters. Those certainly played a big role in the speedy game, as each TV break can normally account for four minutes or more.

Statistically, the game seemed no different than any other preseason game. Although, you do not want to put too much stock into preseason stats.

Score Off.Rtg. eFG% O.Reb.% TO% FTR
Boston 95
42.8 36.4
Brooklyn 90 95.0 47.9
18.9 17.7 40.9

Of course, preseason statistics are relatively meaningless. The score looked normal enough despite losing four minutes from the game. The shooting percentages were pretty low in this one too and we still got a semi-normal score. There were an estimated 95 possessions in the game (still a pretty speedy game).

Again, preseason statistics are relatively meaningless. And the one game is hardly a sample size to make any sweeping statistical conclusions.

Traditionalists, do not worry though. A 44-minute game is not expected to be played during the NBA’s regular season for a while.

The league’s plan is possibly to test it out in the D-League, which the NBA is smartly using in more experimental ways to test changes out for the big league. That is a concept MLB has done for a long time, with the minor leagues and Arizona Fall League.

There were no negative statements to be made by anyone involved with shortened game, possibly excluding network executives missing out on two timeouts worth of advertising. However, on the court, it seemed like a success.

A move such as this one indicates that the new NBA, under the leadership of longtime deputy commissioner Adam Silver, is ready and willing to adapt to changing times by upgrading the league in any way it sees as an improvement.