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More Data on Postseason Series & Regular-Season Records

Posted by Neil Paine on February 16, 2011

Prompted by some questions in the comments of Monday's post about the playoff predictivity of regular-season W-L vs. elite teams, here's some more raw data on every 2nd-round or later series since the merger:

w/ HCA w/o HCA
Team W L Win% W L Win%
Won the season series 97 27 78.2% 13 28 31.7%
Lost the season series 28 13 68.3% 27 97 21.8%
Superior W-L vs. everyone else 159 56 74.0% 3 7 30.0%
Inferior W-L vs. everyone else 7 3 70.0% 56 159 26.0%
Won the season series but had inferior W-L vs. everyone else 7 3 70.0% 13 28 31.7%
Lost season series but had superior W-L vs. everyone else 28 13 68.3% 3 7 30.0%
Swept the season series but had inferior W-L vs. everyone else 1 1 50.0% 0 3 0.0%
Was swept in season series but had superior W-L vs. everyone else 3 0 100.0% 1 1 50.0%
Superior regular-season W-L vs. top-5 teams 133 42 76.0% 15 40 27.3%
Inferior regular-season W-L vs. top-5 teams 40 15 72.7% 42 133 24.0%
Superior regular-season W-L vs. top-10 teams 148 48 75.5% 11 25 30.6%
Inferior regular-season W-L vs. top-10 teams 25 11 69.4% 48 148 24.5%
Superior regular-season W-L vs. .500 teams or better 153 46 76.9% 15 20 42.9%
Inferior regular-season W-L vs. .500 teams or better 20 15 57.1% 46 153 23.1%
Superior regular-season W-L vs. sub-.500 teams 144 45 76.2% 14 22 38.9%
Inferior regular-season W-L vs. sub-.500 teams 22 14 61.1% 45 144 23.8%
Superior regular-season W-L vs. bottom-10 teams 135 45 75.0% 18 29 38.3%
Inferior regular-season W-L vs. bottom-10 teams 29 18 61.7% 45 135 25.0%
Superior regular-season W-L vs. bottom-5 teams 110 35 75.9% 19 44 30.2%
Inferior regular-season W-L vs. bottom-5 teams 44 19 69.8% 35 110 24.1%

Even though it's still dubious as to whether performance vs. elite teams actually matters more than performance vs. everybody else, further examination of the data finds that performance in the season series against your specific opponent does seem to matter more than performance vs. other teams. So while Miami may not be doomed in the playoffs because of their weak combined record vs. all elites, their poor head-to-head W-L against Boston could foreshadow a playoff struggle should the teams eventually meet.

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33 Responses to “More Data on Postseason Series & Regular-Season Records”

  1. DSMok1 Says:

    Not a whole lot of trends obvious

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    The only thing that jumps out to me is that the season series does seem to have increased importance. But really, HCA is the ultimate advantage. Just about every category above carries a 68%+ expected series wpct for the home team, even if they're inferior in seemingly important categories.

  3. Anon Says:

    Proof that the regular season matters.

    If you can have a better record than another team (or win the division) and secure home-court in a series you help your chances.

  4. kevin Says:

    "If you can have a better record than another team (or win the division) and secure home-court in a series you help your chances."

    Not exactly a staggeringly counterintuitive observation but it's nice to see the actual numbers just the same.

  5. DWarner Says:

    Would this mean that it looked as if San Antonio was going to have a hard time vs. Cleveland in '07 since Cleveland swept the regular season matchup?

    I certainly would hope not! That was one of the 5 best trio's to ever play and Cleveland gave them no challenge in the Finals.

    Regular season games often times hinge on timing. As was the case with the 2 early losses to Boston for the Heat. This is no excuse for the 3rd game because it seemed as if everything was in Miami's favor and Miami laid an egg in the 3rd quarter.

    But Boston reminds me a lot of the '04 Detroit Pistons. Everything looked to be going in the right direction for them as well. No individual was equal to the sum of their parts, and age wasn't on their side either. They were a great Defensive team and played the consummate team Offensive game. But then it all unraveled.

    If I were a gambling man, I'd bet money that the Celtics old Big 3 won't collectively make it to the playoffs in desirable health conditions and that could mean the beginning of the end in Beantown.

    So despite their regular season close wins over the Heat, I still can't believe they'll be able to stay in front of Bron, Wade, and Bosh for 43+ minutes a night come May...

  6. kevin Says:

    "If I were a gambling man, I'd bet money that the Celtics old Big 3 won't collectively make it to the playoffs in desirable health conditions and that could mean the beginning of the end in Beantown. "

    Nah. They'll make it. The only one who has something wrong with him right now is Pierce and that's apparently a non-concern. There's only 2 months left to the season and Rivers can find ways to rest them going into the playoffs. Having West, O'Neil and Daniels back will give him plenty of options for doing that.

    Boston will beat the Heat because the Heat match up poorly against them. They don't have the quality big me that Boston can throw out there. And they have no answer for Rondo. Rondo can do whatever he wants out there, basically. The Heat are small and have a short bench.

    A more interesting matchup will be Boston and SA, if it comes to that. SA has some quality bigs too and a deep bench. Boston beat them without Garnett but I'm not sure how much you can really bring away from that. It was a home game for Boston and they (SA) might have just had an off night.

  7. huevonkiller Says:

    I certainly hope Rivers rests the Celtics. So you can start on the road in the playoffs, a much more important barometer.

    Paul pierce plays terrible against LeBron James, he could be 100% and it won't matter to me. LeBron is an excellent defender and if they put Wade on Rondo like I hope they'll slow him down as well.

    Right just like the Heat couldn't stop Orlando's quality Big? Oh right.

    They have the skills to beat anyone, they're a flagrant foul away from still winning so I'm not sure why you're making that a lock.

  8. Nick Says:

    The Celtics got lucky against the Heat last week. The flagrant 1 against Wade in the third was a huge swing, and Rondo won't be able to play more than one game like that in the playoffs without the Heat legitimately complaining that if LeBron guarded Rondo the way Rondo was guarding LeBron, he'd foul out in the first quarter.

  9. kevin Says:

    You can play that game the other way too. Pierce had a horrible game because he was nursing injuries, the bench was shortened and fatigue set in in the 4th etc etc.

    And the lamest excuse is to blame the referees. Rondo did nothing coveing LeBron that is usually called a foul. And you are basically accusing the refs of bias in favor of boston, which is ridiculous.

    The Heat lost because they don't have much of an inside game. They have no quality bigs, so Rondo and anyone else who wants to can take right to the rim.

  10. Anon Says:

    Boston may have locked up the season-series, but they also may sputter in the regular-season and the Heat could end up with the better record. Then going into the playoffs they ALREADY are a favorite to win the series (according to the chart in this this blog entry).

    The fact is that HCA trumps all if we're going to look at record splits. The media does talk about the importance of HCA on occasion, but they (erroneously) focus more on records against elites and head-to-head matchups.

  11. kevin Says:

    "Paul pierce plays terrible against LeBron James, he could be 100% and it won't matter to me. "

    Does he though? He was great in the '08 playoffs. He basically neutralized LeBron in that series. And LeBron's team has yet to beat Pierce's team in the playoffs so he can't be playing that badly.

    Pierce gives up his offense to focus on LeBron. He did a nice job doing that last year too.

  12. huevonkiller Says:

    Kevin no one cares about your bench. In the playoffs superstars play more minutes and rotations are shorter.

    The Heat decided to get a flagrant foul, it has nothing to do with Boston. The Heat are an elite defensive team, it doesn't matter if they have Dwight Howard or not he can't score on Miami with Ease.

  13. Anon Says:

    "Pierce gives up his offense to focus on LeBron."

    I don't think because he CHOOSES to do so though.

    And with LeBron being on a team that has Wade and Bosh instead of Mo Williams as teammates, Pierce shouldn't be turning into a defensive specialist. He also needs to score.

  14. huevonkiller Says:

    11.

    You mean you neutralized Kobe in 2008 and 2010? LeBron almost knocked you the Eff out in 2008 with your 66 win team and his garbage rejects.

    Paul Pierce was trash and garbage last year in the playoffs. He was atrocious and he was completely healthy, he's just an old man. The Celtics play excellent defense, the Heat are superior since December. Especially James, you knocked out Wade so far. The games have been close enough for you to worry at night without homecourt.

  15. kevin Says:

    In the 2008 playoffs, Pierce held LeBron to 55/155 from the field, 35% from the field. And he outplayed LeBron in the clinching game 7. I'd say that's playing pretty well in some awfully important games.

    The bench is important in the playoffs because the superstars need a breather,a nd to stay out of foul trouble. They can't play the whole game or they'll be dead come crunch time. If the Heat try to ride their starters the whole game, they're going to get crushed in the first round.

  16. kevin Says:

    "LeBron almost knocked you the Eff out in 2008"

    LOL. I'm looking for the asterisk in the record where it says the Heat are the " 2008 Almost Eastern Conference Champs".

  17. huevonkiller Says:

    Kevin, Paul Pierce is trash against LeBron, he averaged a little over 11 Game score to LeBron's 17 in 2008. And he averaged a game score of 7.3 last year and shot 34%. He doesn't get to the line, etc. and he gets erased.

    Keep trying to make excuses about him, even when LeBron has a bad elbow he gave Pierce his worst playoff series of his entire career.

  18. huevonkiller Says:

    #15

    Lol I don't recall saying anything about "Almost", I don't favor the Celtics to win this year. And I still think Boston will lose in Boston, they were completely unimpressive on Sunday. Even when the Heat couldn't buy a jumper.

  19. kevin Says:

    If you don't recall, you have the shortest memory in recorded human history.

    But you don't need to recall. All you need to do is go back and read what you had written. And if you can't do that either, then you can read the quote I cut and pasted from your post that clearly contained the word "a-l-m-o-s-t".

  20. huevonkiller Says:

    Yeah genius, I don't recall saying the heat are the almost 2008 eastern conference champs. Lol.

  21. anon x 2 Says:

    Again, I'd rather look at these records not when one team is superior to another but rather when Team A is significantly better than team B in the afformentioned categories.

    Team A is .56 against top 5 teams.
    Team B is .53 against top 5 teams.

    These don't matter to me. It gets recording in the tables, but for all intensive purposes they are equal.

    What I want to see is

    Team A is .56 against top 5 teams
    Team B is .23 against top 5 teams

    How do those play out? And then the same for top 10 teams, bottom 10 teams, swept season series and, etc etc etc

  22. kevin Says:

    Yeah, I agree Anon. There should be two sets of data. One set of teams that beat the good teams and bad teams about the same. And the other set that has trouble beating the good teams, and then compare how they collectively perform in the post-season. That would be more telling.

  23. Anon Says:

    Anon x 2,

    This would be interesting to see, but then again these records are based on a handful of games - if you play 5 elites, for each game you win your win% jumps 200 points! Is a team that wins one more game that more superior than the team with one less win?

  24. huevonkiller Says:

    Losing a close game also qualifies as "almost equal"in talent. Especially when you adjust for road/home scheduling. That's why homecourt is usually important, if you have more than one great player at least.

  25. Ryan Says:

    So my comment in the last thread (post #33) was on the money.

  26. KevinG Says:

    And Cleveland beats the Lakers tonight. Maybe we can adjust this study to include really ugly losses.

  27. Jason J Says:

    @5 - "But Boston reminds me a lot of the '04 Detroit Pistons. Everything looked to be going in the right direction for them as well. No individual was equal to the sum of their parts, and age wasn't on their side either. They were a great Defensive team and played the consummate team Offensive game. But then it all unraveled."

    In 2004 the Pistons beat the favored Lakers in the Finals to win their first title since 1990. If Boston unravels like that, there will be many happy Celtics fans this summer.

  28. DWarner Says:

    "Nah. They'll make it. The only one who has something wrong with him right now is Pierce and that's apparently a non-concern. There's only 2 months left to the season and Rivers can find ways to rest them going into the playoffs. Having West, O'Neil and Daniels back will give him plenty of options for doing that.

    Boston will beat the Heat because the Heat match up poorly against them. They don't have the quality big me that Boston can throw out there. And they have no answer for Rondo. Rondo can do whatever he wants out there, basically. The Heat are small and have a short bench.

    A more interesting matchup will be Boston and SA, if it comes to that. SA has some quality bigs too and a deep bench. Boston beat them without Garnett but I'm not sure how much you can really bring away from that. It was a home game for Boston and they (SA) might have just had an off night."

    I feel a lot of what you're saying. I also believe Doc will attempt to rest his horses as the season wears down, but it may be easier said than done if they want to continue to compete for the #1 seed, which I believe they will want to do. There is still over 3 months to go to get to the Finals and that's plenty of time for the unforeseen. Especially when the combined age of the guys in question is 100 years. And I don't mean they'll just be eligible to suit up. I mean playing at 90-100%-to where they're totally effective.

    As far as your confidence that Boston will beat the Heat because of match-up issues, I can't totally disagree. However, I'm positive that you can't disagree either that there have been numerous times in NBA history where the team who had the supposed favorable match-up lost when it seemed improbable. It happens regularly. In a small way we just saw it tonight when LA was clowned by Cleveland. Who does Cleveland have to contend with the 7' foot invasion LA throws out there? Who did Detroit have to match-up with Shaq when they overcame tall odds? So matchups can be overrated. In a series that has been decided by very points, I believe they most definitely are.

    Further, when we analyze The Lebron team vs.Boston matchup, there is virtually no differentiation other than the outcome of the post season series. He's pretty much split contests with these guys when most of the time his 2nd best teammate was Z, who never played over a 21 PER level. Now with Bosh at a 20 level and Wade at a 25 level how can Spo mess it up, and LeBron not advance?

    Heat's Big 3 play about 110 minutes a night. In the playoffs that number will bump up to around 130. You'd be hard pressed to find three more consistent guys you can count on as a coach. This makes the job that much easier. Of the 240 minutes a coach has to divide, the fewer minutes he has to utilize a player who he doesn't know for sure what he'll contribute the better. In the past, Lebron's coach had to come up with 196 minutes of mixing and matching players who were poor playoff performers that MIGHT step up, with a guy that was going to bring it for 44 minutes guaranteed. This left too much weight upon the coach to be as stellar as his superstar. Same with Spoelstra. He could count on Wade for 42 minutes, but who else? So the pressure was really on the coach. As great as the individuals were, and NOBODY has been better in the playoffs than James since Jordan, they couldn't beat multiple quality players.

    But now, like all quality teams, Miami has to only worry about average players playing above average level for small portions of a contest. If a coach only needs to recognize who else is playing well and what units are clicking for 100 minutes, rather than 200, it takes a whole lot of pressure off his back. This will be the case with Miami in the playoffs EVERY year while this cast assembled. It's gonna be hard for a coach to mess this up.

    Now SA is serious despite their age, and everyone should be taking them as a threat. Only 7 teams have ever jumped out to 40 or more wins before losing 7 games and 6 of the 7 took home the hardware...

  29. sudoku Says:

    LBJ is the best!Wade 2nd,Kobe sucks!
    Go Heat!

  30. ElGee Says:

    Kevin - Pierce's offense has been terrible against James in the last few years. http://elgee35.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/lebrons-lockdown-paul-pierces-career-vs-james/

    I agree, he sacrifices energy to slow down LeBron, but he doesn't slow him down *that* much.

  31. Kelly Says:

    It seems to me you overcomplicated it. It would be more convincing if you merely had it broken down into winning percentages against the top 10 teams and how far they advanced in the playoffs.

  32. John Says:

    "As far as your confidence that Boston will beat the Heat because of match-up issues, I can't totally disagree. However, I'm positive that you can't disagree either that there have been numerous times in NBA history where the team who had the supposed favorable match-up lost when it seemed improbable. It happens regularly. In a small way we just saw it tonight when LA was clowned by Cleveland. Who does Cleveland have to contend with the 7' foot invasion LA throws out there? Who did Detroit have to match-up with Shaq when they overcame tall odds? So matchups can be overrated. In a series that has been decided by very points, I believe they most definitely are."

    You could have chosen better examples. The LA/Cleveland example is just 1 game so it does not tell us much, if anything at all. As for the Detroit/LA finals, Detroit had no one to defend Shaq so they didn't really try. Instead they focused on everyone else (especially Kobe) because a team can overcome an individual, which is exactly what happened.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/playoffs/NBA_2004_finals.html

    I agree that the Heat can beat the Celtics. My concern is let's say things go according to plan and Lebron shuts down Pierce, Bosh neutralizes Garnett and Wade slows down Rondo. That still leaves Ray Allen wide open far too often. He can still score in bunches (see 2010 finals game 2, 2009 1st round) not to mention Miami's big 3 advantage is neutralized by Boston's depth. The Celtics have 5 guys (Pierce, Allen, Garnett, Rondo, Davis) who consistently score double figures and 2 other guys (Shaq, Perkins) who are capable.

  33. Kelly Says:

    What about when the team swept the regular season series AND had a better winning percentage against everyone else. It's not on there.