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Time to Face Facts — Miami is Unlikely to Be a True .500 Team in Close Games

Posted by Neil Paine on March 8, 2011

The close-game struggles of this year's Miami Heat are nothing if not well-documented. A 5-13 record in games decided by 5 or fewer points has become the team's defining stat, far surpassing LeBron James' gaudy all-around numbers or the scoring brilliance of Dwyane Wade. As far as the mainstream media is concerned, it is now assumed this team will choke until they prove otherwise.

As statheads, we typically detest this sort of cliched, pseudo-psychological nonsense. Part of the sabermetric orthodoxy is to deny the existence of "clutch skills", or at least to minimize them relative to overall factors that impact every minute of the game. But with the Heat so dominant in blowouts and so vulnerable in close games, perhaps there is something to the old sportswriter aphorisms about certain teams being unable to close the deal when the margin gets tight.

As mentioned earlier, Miami is 5-13 (.278) in games decided by 5 points or fewer, while they sport a sterling 38-7 (.844) mark in games decided by 6 or more points. The Heat now have the biggest differential in NBA history between wpct in games decided by 6+ pts and games decided by 5 or fewer:

Margin>=6 pts Margin<=5 pts
Year Team W L WPct W L WPct Diff
2011 Miami Heat 38 7 0.844 5 13 0.278 0.567
1959 Syracuse Nationals 28 10 0.737 7 27 0.206 0.531
2001 San Antonio Spurs 53 12 0.815 5 12 0.294 0.521
1977 Denver Nuggets 46 18 0.719 4 14 0.222 0.497
1986 Milwaukee Bucks 50 12 0.806 7 13 0.350 0.456
1952 Minneapolis Lakers 34 12 0.739 6 14 0.300 0.439
1996 Utah Jazz 48 15 0.762 7 12 0.368 0.393
1972 Chicago Bulls 48 12 0.800 9 13 0.409 0.391
2004 Detroit Pistons 42 11 0.792 12 17 0.414 0.379
1985 Milwaukee Bucks 47 9 0.839 12 14 0.462 0.378
2003 New Jersey Nets 45 23 0.662 4 10 0.286 0.376
2007 San Antonio Spurs 50 13 0.794 8 11 0.421 0.373
1992 Chicago Bulls 55 5 0.917 12 10 0.545 0.371
2006 Indiana Pacers 33 19 0.635 8 22 0.267 0.368
1989 Milwaukee Bucks 44 22 0.667 5 11 0.313 0.354
1967 Boston Celtics 45 7 0.865 15 14 0.517 0.348
1982 Milwaukee Bucks 43 12 0.782 12 15 0.444 0.337
2008 Boston Celtics 55 7 0.887 11 9 0.550 0.337
1997 Seattle SuperSonics 47 13 0.783 10 12 0.455 0.329
2004 San Antonio Spurs 47 13 0.783 10 12 0.455 0.329
1983 Phoenix Suns 44 16 0.733 9 13 0.409 0.324
1991 Chicago Bulls 51 11 0.823 10 10 0.500 0.323
1992 San Antonio Spurs 40 21 0.656 7 14 0.333 0.322
1972 Los Angeles Lakers 59 6 0.908 10 7 0.588 0.319
1977 Phoenix Suns 30 30 0.500 4 18 0.182 0.318
2006 Phoenix Suns 48 19 0.716 6 9 0.400 0.316
1996 Portland Trail Blazers 33 17 0.660 11 21 0.344 0.316
2008 Orlando Magic 45 19 0.703 7 11 0.389 0.314
2001 Portland Trail Blazers 43 20 0.683 7 12 0.368 0.314
1974 Milwaukee Bucks 51 14 0.785 8 9 0.471 0.314

Although APBRmetrics teaches us that all teams' records in close games regress toward .500, at a certain point it becomes statistically unlikely that the Heat's "true" probability of winning those types of games is as good as a coin flip.

Using the binomial distribution, the probability of a true .500 team going 5-13 or worse in a given set of 18 games is just 4.8%. In other words, if our initial hypothesis was that Miami is still a true .500 team who simply suffered a spate of colossally bad luck in close games, we now have enough evidence to reject that hypothesis. The alternate hypothesis -- that the Heat are something less than a true .500 team in close games -- seems far more likely.

How much less, though? Well, using the Empirical Rule, there's a 68% chance that Miami's true "close game skill" falls between a 3-15 record and a 7-11 one, and a 95% chance it falls between 1-17 and 9-9.

Of course, you may want to use Bayes' Theorem to inform Miami's expected skill level with additional information (in which case their .844 record in non-close games would come into play). But if you only look at the evidence from close games this season, it is statistically improbable that the Heat's true ability to come out on top is even .500 when the score is tight.

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106 Responses to “Time to Face Facts — Miami is Unlikely to Be a True .500 Team in Close Games”

  1. Panic Says:

    This isn't quite right - the probability that they will go EXACTLY 5-13 in those games is not of interest. What's of interest is the probability that they will go 5-13 OR WORSE. In that case, the odds go up to .048, which is pretty borderline as far as rejecting the null hypothesis. Usually with a binomial I like to see more trials than 18 before rejecting .048.

  2. Panic Says:

    Reading again, I'm seeing that you said "or worse," but the 3% that you cited are the odds that the team goes exactly 5-13, not P(5-13)+P(4-14)+...+P(0-18).

  3. AHL Says:

    Yea, it says that right in the writeup.

    "Using the binomial distribution, the probability of a true .500 team going 5-13 or worse in a given set of 18 games is just 3.0%."

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    Thanks, Panic -- I fixed the post. I got things mixed up when I entered the conditions in R.

    I was just speaking from a strict 5% significance level, so in practical terms you could be right. But I think we can all agree that it's time to start questioning whether there is something endemic to this team that is causing them to lose close games.

  5. Joel Says:

    The problem with using a probability-based approach in the "close games" metric is

    1) sample size
    2) precision

    Number one is often cited but number two is ignored, and generally more important. For example, on paper you'd expect the Heat trio to generate a lot of offensive opportunities given their individual talents and contributions in non "clutch" situations. However, there are real limitations to that trio, namely the inability for any of them to reliably hit outside jump shots. That means no curls, few high screens, and very little incentive for opponents to play any defense that doesn't pack defenders in the lane.

  6. Anonie Says:

    The Heat are great against bad teams and bad against good teams, and that is one reason why the distribution is revealing itself like this. Also, they have no low post game, which is hurtful in close games with teams that are better at defending late game pressure possessions. Notice the Heat are better against good teams in the first half than the second half of games, as well.

  7. Jesse Says:

    I think it's VERY interesting to see which other teams are on the list. The '59 Nationals team lost to the beginning of the Celtics juggernaut in the Eastern finals. The '01 Spurs lost to the Lakers, and the '96 Jazz lost to the Bulls in the Finals (and so on). Also on the list: '04 Pistons, '07 Spurs, '92 Bulls, '08 Celtics, but they are further down. It looks like the teams that are high on this list tend to be competing with a "juggernaut" squad ('59 Celts, , '86 Celts,'01 Lakers, '96 Bulls) and just aren't good enough to get over that hump. '77 Nuggets had to compete against the '77 Blazers w/ Walton running the show. The top few teams on this list appear to be a "who got stomped by one of Bill Simmons' Best of All Time teams". It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

  8. C4 Says:

    This analysis is fundamentally flawed, and displays a common statistical fallacy popularly know as the "Wyatt Earp effect"

  9. Dave D Says:

    I don't really follow basketball very much but if this team is 3rd in the conference standings, that tell me that there are more bad teams than good ones.
    But of course, that only holds true if the clubs higher up in the standings do well against other high caliber teams.

  10. Jason J Says:

    #7 - The Jazz lost to Chicago in 1997 and 1998. They fell to Payton's Sonics in 1996, who were a tremendous 64 win team themselves (3 60+ win teams that year also including the Magic who might have won 65+ if Shaq didn't miss so many games).

    Tons of Champs and runners up on that list.

  11. Neil Paine Says:

    #8 - OK, so you're basically saying that before the year, we could have predicted that some team (not necessarily the Heat specifically) would be roughly 5-13 in close games at this point in the season. The fact that it happened to be the Heat isn't especially notable because it was going to happen to somebody no matter what.

    To use your example, Wyatt Earp won a ton of consecutive gunfights without being wounded. People looked back after the fact and said, "Wow, he must be special because he won so many gunfights!", without thinking about the fact that somebody was going to win that many gunfights, whether it be Earp or another guy. It becomes much less notable when viewed that way.

    But in order for the Wyatt Earp Fallacy to apply, wouldn't we have to assume that each Heat close game is conditional on the one that came before? In my example, I'm assuming each one is essentially a coin flip independent of the other games.

    Maybe there is some adjustment being made by the Heat, but I guess my question is, are they employing sufficiently different strategies in each close game (strategies specifically influenced by prior close games) to cause the independence assumption not to be true? Or can we broadly assume that the Heat will generally try their best to win each game on its own?

  12. C4 Says:

    Neil,

    You are absolutely correct in your understanding of the Wyatt Earp fallacy when you state that "The fact that it happened to be the Heat isn't especially notable because it was going to happen to somebody no matter what".

    However, the fallacy is not based on events being conditional (not independent). It arises from the post-hoc nature of the analysis, leading to a Type 1 error.

    Btw, love this website, just don't agree with this specific analysis.

    Best,
    C4

  13. themojojedi Says:

    It's good to see someone in the stat community at least considering the possibility that the clutch struggles of the Heat aren't pure randomness, even if we can't necessarily make a strong conclusion either way.

    The way I see it we have observed the three main (interrelated) issues from the Heat:
    1) Poor record in close games (as covered by Neil and others)
    2) Poor record against good teams (v Top 5, v Top 10, v +.500 or however you wish to define it)
    3) A number of blown double digit leads

    It would be interesting to see someone tackle the Heat's issues jointly, rather than individually. For example, have there been successful teams in the past who have exhibited two or more of these characteristics (2003 Nets were 2-7 in games decided by less than 3 points and 22-22 against +.500 teams, as a possible example). One would hope that addressing the issues jointly could give us a better understanding of the Heat and their likely playoff prospects.

  14. DSMok1 Says:

    I posted a table doing the mathematical derivation of what we would *expect* a team's close game Win% is, based on their overall efficiency differential. See here.

    Miami is conservatively a +6 team, which, when looking at games decided by 5 or less, should win 56.6% of the time.

    .. I think I'll write up a post on this as I think about this more.

    I agree with C4 that we've got a clear Wyatt Earp fallacy.

  15. yariv Says:

    I think C4 got it right. You say the probability for such an event is ~5%, and there are 6 teams with records as the heat or better (I would check for teams with >80% in large difference games, but don't know how to run it). This raise the probability to above 25%, which is reasonably likely.

  16. Sean Says:

    I don't think that what is happening to the Heat is likely to 'have happened to somebody' as if the Heat had a number and the matching ping pong ball came out of the hopper... so it happened to THEM.

    The HEAT, specifically, put themselves in a situation because of factors based on who / what they are and how they do things to have exactly what has happened to them----happen.

    If they were awful, they might be in less games late. If they had a post game, maybe they put more people away. If they weren't so predictable with last possessions and/ or ran plays, maybe they do better. There are a ton of things about the Heat that contribute to exactly what the results have been.

  17. dsong Says:

    Without getting into the statistics - Miami might want to try something other than giving the ball to Lebron while four guys stand still at the end of games. And no, giving the ball to Wade while four guys stand still won't solve the problem either.

  18. Anon Says:

    "If they weren't so predictable with last possessions and/ or ran plays, maybe they do better."

    Well, it's not even like some of those looks were bad looks either. You think about the Miller missed three, some of the looks LeBron had in these games - they only get labeled as bad because they missed.

    It's more important for the Heat to iron out their issues during the other 47 minutes. Taking care of the ball, getting offense from player outside the Big 3, etc.

  19. Dave Hahn Says:

    "The fact that it happened to be the Heat isn't especially notable because it was going to happen to somebody no matter what"."

    This may not be especially notable from a pure statistical point of view, since such a distribution was bound to happen eventually. But it is absolutely notable to the the current Win-Loss record of the Miami Heat in the NBA, and that is all that matters in the results-oriented world of professional basketball. Dismissing the Heat's 5-13 record in close games as something akin to a statistical anomaly overlooks the "real-world" implications of their under-par performance in games decided by 5 points or less.

    On the other hand #7 and #10 are spot on when they point out just how good a lot of the team's on the list above turned out to be. It would of course be quite difficult to exhibit the large differentials documented above if a team wasn't playoff caliber, so this type of list should not be to surprising. The question the Heat are now facing is whether they are more like the 1977 Denver Nuggets (out in the Western Conference semi-finals) or the 2004 Detroit Pistons (eventual NBA champions). How this plays out will determine whether this most-hyped Miami Heat team will be viewed as a colossal flop or an NBA dynasty in the making.

  20. Serge Says:

    I'm not a stats guru, so I'm going to throw a different angle out there. Stats want to tell us there is no such thing as "clutch", and while I agree to a point, that there is no Superman hiding inside the so-called clutch performer, putting on his cape when the game is close and magically becoming a better player, I do believe that there is a "close-out instinct" that LeBron James appears to be short on. Ending possessions of close games are played differently than regular (non-ending, non-close) possessions. Some of the differences can be quantified - for example, there are strategic fouls to accelerate opponent possessions, and this can be measured by looking at foul rates; there is a greater rate of substitutions as players are swapped in and out specifically for defensive and offensive match-ups, and this can be measured by looking at substitution rates; and so on.

    #5 Joel and #17 Dsong make good points. The Heat are somewhat limited in the variety to their offense. On the other hand, the things that the Heat are good at, they are very good at. In a way, the Heat are concentrated in certain elite skills at the expense of others. In closing possessions, teams adopt to the Heat's concentrated offensive skills with concentrated defensive schemes. The window for success for the Heat becomes much smaller.

    The reason why I mentioned close-out instinct is because I believe that, with a smaller window for success, the players need to make correct ("winning") decisions faster. Whether we can really say that great players make winning decisions instinctively or if they actually do think it through and just make decisions so fast it looks as if they are operating on instinct is debatable and not easily proven one way or the other, but close-out instinct has a nice ring to it, so I'm sticking with that.

    The reason that I believe the Heat have a smaller window for success due to concentrated defensive schemes in close end of game scenarios is because for a 48-minute game, the Heat are not restricted to using just their concentrated offensive skills. If a particular approach that leverages the defensive attention being paid to James and Wade and involves someone other than James or Wade scoring has a success rate of about 50%, that's fine. But in a scenario where the final possession determines who wins or loses, 50% is not good enough. The Heat go to their strengths, the absolute best weapons they have at their disposal, and in so doing they become more predictable for defenses.

    Case in point: Looking at the final possession of the Bulls loss on Sunday, we can see Mario Chalmers open in the corner for a 3-point shot. While I don't know Chalmers's conversion rate on open 3-pointers from the corner, I would assume that it is probably better than James's chance of converting on his drive over 6'11" Joakim Noah and two other defenders swarming in.

    If Miami had a time machine and they could replay the last minute of every close game, they would have a superb winning percentage in close games, just as any team would given the ability to get a "do-over" on the final minute of every close game they lost. Where I think the close-out instinct (or close-out "psuedo"-instinct if that's a more appropriate term) comes in is in players being able to make these kind of decisions without the benefit of time machines. What I am suggesting is that it's not that the Heat choke so much as they don't make the right calls when their outstanding concentrated offensive skills are no longer enough. Although now that the whole "can't close games" thing is being blown up all over the media, I wouldn't be surprised to see them suffer from actual choking by way of loss of confidence, but that's a different matter entirely.

    Question: How can my argument be proven true or false with statistical analysis? I believe in numbers, I just lack the education and proficiency to create a method of evaluating something like this myself.

  21. sudoku Says:

    82-0 will be next year,no worries,LeBron is a cyborg.

  22. Nathan Walker Says:

    Did I hear a "Bayes theorem"? Wheres DSmok1?

    I agree that close-game analysis could be important, and the numbers would tend to agree at this point, however I think we're suffering from a chicken-vs-egg scenario here:

    Are the Heat underplaying because the game is close, or is the game close because the Heat were underplaying?

    I would be interested to see the four-factor-value difference in these games...which I like to convert into efficiencies. Even the efficiencies would be more telling, I think.

    In the college game, I take "opponent's stat X" and see how that (linearly) affects "Actual minus expected efficiency"...similar to Dean Oliver's RoboScout. If I only had a giant database of eFG%/FG%/OR%/TO%/FTR/FT% lines from this season....
    This would be especially important, since these numbers don't tell us WHOM the Heat are playing against. Maybe the games are close because they're doing a very good job of playing strong teams on the road! If we at least adjust for predicted differential, I think we might see a clearer picture.

  23. Nathan Walker Says:

    And by "Opponent Stat X" I mean season-wide average, like Season-Wide OR%...it's more intuitive to do out-of-sample OR%, though. (i.e. [OR%(season)-OR%(game)]/(GP-1) )

  24. Jerry Says:

    Are you looking at who's leading in the game 5, 4, 3, 2 minutes before the end?
    If they're behind 5 points 5 minutes before end, then loose most of those games by 5 or less, that's not really too bad, is it?
    What about home and away? The home team definitely has an advantage in close games

  25. P Middy Says:

    If they're not careful they're going to become a .500 team in the last 48 minutes of the game.

  26. Anon Says:

    While I don't know Chalmers's conversion rate on open 3-pointers from the corner, I would assume that it is probably better than James's chance of converting on his drive over 6'11" Joakim Noah and two other defenders swarming in.

    Even if he was open, you can imagine the backlash against LBJ if Chalmers misses. Then (from the fan/media perspective) it's "LBJ has the slow-footed Joakim Noah on him! He should take it to the hole! Why did he pass? Oh I know, it's because he doesn't want to take the shot!"

    As seen in the other thread, this man is in a lose-lose no matter what he does. If he plays well in a team loss, it's HIS fault. If he doesn't play well in a team loss, it's ALSO HIS fault. If he makes the right basketball play and passes to a wide-open teammate for a shot, he's a "choke artist", doesn't want the be 'the man'", etc. If he takes that shot himself and misses, he's "selfish", "doesn't want to be a 'team player' and run a play", "just wants to go one on five", etc.

    I think this kind of irrational backlash has a lot more to do with how some people feel about LBJ the individual than LBJ the basketball player. Whether they realize this or not.

  27. AYC Says:

    We get it, Anon; Lebron can do no wrong in your eyes. But the fact is that his teams have underperformed in the playoffs the last couple seasons, and again this regular season. His supporting cast is better now than it was in Cleveland, even if the bench is terrible. I used to blame Mike Brown for the Cavs awful offense when Bron was there, but the poor offensive execution seems to have followed LBJ to Miami. At what point do we stop making excuses for him?

  28. Greyberger Says:

    Re 27 I see what you mean. The 2010 Cavs were the sixth best team on offense, just like the 2011 Heat. I wonder how high they could be without Lebron dragging them down.

  29. BSK Says:

    I saw an article about records in 1-run games in baseball and how worse teams seemed to fare better. It pointed out that this may not be as counter-intuitive as possible. IF a great team is going to lose, is it more likely that they will be blown out or lose a close team? The Heat (and every other good team) are going to lose games. Wouldn't we be more concerned if they were blown out 13 times than if they have 13 close losses?

  30. Downpuppy Says:

    With Wyatt Earp, the standard of winning or losing a gunfight was consistent.

    In this case, arbitrarily selecting 5 pts as close could be cherrypicking.

  31. AYC Says:

    #28, are you claiming the '09 and '10 Cavs didn't underachieve in the playoffs??

  32. Greyberger Says:

    There's not one way to define close games because time remaining, possession and margin all have to be considered. You can model all three and even if you do it perfectly, it will describe most teams and most games, and people will still argue that the definition is too strict or liberal by focusing on a kind of team or set of cases.

    Seems like there's an awful lot to consider. Maybe Wyatt was cheating.

  33. BSK Says:

    Greyberger-

    I was thinking the same thing. Final deficit, though, is very flawed. A team could be down by 15 all game and make a late charge against back-ups and lose by 5 with a lay-up at the buzzer. Was that a close games? Teams can alternate baskets in a 1-possession game in the final minutes before one team pulls ahead on free throws and wins by 6. Was that game not close?

    If we're looking at the supposed "mettle" of the team and whether or not they have what it takes to make traditional "clutch" shots (last minut, chance to tie or take lead), then there are far better metrics. We could look at offensive effeciency in the final minute of games within one possession. If a team or player is really lagging there, that might be something signifigant (though there is likely too much noise there to really make any meaningful out of).

    More interesting to me is the splits that some mentioned up above, particularly how the Heat perform in the 1st half vs 2nd half and how that might be attributable to the style and make-up of the team.

  34. Anon Says:

    "We get it, Anon; Lebron can do no wrong in your eyes."

    You kidding? The other night against San Antonio he played like crap. On both ends of the floor.

    The difference between me and you however, is that I assign credit or blame to the player in question (all other things considered of course). You don't. Heck, I'm pretty sure if Wade sneezed during a game you would point the finger at LBJ...

  35. Anon Says:

    Let's take an example from last night's game AYC:

    LBJ 29 USG/127 ORtg
    Wade 36 USG/137 ORtg
    Bosh 17 USG/60 ORtg

    Who would you give credit or blame to for these performances here? The person with common sense (who watched the game and also knows how these stats work) would fairly say "LBJ and Wade were more helpful to their team offensively to make up for Bosh's off-night." That wouldn't do it for you though. In you mind, someone ELSE HAS to be the fall guy for this, so who do we blame? The coach? The other starters? Wade? No, Wade "has a ring already", so - aha! - Bosh's play is CLEARLY on LBJ. Based on a completely arbitrary process of reasoning, we have ID'ed the culprit.

    As a matter of fact, let's go a step further and just look at LBJ's and Wade's performance. Wade performed better than LBJ, but would you even think about "blaming" Wade for LBJ not playing as well as he did? Wouldn't that make sense given your reasoning? What if LBJ had an offensive output like Bosh while Wade played the same way? Would you also blame Wade for this?

    Would it even make any sense?

  36. AYC Says:

    Congrats on developing the courage to criticize LBJ's performance in a single game. Any thoughts on ways he can improve as an overall player? Or do you think being the best player in the league exempts him from criticism? I have said all along that Lebron is a better player than Wade. That's why I'm more critical of him; he is capable of more

  37. Anon Says:

    "That's why I'm more critical of him; he is capable of more"

    Once again though, this doesn't take into account that other teammates also have to bring their own production to the table to win games. Success in this sport goes far beyond how one person plays.

    It's irrelevant if player A is better than player B. They both need to be responsible for how they perform. It's easy to find the "face" of a team and heap all of the blame (and credit) on that person, but it also disregards the fact that other players are responsible for a win or loss.

  38. huevonkiller Says:

    Wow what is this? How many teams have two perimeter superstars and another all-star that is still learning to play with them? Thanks for wasting our time.

    Neil I want you to show me how Mike Miller blowing open 3 pointers, or them not getting a missed free throw rebound is not partly luck based?

    They have a weak team after Bosh, and even Bosh kind of sucks this year. Playoff basketball is different and all that matters. When they were 9-8 at the start of the year LeBron and Wade both sucked, now they've at least fixed that.

  39. huevonkiller Says:

    Yes they've run bad plays against New York and Chicago at the end, those are two games. They've lost five in a row. The first Chicago loss was on Bosh, and they needed a 3 just to tie.

    The Portland loss was legit to me, aside from that and a back-to-back with San Antonio, bad coaching cost them.

    Playing Bibby, not worrying about the three pointer against Orlando (double Dwight mindlessly was their strategy in LeBron's 51 point game too), underusing James Jones, Mike Miller being trash, all things that are correctable. Use the right lineups, and right tactics against Orlando.

    I think you've started to panic, honestly I think you've become unreasonable in this instance. SRS going down, lack of homecourt will hurt them. If you want to almost guarantee that they will continue to lose close games based on no kind of sample size, since no team like this has ever been assembled, I think you've lost it.

  40. huevonkiller Says:

    #20

    Hey guy, you know that LeBron was full of this "clutch" gene in the regular season the last two years right? What would doing that again in the 2011 regular season prove? Only the playoffs matter, Mo Williams choking and Anderson Varejao getting lit up already happened. That's on them.

    Dude stop your rambling already. The Magic made Mo Williams and Varejao choke. Z is a has been. You're rewriting history and you're lazy. You won't get a pass from me, Boston was a better team and Cleveland is trash this year. Mr. genius Neil Paine also messed up his defensive analysis of them last year, and overstated their abilities. Now he's overstating these heat's struggles in close games. I'd be more concerned with their lack if depth than bad breaks.

  41. Anon Says:

    "How this plays out will determine whether this most-hyped Miami Heat team will be viewed as a colossal flop or an NBA dynasty in the making."

    I find this comment interesting. Obviously with the Big 3 coming together, everything they do is put under a microscope, every loss is psychoanalyzed, every shot by LBJ is replayed in slow-motion to point out every last flaw in his decision-making. And why not? With that tslent, they're "supposed" to win mutiple titles; statistics be damned.

    One could say "Well, it's just what they get for coming together and showing off in the first place", but it doesn't mean they're any less "exempt" from statistical phenomena than any other team. Regardless of the players that make up the squad.

  42. Anonx2 Says:

    "Wow what is this? How many teams have two perimeter superstars and another all-star that is still learning to play with them? Thanks for wasting our time."

    Boston didn't get fazed in 2008. 66 wins.

  43. Sean Says:

    Even if he was open, you can imagine the backlash against LBJ if Chalmers misses. Then (from the fan/media perspective) it's "LBJ has the slow-footed Joakim Noah on him! He should take it to the hole! Why did he pass? Oh I know, it's because he doesn't want to take the shot!"

    As seen in the other thread, this man is in a lose-lose no matter what he does. If he plays well in a team loss, it's HIS fault. If he doesn't play well in a team loss, it's ALSO HIS fault. If he makes the right basketball play and passes to a wide-open teammate for a shot, he's a "choke artist", doesn't want the be 'the man'", etc. If he takes that shot himself and misses, he's "selfish", "doesn't want to be a 'team player' and run a play", "just wants to go one on five", etc.

    I think this kind of irrational backlash has a lot more to do with how some people feel about LBJ the individual than LBJ the basketball player. Whether they realize this or not.(Anon)

    This was a thought prevoking post for me, Anon. Among them:
    1) If LeBron is in a lose-lose no matter what he does----then why not just do what He knows is the right play, critics be damned?
    2) There is no way anyone thinks critics are making it harder for LeBron to know what the right plays play is, I hope.
    3) There are actually MORE possible outcomes than 'LeBron playing well in a loss' or 'playing bad in a loss' or 'LeBron missing the last shot' or 'LeBron passing off the last shot to the open man'------and some of them are: 'LeBron makes a shot to win the game' and 'LeBron makes the right pass to win a game'. LeBron is NOT doomed. Making a WINNING play is an option.
    4) If LeBron WANTS to control the ball as the point... AND if he also wants to take the last shot-------that makes for a VERRRY predictable and more easily defensed last possession. He's going to have to give up something and not worry about the critics.
    5) Part of LeBron's role as the point that he so desperately wants to play IS to pass the ball to the open man----even on the last shot sometimes.
    6) LeBron just needs to make the RIGHT play.
    7) The Heat just need to win some of these games to make certain criticisms go away.
    8) Some people loathe LeBron and will no matter HOW well he plays. Why is anyone worried about those people?
    9) Some of the ill will that is out there for LeBron has been partly created and cultivated by him, so there has to be a limit to the 'poor LeBron, the martyr' stuff.

  44. AYC Says:

    Dean O has a nice article over at ESPN about how all the Heat stars overdribble and don't play well off the ball.

    Anon, in basketball more than any other team sport, a single great player can make a team good. The Heat have 2 players at that level of greatness, and a third player who is all-star caliber; that should be enough even though the rest of the team is terrible. We have seen teams that are similarly unbalanced win it all (check out the postseason WS stats for the '01 Lakers when you have the time).

    The biggest mistake LBJ made was before the season started; he put playing with his buddies over picking the best basketball situation. If he had gone to the Bulls, he would have all the things the Heat lack: an elite PG, a true low-post scoring threat, and an elite center.

  45. Ryan Says:

    Anon, I think you're right, the media would blame Lebron if he kicked it to Chalmers and Chalmers missed, or if he missed (like he did) over Noah. Since the difference isn't likely more than 10% in FG + or - (hell, even if it were 15%) it's not like it's noticeable, plus the media and general fans aren't usually one to pick up on long term value, they are more results oriented in a single play and result.

    Now, that's the end of it as far as I am concerned. If Lebron is worried about the media critisizing him, then he's in the wrong game. You don't win rings by making the popular plays, decisions or using the fan/media recommended strategies. You make the best play and feel comfortable standing behind it because you have evidence that it is the best play. Period.

    I think it is much more likely that Lebron would not pass to an open Chalmers because he does not feel it improves their chances of winning than Lebron not passing to Chalmers because he's worried about the media.

    The media will gloat about it if they win a ring anyways, or win the game, etc. But I really think it's overstated, the amount that the media is impacting Lebron's actual game decisions. Or even his offseason decisions. If the media had gotten their way, he would be in New York or even Cleveland. Then Chicago. Miami wasn't likely the top choice or even in the top 3 as far as the media (or fans) were concerned. Some camps felt sympathy for Cleveland and said he should stay, others felt he should stay to "finish what he started" or something. Others said NY would give him the major market he wanted. And others said Chicago was the best chance to win now. Not as many mentioned Miami, especially since most didn't think it was possible to do it without sacrificing tons of salary (the big 3 did NOT), which isn't something that really ever happens to such a degree with players in their prime.

    So yea, I'm contending that Lebron would hit Chalmers for the open 3 if he felt it was the best play. The problem is that he likely does not think so, and that's kind of why this team is so inflexible on offense. Neither Wade nor Lebron are willing to think outside of the box, open their mind and realize where the best plays are as a team. Hell, how many bad jumpers have you seen Wade or Lebron take over the years when it was clear that driving (and either getting to the rim or kicking as a double or triple team comes) was the better play? That's not to say Jordan never did that, or Kobe isn't notorious for this. But I might feel something for Lebron, or any of these other players, if I felt they were doing their best to make the best play each and every time. Easier said than done given how much confidence and ego you must automatically have to overcome when you are successful on this high of a level, when on any given night you truly are "the best" in the league when a few shots fall. Still, if you're the best in the world, you should try to be the best in all regards, not just in skill, or ability, but also in decision making, mentality. You don't think Nash doesn't at times feel he's the best scorer on the floor? He still finds a way to make the best basketball decisions more frequently than most anybody else. If only that Lebron Nash guy were truly a combination of the two!

  46. Jeff J. Says:

    @44 "If he had gone to the Bulls, he would have all the things the Heat lack: an elite PG, a true low-post scoring threat, and an elite center."

    Can anyone do a sim on what the Bulls' record would be with Lebron? (AND the Heat's record WITHOUT him?)

  47. Serge Says:

    #41 Anon: Well, it's a fascinating team. If we are to look at MVP shares as a measure of ultimate superstardom, it's been a long time since a team with this degree of "star-power" has been assembled. (Note: I'm neither condemning nor condoning the MVP process, but MVP votes do measure something that pure performance-based metrics do not.) It is a throwback team in that sense. Each new iteration of the CBA gets more restrictive and closes more loopholes. GMs keep getting smarter. We are supposed to be at a point where superteams like this should be a thing of the past, aren't we? That this team was assembled through willful intent and not through getting lucky with draft picks makes them all the more interesting to follow. Yes, these guys painted a big bullseye on their jerseys with their behavior the past summer, but there are other reasons that make this team worthy of close examination besides how they turned people off with off-court demeanor.

    I agree with AYC's post in #44, or at least the stars win games bit (not so much the buddies vs Bulls bit). The Miami Heat are not my home team, and I root for my home team above the rest, but I get raised eyebrows from people when I tell them I'd like to see the Heat win the championship if my home team does not. To me, the Heat represent the idea that great superteams are still possible. I'm not a big fan of parity.

  48. Anonx2 Says:

    The '01 Lakers has 2 dominate players, but one was inside and the other perimeter oriented.

    This team has 2 perimeter oriented player which neither have much of an off the ball game. Their games are to dribble (as Oliver's article points out) and thus teammates don't get in any real send of rhythm.

    The Lebron to Chalmers critique is ridiculous. Did anyone in the media complain when Eddie House hit a game winning shot? Yeah, I thought so.

  49. Anonx2 Says:

    send = sense up there. sorry.

  50. Serge Says:

    #48 Anonx2, seems to me that LBJ was actually praised by the media for the pass to Eddie House. I agree completely. And I agree with the Heat stars having too much overlap in their styles. But as Oliver points out, there are other options available for this team. I have to agree with #45 Ryan in that it does not appear that James and Wade are thinking about where the best plays are.

    Also, where does the responsibility of the coach come into play? Shouldn't the coach be working to get these stars to play off each other rather than encourage the whole "Ok, my turn LeBron!" "Ok, Dwyane, good one, now it's my turn again!" approach that these guys fall into?

  51. slimline Says:

    They desperately need a Kobe for closing minutes..

  52. pag Says:

    Whenever the games are close, heat are usually coming from behind against a good team. Also, theyve only lost 2 games to sub 500 teams, and they usually blow bad teams out....This means most of these close games are against good teams, rather than a team that doesnt have a high margin of victory against bad teams and gets "close games wins" because they can't put them away.

  53. Sean Says:

    The Lebron to Chalmers critique is ridiculous. Did anyone in the media complain when Eddie House hit a game winning shot? Yeah, I thought so.(Anonx2)

    I alluded to the same thing. Anon believes LeBron can't win no matter what he does. But he left out the possible outcome that he makes the right pass and that guy hits his shot (as well as LeBron taking the last shot and actually making it).

    It is useless to have LeBron at point IF he's just always going to shoot it (the last shot). They need to do something less predictable.

    If LeBron MUST take the last shot---have someone else break down the defense as the point. If the Heat don't have anybody to do this-----then the Heat have been moronically assembled.

  54. marparker Says:

    I get in at 3 Heat involved arguments a day. I have been left with no argument except "Let's see in June". This entry is concise and too the point unlike my arguments. I'm glad I read it and can pass it on. Thanks

  55. Sean Says:

    I also think something critical needs to be said about Spoelstra.

    Some people say Spoelstra can't do certain things because LeBron won't go along... even if this is true----Eric Spoelstra is supposedly a MAN, so either exert your authority as a coach or go home. Don't STAY and do nothing. If Spoelstra gets into it with LeBron and loses his job as a byproduct, then management/ ownership is to blame.

    They have to run plays. Their spacing has to be better. They have to figure out the 'how can LeBron be the point AND be the guy taking the last shot AND not have us be ridiculously predictable and easliy defensed in the closing seconds?'

    You gotta break some eggs to make an omlette, Spoelstra. If THESE eggs cry and get you fired----consider yourself lucky. Your NBA coaching future will be more damaged if you sit under the bench whimpering than if you stand up and try to do the right thing (and lose your job in the process).

    There's also the possibility that Eric Spoelstra is incompetent. Either way, team ownership has to dump him (if he's (a) incompetent or (b) unwilling to assert himself and do what needs to be done/ say what needs to be said).

    Shame on ownership for giving Spoelstra a paycheck of he's going to cowtow to LeBron when he thinks (if he thinks) LeBron is going about it wrong and just won't stand up.

  56. Mike Goodman Says:

    Dang, this is just small sample size X cherry picking.
    The Heat are 3-5 on Thursdays. Combine Thu and Sun games, they are 8-9.
    They're 10-2 in games decided by 6 to 8 points.
    That puts them at 15-15 in games decided by 8 or less.

  57. AHL Says:

    One easy way to filter the opinions of those being irrational is the revisionist history done on "Bosh sucking all year" when he was essentially the lone player that could operate in Miami's half court offense, and basically pulled them through their rough starting period, for almost all of the season.

  58. Anon Says:

    "Anon, in basketball more than any other team sport, a single great player can make a team good."

    I did NOT say that wasn't the case, though. But when you can trot one player out there to go one on five, let me know. You still need other people to do their part.

    "Did anyone in the media complain when Eddie House hit a game winning shot? Yeah, I thought so."

    Only because he MADE the shot. The media has been on LBJ before for times he passed the ball to a wide-open teammate that was a miss. My poit is that some people don't realize that the right basketball play was made even if the shot wasn't made; they are only interested in the result.

    Some other valid points on here. I will address them later.

  59. AYC Says:

    #48, I ment to say the '00 Lakers; Shaq was dominant in the postseason for that team, but the rest of the team (including Kobe) was terrible during that run:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/LAL/2000.html

    Anon, you still seem to be missing my main point. How a player produces is as important as how much; LBJ and Wade are great individually, but they are too similar. They don't complement one another like a Shaq and Kobe, or a Magic and Kareem. I can't think of an all-time great duo where the players were so similar to each other. Because of his size, it's on LBJ to differentiate his game by playing inside more; Wade simply isn't capable of changing his game in that way

  60. marparker Says:

    AYC,
    The most dominant duo in my 32 year history of being on Earth were Michael and Scottie. And, that exact argument was being made in 1990. Come on man.

  61. Anon Says:

    "Because of his size, it's on LBJ to differentiate his game by playing inside more; Wade simply isn't capable of changing his game in that way"

    Wade creates alot of his own offense though. He isn't a player who is dependent upon others to create the offense in order to get HIM looks - his main issue this season against good teams is that he doesn't get the whistle when he ventures into the lane for shots. Unlike LBJ, his outside shot isn't as reliable either (from both midrange and from three).

    When Wade is at his best, he gets to the line and his jumper is working to keep the defense honest. Against some of these good defenses this season, that hasn't been the case.

  62. AYC Says:

    #60, MJ and Pippen weren't both dominant scorers. Pip complemented MJ because he didn't need to shoot alot to impact games; he was more of a Magic-type than a scorer. And MJ was a good low-post scorer. The best comparison I can come up with for LBJ and Wade is Baylor and West... but again, Baylor played inside morethan Bron.

    Anon, Wade can only create offense when the ball is in his hands. He isn't a post-player, and he isn't a spot-up shooter running off screens like a Ray Allen; he needs the ball in his hands to be effective... just like Lebron.

  63. marparker Says:

    AYC,
    That response doesn't hold water.

  64. Anon Says:

    "Anon, Wade can only create offense when the ball is in his hands. He isn't a post-player, and he isn't a spot-up shooter running off screens like a Ray Allen; he needs the ball in his hands to be effective... just like Lebron."

    That's not the point though. I'm only saying this to point out that the issue isn't anything LeBron is doing as much as it's been Wade's inept offense when he creates shots (he's not overly dependent on other players for looks). If you watch the games against some of the good defenses this season, Wade does the same thing as he does in any other game - get to the rim for baskets and get to the line. Good defenses take this away from him, so he shoots jumpers from outside. It's more a weakness for him in this regard than with LBJ, who can at least knock down the midrange jumper and 3 ball with more consistency.

    The key to winning these games probably lies with the man that has been complaining about not being involved enough in the offense - Chris Bosh. He's actually been good against these defenses because of his midrange game, and he doesn't turn the ball over alot. The Heat could get him more touches against the Celtics/Magic/Bulls of the world. This will help stretch the floor for other players.

  65. Jim Says:

    To all the people saying Lebron doesn't pass to wide open at the end of games, he did, and got crucified for it.

  66. Jim Says:

    link didn't work, lets try again,Should LeBron have passed?

  67. Doogolas Says:

    I've never posted on here I don't think, but I would like to say that all these comparisons to baseball seem very stupid to me. In baseball, the Cardinals (just for an easy example) can't simply say, "I'm going to give Pujols the last 5 at bats here and let him do his thing." There's far less room for randomness than in basketball at the end of games. You have the best player with the ball in his hands damn near every time, certainly he can't make it every time, but in close games a team with those great ISO players should stand a better chance than teams without them.

    Now, looking at that list, (and I don't know basketball history as well as some) but I'd be interested to know if the teams at the very top have anything close to the caliber of ISO players that the Heat have in both James and Wade. Because at a glance it appears to me that all the teams up there that I know had great, great, great ISO players were at worst .500 in these arbitrarily defined close games but were just so obnoxiously good in games decided by more than 5 that they appear on the list.

    I'm not saying that's for sure the case, but the Jazz, Pistons and Spurs, for example don't have some outrageously talented ISO guy. The Jazz had Malone scoring for them inside but he wasn't going to be taking it at the top of the key and going ISO and I really doubt Stockton would be playing that sort of role either. The Pistons had a lot of very, very good overall players, but nobody anywhere close to a James or Wade in end of game isolation situations. The Spurs, again, have quite a few good players, but Manu and Parker aren't guys I'm terrified of going ISO on me and winning the game, I'd be focused on denying Duncan.

    The 08 Magic, Dwight Howard. But again, nobody that scares me going ISO. The 06 Suns are another one. Sure, Nash is a beast at creating for his teammates, but I'm not worried about him owning me in Isolation. I'm worried about that Amare character.

    The 06 Pacers? I mean, Granger is very good, but not some insane game-changing guy I want the ball in his hands no doubt at the end of a game either.

    Then I look and see these teams:
    08 Celtics: I love Paul Pierce with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. Very good ISO player as far as I've been made aware my entire life. Above .500 in these situations.

    92 and 91 Bulls? MJ? Hell yes. Combined 22-20 and neither team under .500.

    72 Lakers? Isn't Jerry West's nickname "Mr. Clutch?" I imagine he was a good ISO player, though I really couldn't say for sure as I'm no historian.

    So while I'm not 100% sure or anything, I at least feel like it's worth mentioning that most of the teams on this list that I know have very, very, very good ISO players were .500 in these situations and were just so outlandishly good in games decided by more than 5 that they happened to appear on here. Someone would have to help me out with the older teams though.

  68. AYC Says:

    Anon, Wade has been supplanted by James in his former role as primary shot-creator on the team; that's why he has struggled. Of the 3, Lebron has changed the way he plays the least.

    #63, that was weak. If my argument doesn't hold water, you have to explain why not.

  69. Anon Says:

    "Wade has been supplanted by James in his former role as primary shot-creator on the team; that's why he has struggled. Of the 3, Lebron has changed the way he plays the least."

    That has actually been Chris Bosh.

    But I'm just referring to the games against some of these good defenses. Wade has actually been the number one shot creator for the Heat in these games, not LeBron. He has also been the player who has not played as well - once again, he has gotten plenty of touches, but he is not as good as he usually is when he isn't getting to the line with his drives into the paint.

  70. Anon Says:

    Disregard that Bosh statement by the way. I read that post wrong initially.

  71. Sean Says:

    At # 65 & 66:

    Goodness, Jim. I read that link---and I would NOT use 'crucified' as a descriptor.

    Here is the columnist's closing statement: "Doesn't matter how open Marshall was, and it doesn't matter how many defenders were coming at him. It just didn't seem right, and it's an open debate as to whether it was."

    So this writer opines that it's 'open for debate' as to whether James should have passed the ball---------and this is LeBron being 'CRUCIFIED'?!!?? Second-guessed, MAYBE. Crucified? GEEZ. I hope LeBron is tougher than that.

    LeBron James merely needs to make the right decisions and execute plays. There will always be critics-----escpecially amongst the professional media who NEED TO WRITE SOMETHING-----even if it's hogwash and a waste of our time (which I believe this guy's column/ article was).

  72. Serge Says:

    #62 AYC, I think this is what people mean when they say that LBJ and Wade need to learn to play off each other. Pippen and Jordan worked well together because they learned how to compliment each others' abilities, not because they didn't have overlap in their abilities. Indeed, there was a good deal of overlap between what those two could do. But by leveraging their unique abilities, they were able to create for each other. Wade and James can do this too. They shouldn't do it exactly the way Jordan and Pippen did. They need to figure out how for themselves.

  73. huevonkiller Says:

    #42 Nah brah, bad example. The Heat have two superstars with 30+ usage rate, Pierce, Allen, or Rondo are also not superstars.

  74. Sean Says:

    Heat 94 Lakers 88

    Nice 'must have' win for Miami. They do this a few more times and the silence a certain amount of criticism.

    Nice 8/21 night for Kobe. (kidding).

    Nice baseline play by Bosh & only 1 turnover by LeBron.

    Heat had to have it... and don't let anyone fool you---the Lakers wanted this one.

  75. huevonkiller Says:

    #13 Sweet win over your Lakers. Maybe now you can shut it for a few days.

    Neil you better hope the Heat keep losing close games. Way to jump to conclusions like every media hack out there.

    "Oh they've been so unlucky, it must be more than luck" That's your entire argument huh? I see you lack nuance, just like you did when you cherry picked the way to analyze defense for the playoffs.

    The Heat will win 50% of their close games, their lineups have constantly been changing and Spo has been a little off his game with defensive tactics.

    And Bosh has not been the same player he once was, but if they can defend it won't matter. Defend and take care of the ball.

  76. huevonkiller Says:

    Oh and Wade is also 1-8 in game tying or winning situations at the end of games, and he's shooting 35%. The media loves to blame the least likeable guy, but Wade needs to improve against elite defenses. He can create his shot against any team he should be doing much better regardless of what James does.

    And Legler is on tv now making excuses for why the Heat's win didn't count. Not surprising, we'll see what happens in the post-season.

  77. huevonkiller Says:

    *shooting 35% in 82games.com crunch time.

  78. AYC Says:

    #72, Jordan and Pippen were not similar offensive players. Here are the career usage and efficiency numbers for both duos:

    MJ 33.3 Usg%, .569 TS%
    SP 22.5 Usg%, .536 TS%

    LBJ 31.9 Usg%, .564 TS%
    DWD 32.6 Usg%, .566 TS%

    Which one doesn't belong? Let's not give Pippen too much credit for a Bull offense loaded with highly efficient shooters like MJ, Paxson, BJ, Ho Grant, Kerr, and Kukoc

  79. Pag Says:

    Lebron is the best player of all time. That statement makes a lot of people mad because they have different beliefs. Most people believe in Jordan or Wilt, and some new schoolers believe in Kobe. But, when it comes to the Greatest, Tell me something that the greatest player of the nba has done that Lebron hasnt at this "age" of his career. Lebron is jus turning 26 jordan didnt win till her was 27

  80. Sean Says:

    Lebron is the best player of all time. That statement makes a lot of people mad >>>>>>>

    It also makes some people giggle.

  81. Sean Says:

    At # 78:

    AYC, Pippen also wasn't trying to be 2 things---say the primary point AND the game closer.

  82. Anon Says:

    "#72, Jordan and Pippen were not similar offensive players. Here are the career usage and efficiency numbers for both duos..."

    Nice for you to use the data, and yet when I tell you that Wade and not LeBron is the primary shot-creator in games against top defenses you seem to got an issue with that.

    Just find this interesting.

  83. Sean Says:

    At # 76:

    I was watching Legler last night, Heuvonkiller---and I agree with you on Legler. He shouldn't have been so eager to poo-pooh that win last night for Miami. I thought they had to have it, they went out and they got it-----and they got it partly because they CLOSED better than the Lakers, NAMELY Kobe. I am not picking sides---but that's what happened.

    Now, let's be honest all the way around. To ME, there is at least a little bit of irony that after ONE recent instance of the Heat CLOSING against a good team-----that anybody would sound off nastily against folks who have been critical of the Heat's multiple recent failures in these situations because the people being critical of the Heat were 'jumping to conclusions'.

    After finally getting it right ONCE in quite a while, wouldn't we be 'jumping to conclusions' be overstating the Heat's new-found modus operandi?

    I'd like to see MORE of this from them before I do exactly what others are being accused of (jumping to conclusions). I thought Legler threw too much cold water on that win last night----but I'm not about to go crazy the OTHER way just yet.

  84. Anon Says:

    "After finally getting it right ONCE in quite a while, wouldn't we be 'jumping to conclusions' be overstating the Heat's new-found modus operandi?"

    As others have noted above however, it's impossible to conclude with the data if the Heat's record is in close games is mostly a function of luck or an "inability" to close games.

    The funny thing is, they won a close game last night - and because it was a six-point win and not five it doesn't count in their record.

  85. huevonkiller Says:

    #84 Yeah good point, amazing how that works out. The Heat closed out too good because LeBron hit two free throws at the end of the game.

    #83 That's the thing though, I don't think it is just this "once". The Heat have been unfortunate in a lot of close games, yet Neil dares to come on here and talk about their inability to close out games. It is the regular season, a small sample size, and things are still being experimented on. If Neil was foolish enough to listen to the Media, the 9-8 Heat would have never been in a position to have a better record than the Lakers right now.

  86. Anon Says:

    Neil's a good analyst, Huevon. He always seeks to be objective in his write-ups; he isn't here to simply "parrot" what the media says.

  87. Neil Paine Says:

    Hey Huevon, you keep harping on something I supposedly wrote regarding defense, yet every time I ask you to produce a link, you suddenly clam up. I still have no idea what you're talking about, and I don't think any of the other readers do, either. So put up or shut up... either show me what you're talking about or stop obliquely referring to it, OK?

  88. Serge Says:

    #78 AYC, the reference to USG% is valid and I agree. I knew I was reaching a bit when I said Jordan and Pippen were similar.

    #84 and every other post describing how "games decided by 5 points or less" is an inadequate criteria for close games, how would you have done it instead?

    I personally think "Games with a margin of 5 points or less entering the final minute of the game" makes more sense than the final score.

  89. AYC Says:

    Anon, that was career data. I don't know what the data is for Wade and Lebron as teammates this year against the elite teams... have you seen that data, or are you just guessing? All I can say is what I've seen with the naked eye: Lebron dominating the ball while the other 4 players stand around and watch(at the end of games); which is exactly what we saw in Cleveland. I could be wrong; I haven't watched all their games (if anybody wants to pay me a salary to watch every game, I'll do it). If you have their stats against the elite teams, please post them, or provide a link.

  90. AYC Says:

    PS All this talk of randomness gets on my nerves. Basketball isn't a series of coin tosses, or dice rolls. Players aren't machines, they are thinking beings. How can you attribute success or failure to randomness when human agency and intentionality are involved? Miami has not struggled merely due to chance.

  91. Neil Paine Says:

    Here was Brian Burke's definition of luck/randomness/chance/etc. in sports:

    http://www.advancednflstats.com/2007/08/what-i-mean-by-luck.html

  92. Anon Says:

    "PS All this talk of randomness gets on my nerves."

    To be fair AYC, in one respect I absolutely agree with you. This is better suited for a philosophy discussion though.

    "I don't know what the data is for Wade and Lebron as teammates this year against the elite teams... have you seen that data, or are you just guessing?"

    No I've looked at the data. Let's just look at their recent five-game losing streak:

    Knicks 25 USG
    Magic 30 USG
    Spurs 42 USG (26 min of play)
    Bulls 37 USG
    Blazers 36 USG

    He led in team in every game but the Knicks game. He's been the Heat's primary shot-creator, and he has been again in the Lakers game.

    Of course, as noted many times on here there''s more to basketball than creating shots.

  93. AYC Says:

    I assume those rates were for Wade. What were the rates for LBJ? What were their respective rates for the 4th quarter? What are their rates in games against the top 10 teams?

  94. AYC Says:

    Neil, wouldn't you agree that there is less randomness in BBall than in the other team sports? The nature of the game is so different from football, baseball, hockey and soccer. In those sports you can shut out an opponent, and win a game with a single score. In basketball, the majority of possessions result in a score, and a hundred possessions or more(per team) isn't unusual. In effect, you have a lot more "tosses of the coin" in a BBall game than any other sport. That's why upsets are much rarer in the NBA playoffs.

  95. Neil Paine Says:

    I agree, basketball is by far the most "deterministic" of the major sports. That doesn't mean chance plays no part in its outcomes, but it plays a much smaller role than in the other sports you mention. The best team in a given season typically wins the NBA title 50% of the time, vs. 20-25% for baseball or the NFL.

  96. Nick Says:

    "I personally think "Games with a margin of 5 points or less entering the final minute of the game" makes more sense than the final score."

    I'd probably go with with 5 at any point in the last two minutes of the game, personally. The final score is a pretty horrible metric for deciding "closeness" of a game.

  97. huevonkiller Says:

    #87

    Um ok buddy, no problem.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=6605

    This is the thread where you ignorantly use defensive rating, instead of individual defense. You had no clue at the time what occurred in the Cavs-Celtics series, and the way the Cavs play defense now validates me further. LeBron's teammates were atrocious on defense but Pierce got locked up.

    Neil honestly, you're a media hack now. You got caught up in the "closer" nonsense and you use this cherry picked sample size to make your vague point. I know your objective, most of the time. You are also human and you better hope the Heat keep losing these "close" games.

  98. huevonkiller Says:

    I would have produced the link sooner, but I was busy. :]

  99. huevonkiller Says:

    *I know you are objective

    #86 I always thought he was a good analyst, but he is indeed a media parrot right now.

  100. Neil Paine Says:

    Wow, that's what you've been talking about this whole time? You're bent out of shape because the Dean Oliver stats gave Kobe an edge on defense? Get a grip.

  101. huevonkiller Says:

    Damn Neil you sure responded to that fast, I didn't know I was that important.

    You said it so smugly, like you just knew LeBron had no chance to be better on defense. Wrong, he locked your guy up and he was trash. Even Dean Oliver needs to take into account mitigating circumstances. The individual PER in this case was so obviously skewed in LeBron's favor.

  102. Neil Paine Says:

    All of my readers are important.

    With that example, I was trying to weigh all of the evidence at hand. I admit that I don't take individual DRtg as seriously now (compared to DSPM) as I did then, but it was a piece of evidence to use at the time. Just like calculating that it was statistically unlikely for a true .500 team to go 5-for-18 in a given set of games. This has nothing to do with bias against LeBron James, but everything to do with reliance on the numbers (for better or for worse).

  103. Neil Paine Says:

    And for the record, if you asked me now who played better in the 2010 playoffs vs. Boston, I'd follow this post and say they essentially played at the same level:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=6618

  104. Sean Says:

    Neil sez: All of my readers are important.>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I have to agree. I can only imagine how badly Neil winces at some of the things I say here---------> yet he is fast to respond when I address him directly. I give Neil a lot of credit for the job he does.

  105. Mike Goodman Says:

    "They're 10-2 in games decided by 6 to 8 points.
    That puts them at 15-15 in games decided by 8 or less."

    ""I personally think "Games with a margin of 5 points or less entering the final minute of the game" makes more sense than the final score."

    I'd probably go with with 5 at any point in the last two minutes of the game, personally. The final score is a pretty horrible metric for deciding "closeness" of a game."

    Good points all.
    A close game in which the Heat put away the opponent in the final minute, winning by more than 5, is removed from consideration.

  106. Sean Says:

    I think regardless of how one operationally defines a 'close game'-----I remain unimpressed with the Heat's sets when they need a basket late. These sets are deployed by many teams late in games when one's possessions are coming to an end. The LeBron has the ball at the top/ everyone clear out with apparently ZERO attention paid to spacing/ LeBron drives the lane against multiple bigs thingy just isn't working out that great.

    They could do better. They MUST do better---or LeBron could simply get really good at making those kinds of shots. The status quo cannot be what they were hoping for.