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Archive for May, 2011

Biggest NBA Finals Collapses, 1992-2010

31st May 2011

With Dallas-Miami Part II tipping off tonight (not that it's really a rematch), I wanted to see whether the Mavs' loss in 2006 was the worst Finals collapse of the BBR era. We have linescores for every playoff game since 1992, which means I can calculate the home team's probability of winning at various checkpoints within a game:

Stage p(Home W)
Pregame 60.4%
After 1st Qtr =1/(1+EXP(-0.3599755-0.1122741*Home Margin))
After 2nd Qtr =1/(1+EXP(-0.2895922-0.1429087*Home Margin))
After 3rd Qtr =1/(1+EXP(-0.2041572-0.2117494*Home Margin))
Before any OT 52.4%

Combining those probabilities with the series win probabilities I found here, one can determine each team's probability of winning the series at a given checkpoint. This allows us to rank Finals collapses, pinpointing the moments within games where the eventual loser's series win probability was the highest:

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Posted in Analysis, History, Playoffs, Statgeekery | 13 Comments »

Do the Finals Contain the Best Teams in Each Conference?

30th May 2011

Although we like to think "the best team always wins a best-of-7 series", variance plays a much bigger role than we'd care to admit. I found here that the best team in a given season usually wins the NBA title about 48% of the time -- and that's actually an incredibly high rate compared to other sports like baseball (29%), pro football (24%), and college basketball (34%).

Truth be told, playoffs are mainly designed as entertainment, with "finding the best team" as a secondary goal. And there's nothing wrong with that. If we forced teams to play enough to have statistical certainty, it would require a completely impractical number of games. For the fan's sake, it is necessary to achieve a balance between watchability and the feeling that what we watched wasn't a total fluke. And really, the NBA probably does this better than any other sport.

But we still have to acknowledge that the best team does not always win, nor do the NBA Finals necessarily contain the best teams in each conference. Can we put a number on how probable it is that a given Finals matchup did in fact contain the best from each conference? Using a very simplified version of Prof. Jesse Frey's Method for determining the probability that a given team was the true best team in some particular year (with assists from these posts), I calculated that probability for every Finals matchup since 1984, when the playoffs expanded to 16 teams.

Here are those Finals, ranked from the greatest certainty that the two teams were their respective conferences' best to the least certainty:

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Posted in Analysis, History, Playoffs, Statgeekery | 10 Comments »

Miami-Dallas: The Strangest Finals Rematch Ever

28th May 2011

Finals rematches usually involve a familiar cast of characters with a great deal of bad blood built up over past battles, right? Repeat clashes where any roster change is minimal, and the two teams can draw on that shared experience to develop strategies going forward... Like the 1985 Finals, where the two teams' playoff rosters had 21 common players from the year before.

That's the mental picture we get when we think of a championship rematch, at least. But not this year. There are only four common players between the 2006 and 2011 Finalists' playoff rosters:

Udonis Haslem
Dirk Nowitzki
Jason Terry
Dwyane Wade

Among Finals rematches that took place within 6 seasons of the initial matchup, that's the fewest common players in league history:

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Posted in History, Playoffs, Trivia | 16 Comments »

NBA Finals Preview: Miami vs. Dallas

28th May 2011

Miami Heat

58-24, 1st in NBA Southeast Division (Schedule and Results)
Coach: Erik Spoelstra (58-24)

PTS/G: 102.1 (8th of 30) ▪ Opp PTS/G: 94.6 (6th of 30)
SRS: 6.76 (1st of 30) ▪ Pace: 90.9 (20th of 30)
Off Rtg: 111.7 (3rd of 30) ▪ Def Rtg: 103.5 (5th of 30)
Expected W-L: 61-21 (2nd of 30)

Arena: AmericanAirlines Arena ▪ Attendance: 810,930 (4th of 30)

NBA Finals versus Dallas Mavericks
Won NBA Eastern Conference Finals (4-1) versus Chicago Bulls
Won NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1) versus Boston Celtics
Won NBA Eastern Conference First Round (4-1) versus Philadelphia 76ers
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Posted in Playoffs, SRS, Statgeekery, Statistical +/-, Win Shares | 8 Comments »

BBR Rankings: Pre-Finals Schedule-Adjusted NBA Offensive and Defensive Power Ratings

27th May 2011

2010-11 NBA power rankings through the games played on May 26, 2011:

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Posted in BBR Rankings, SRS, Statgeekery | 18 Comments »

Layups: R.I.P. Margo Dydek

27th May 2011

Here's a very sad news story from ESPN:

"Former WNBA player Margo Dydek has died after suffering a heart attack a week ago and being placed in a medically induced coma.


The Poland-born Dydek, who was pregnant with her third child, suffered the heart attack on May 19 and collapsed at her home in Brisbane. Roberts said that Dydek was at an early stage in her pregnancy and that her unborn child had also died."

Standing an amazing 7'2", Dydek was easily the tallest player in WNBA history. She was also one of the league's kindest, most popular players, Mechelle Voepel of wrote.

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Posted in Layups | 6 Comments »

Layups: Cognitive Bias in the LeBron Narrative

26th May 2011

Cognitive Bias in the LeBron Narrative: People's minds are tricking them when it comes to player narratives, writes ElGee of Back Picks.

Posted in Layups | 38 Comments »

Mailbag: The 8 Teams That Came Back From a 3-1 Deficit

25th May 2011

Yesterday, Kenneth wrote:

"I am seeking more information on NBA playoff series where one team fell into a 1-3 hole, but was able to win the next 3 games and the series.  As per the TV NBA analysts, in past NBA playoff series, 200 of them  reached the point where one team was up 3-1; only 8 of those series concluded with the down team ultimately winning the remaining 3 games and the series.

[Who were] the teams in those 8 series?  I know the 1995 Houston Rockets were one of those teams (their 1-3 down situation occurred against the Phoenix Suns) and ended up winning the title.  I'm also curious how many of the 8 teams who managed to claw their way back from a 1-3 hole ultimately played in the Finals that year and how many won the title."

This became even more pertinent last night when the Bulls fell behind the Heat 3-1, giving us two teams currently facing 3-1 deficits. Here were the 8 series where teams dug their way out of a 3-1 hole:

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Posted in BBR Mailbag, History, Playoffs | 13 Comments »

Layups: Brent Barry Admires Hoopism’s Dunk Poster

24th May 2011

Remember Hoopism's sweet dunk contest history poster?

Awesomely enough, Brent Barry is a fan as well. And he's wearing the LAC warmup in the photos.

Posted in Just For Fun, Layups, No Math Required | Comments Off on Layups: Brent Barry Admires Hoopism’s Dunk Poster

Losing Your (Inefficient) Leading Scorer Hurts Your Team

23rd May 2011

Last week, I ran a post (prompted by this post at the Wages of Wins) wherein I tried to determine the offensive impact when a team loses its leading scorer. I found that, since 1986 at least, a team loses about 2 points of offensive rating relative to the league average when its top scorer by PPG doesn't play.

I got a lot of great feedback from that initial post, so I decided to try my hand at a sequel after making a number of improvements to the study:

  • One complaint was that I was lumping efficient scorers in with inefficient ones in the original study. No one is really debating whether losing LeBron James will hurt an offense, but one of the core questions is whether losing Carmelo Anthony or Rudy Gay has a negative impact as well. To that end, I'm now isolating only teams with inefficient leading scorers. This means a team's PPG leader, minimum 1/2 of team games played, with either a Dean Oliver Offensive Rating or True Shooting % that was equal to or below the league's average that season.
  • Another complaint was that I looked at offense alone, rather than the total impact of the player's loss. So now I'm looking at the change in team efficiency differential (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) when a player is in and out of the lineup.
  • While I accounted for strength of opponent in the last study, I didn't account for home-court advantage. Now I have added an HCA term to what we would predict an average team to put up vs. a given opponent (+4 pts/100 of efficiency differential to the home team), in addition to an SOS term (the opponent's efficiency differential in all of its other games).

What follows is a massive table that shows the results of this new study. The outcome (the bottom-right cell) is the average change in efficiency differential when an inefficient leading scorer plays vs. when he does not play, weighted by possessions without the leading scorer. If it is positive, it is evidence that even inefficient scoring is an attribute that teams find difficult to replace in a salary-capped economic system; if it is negative, it is evidence that scoring is overrated if it's not done efficiently, and that inefficient #1 options can be replaced with relative ease.

To the data dump (mouse over column headers for descriptions):

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Posted in Analysis, BBR Mailbag, History, Statgeekery | 33 Comments »