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Boston Celtics: As the Game Progesses, Shaquille O'Neal's Production Declines

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 11:  Shaquille O'Neal #36 of the Boston Celtics is guarded by Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on November 11, 2010 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
David BarbourContributor IIINovember 23, 2010

The next time Shaquille O'Neal scores a quick six or eight points in the first quarter, his opponent should be comforted by the knowledge that whatever heights O'Neal reaches in the first quarter are not indicative of how he will play for the rest of the game. Instead, through the nine games O'Neal has participated in, there is an inverse proportional relationship between O'Neal's impact on a game and its length. As the game progresses, O'Neal experiences a rather steady decline in production.

It is in the first period of play during which O'Neal does most of his damage. Even though the first quarter constitutes only twenty-five percent of a game, more than half of O'Neal's statistics are acquired over the course of the first twelve minutes.

In the first quarter, O'Neal has totaled 60% of his field goal attempts (36 of 60), 57.8% of his field goal makes (22 of 38), 54.2% of his points (51 of 94), 57.9% of his offensive rebounds (11 of 19), and 36.8% of his defensive rebounds (14 of 38).

The second quarter is O'Neal's second most productive quarter, narrowly edging out the third quarter for the honor. O'Neal has scored twenty-one of his ninety-four points in the second quarter by way of shooting 8 of 13 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line and also has pulled down eighteen of his fifty-seven rebounds (six offensive rebounds and twelve defensive rebounds). His thirteen second-quarter field goal attempts are also the second-most of the four quarters.

O'Neal's third quarter play continues the trend in that it represents his third-most field-goal attempts (8), field-goal makes (6), points (17), and rebounds (11; 1 offensive and 10 defensive). Interestingly enough, the third quarter is his best in one area: free throw attempts. In no other quarter has O'Neal bested his twelve third-quarter free throw attempts, which is not to say he has exactly taken advantage of his more frequent trips to the charity stripe; O'Neal has only made five free throws in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, O'Neal has barely put up any numbers, only scoring 9 points and having 3 rebounds. Not all of his lack of production in the fourth quarter is his fault, though, considering the Celtics have built up big enough leads in a couple of contests to keep O'Neal from even seeing the floor in the fourth quarter, which would naturally lessen his statistical impact.

What these data simply further confirm is that O'Neal is no longer able to have a dominant presence for an entire game. This should be news to no one since he is in the twilight of his career, but what should be remembered is that even though O'Neal is no longer at his peak, he is still able to dominate at times, most notably to start the game.

Even his dominance in a short period of time provides value to the Celtics as his 0.189 win shares per 48 minutes illustrates. This is the highest win shares per 48 minutes mark he has posted since the 2004-05 season.

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