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Basketball scoring in NBA games: An example of complexity


Abstract Scoring in a basketball game is a highly dynamic, non-linear process. NBA teams try to be more and more competitive each season. For instance, they incorporate into their rosters the best players in the world. This and other mechanisms concur to make the scoring process in NBA games exciting and rarely predictable. This paper is to study the behavior of timing and scoring in basketball games. The authors analyze all the games in five NBA regular seasons (2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2009–10), for a total of 6150 games. Scoring does not behave uniformly; therefore, the authors also analyze the distributions of the differences in points in the basketball games. To further analyze the behavior of the tail of the distribution, the authors also carry out a semilog-plot and a log-log plot to verify whether this trend approaches a Poisson distribution or a PL. This paper reveals different areas of behavior related to the score, with specific instances of time that could be considered tipping points of the game. The presence of these critical points suggests that there are phase transitions where the dynamic scoring of the games varies significantly.

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This paper was recommended for publication by Editors FENG Dexing and HAN Jing.

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De Saá Guerra, Y., Martín Gonzalez, J.M., Sarmiento Montesdeoca, S. et al. Basketball scoring in NBA games: An example of complexity. J Syst Sci Complex 26, 94–103 (2013).

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Key words

  • Complexity
  • NBA
  • non-linear
  • Poisson
  • power law