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The Sixers’ Success Can Be Tied Directly to the 1st Quarter

In each win this season, the Sixers won the 1st quarter. When they lost the 1st, they lost the game.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Philadelphia 76ers John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this season, I wrote a post about how - historically - the 3rd quarter has been the most important for the Sixers. I wrote a lot of words and threw out a lot of stats, but it can be summed up like this: The Sixers aren’t especially bad in the 3rd quarter compared to other quarters, but 3rd quarter success can be a decent signifier of game success. If the Sixers win a game, odds are they also won the 3rd quarter.

From 2013 until the 5th game of this season, the Sixers were only 121-218 in the 1st quarter (41-35 in the 1st quarter in wins, the worst record of any quarter). And when they won the 1st, they only won the resulting game 35.6% of the time. But that is changing this season. Right now, the Sixers are a 1st quarter team.

On the whole season, the Sixers are -15 in point differential. Robert Covington (+126), Joel Embiid (+97), and Ben Simmons (+43) are the only cumulative net positives. Everyone else is a 0 or a minus, with the worst offenders being T.J. McConnell (-22), Dario Saric (-54), and predictably Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (-55). But when it comes to quarter-by-quarter breakdown, it becomes insanely clear where the Sixers do their best work: With fresh legs.

  • 1st: +66
  • 2nd: -24
  • 3rd: -40
  • 4th: -17
  • 1st half: +42
  • 2nd half: -57

In 1st quarters on the year, the Sixers are 16-8-2. In the 13 games they’ve won, they’re 13-0. The team has lost the 1st quarter 8 times. They’re 0-8 in those games. No other quarter is so indicative of a win or loss (7-6 in the 2nd in wins, 7-5-1 in the 3rd in wins, 9-4 in the 4th in wins). Piggybacking on the 1st quarter, when the Sixers go into halftime without a lead, they’re 1-10. And it’s not just the record itself, the team plays better - as a whole - when they’re fresh (as most teams I’m sure do). Items italicised are worse than they are in the 1st:

  • 1st Q

47.7% FG
36.1% 3PT
188 assists
100 TO

  • 2nd Q
    43.2% FG
    32.5% 3PT
    169 assists
    108 TO
  • 3rd Q
    46.1% FG
    38.3% 3PT
    167 assists
    140 TO
  • 4th Q
    45.1% FG
    35.6% 3PT
    149 assists
    105 TO

I bolded the 140 turnovers in the 3rd quarter because there was no way I couldn’t also point that out. The Offensive rating and Defensive rating both work in the first the way you want (higher ORtg, lower DRtg). In other quarters? Not so much:

We’re not yet a third of the way through the season, so there is plenty of time for the team to turn this trend around, and being without Embiid, McConnell, and Covington right now not only hurts because of their absence, but because it changes your usual lineups, shortens your rotations, and extends the amount of time players spend on the floor comapred to their usual load, wearing them down. But what this tells you, essentially, is that if you have somewhere to go at night, but you want to wait until the game is over, check if they won the 1st. If they did, plans gotta wait. If they didn’t, call that Uber before they start the surcharge.

*Numbers from Basketball-Reference and

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