But it turns out there really is a difference when it comes to calling timeouts, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Nate McMillan is the top dog in the NBA when it comes to getting the most out of timeouts.
In the first two possessions after a timeout, Mr. McMillan's Blazers morphed into a different team. On defense, they held opponents to 38% shooting compared with nearly 45% overall. On offense, they were more accurate shooters (46% to 44%) and made a basket or a free throw about 10% more often on those possessions than during the rest of the game. Portland also turned the ball over less often. On the first possession after a timeout, the team committed turnovers just 12% of the time -- also a nice improvement.
This skill seems to have helped Portland prevail in tough situations. The Blazers won only half their games this season, but were 11-3 in games decided by four points or less and 5-2 in overtime games. In "clutch" situations (when neither team was ahead by more than five points in the final period) the Blazers also excelled -- hitting 48% of their field goals while holding opponents to 31%.
Given its achievements in this area, it's slightly surprising that Portland didn't make the playoffs. The nine other teams in the top 10 in post-timeout performance all did. The past four NBA champions have all ranked in the top 10 in this category, too.
How about that? I had thought that sometimes we were a bit unprepared out of timeouts, but turns out I was wrong, and I'm more than happy to admit it.