4/17 6PM Update *** I am now trying to use the URL Fetch App. I've been playing with this for hours, but can't seem to figure out the issue. I am just trying to get the info from this site as plain text (so the score doesn't mess up) in a Google Sheet.

function myFunction() {
    var response = UrlFetchApp.fetch("https://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/pbp/202003110MIA.html");
   var doc = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet();
   var cell = doc.getRange('a1');

I'm using ImportHTML to export NBA play by play data.

For some reason, random cells containing the score (formatted 12-10 as an example) transfer incorrectly as long numbers (43864 as an example).

I've tried various formatting options that are offered & I've looked at different games as well, but don't see any patterns as to why certain scores work and others don't.

Lastly, when I copy and paste the info directly from the site it works flawlessly, but when you paste as values the score becomes incorrect -- I'm assuming that is what ImportHTML is doing.

Could someone possibly explain to me why this is happening? Is there a way to make sure all scores stay correctly formatted?

For reference, I'm building a script that will take all of this information, and transform it so that I can track different events for players based off of time. This has been my one little hiccup I can't seem to get past.

I've attached screenshots of the error in Sheets, along with the information as it is on the website.enter image description here

enter image description here

  • When 12-10 becomes 43864 it means Google-sheet interpret it as a date. You can try to force a format with =text()
    – pjmg
    Apr 17, 2020 at 11:13
  • The "update" should be posted as a new question, not as an edit b/c it's about Google Apps Script not about IMPORTHTML. Apr 17, 2020 at 22:23
  • Sorry @Ruben - I recently got banned from asking questions on Overflow unfortunately. Bit of a learning curve with the site, so I was trying to be careful with asking questions. My apologies Apr 18, 2020 at 2:12
  • To lift the post ban try improving your questions. Having upvotes on them will help a lot. It might also help that you accept the good answers. Apr 18, 2020 at 2:30

1 Answer 1


Tl;Dr IMPORTHTML and IMPORTXML assigns the data type before adding the values to the spreadsheet. Numbers like 43863 are serial numbers used to represent dates, time and durations.

Google Sheets

  • automatically try to detect the data type of the value entere on each cell based on the spreadsheet regional setting.
  • uses serial numbers to handle dates and durations
  • IMPORTHTML is a function that is calculated on the server instead of being calculated on the client (web browser)

You could try to build a complex formula (see Trying to use Google Sheets importHTML() to import a table. It forces content to a date format) but as you already are building a script it's very likely that using the script to scrap the web content will be better as you will have more control about how the content is parsed.

  • Great - thanks @Ruben. I will try basing my own complex ImportHTML function off of that link. I had originally tried to use a script to scrape the info, but I couldn't figure it out. I am pretty new to this, I recorded a macro for my other work. I tried using the fetch URL info from this link developers.google.com/apps-script/reference/url-fetch/… but still struggled. Is fetch URL the action you would use if making a script? Is there another method I should try approaching or is that the key? Apr 17, 2020 at 15:28
  • Yes, you could use the URL Fetch service. On Stack Overflow there are several questions about web scraping by using it. Apr 17, 2020 at 15:58

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