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2011 NBA Finals Series Win Probability After Game 5

Posted by Neil Paine on June 9, 2011

Dallas' Series Win Probability Graph after Game 5 (Dallas leads 3-2):

Dallas' Quarter-by-Quarter Series Win Probability Data:

Minutes Elapsed p(win)
0 46.7%
Game 1
12 48.0%
24 48.8%
36 42.3%
48 33.8%
Game 2
60 34.3%
72 34.9%
84 29.3%
96 54.0%
Game 3
108 46.0%
120 46.0%
132 45.9%
144 30.9%
Game 4
156 30.3%
168 27.2%
180 21.7%
192 45.0%
Game 5
204 43.0%
216 48.3%
228 53.4%
240 64.0%

(For more info on the Series Win Probability methodology, click here)


64 Responses to “2011 NBA Finals Series Win Probability After Game 5”

  1. Anon Says:

    Hard to beat a team that shoots 68% from 3. Some of those were uncontested, but many of them were rainbows and prayers, including that side-armer from Terry with the shot clock expiring. Meanwhile, MIA was feasting inside.

    The charge call on LeBron late was a big shift. In an odd way, MIA can come away feeling pretty good in Game 6, based on how DAL did it.

  2. Anon2 Says:

    Everybody knows that the Mavs are an excellent three-point shooting team. Try asking the Lakers.

  3. Scott Kacsmar Says:

    Same exact win-loss w/respect to homecourt order as last year's Finals. Boston couldn't win either elimination game in LA. I think Dallas can get one in Miami if low-scoring LeBron continues to show up.

  4. Anon Says:

    @2: They've shot 40, 35, 21, and 38% from 3 this series. Maybe they've found their stroke, but as I said, visually, many of them were not high percentage looks. They still count though.

  5. Anon Says:

    "I think Dallas can get one in Miami if low-scoring LeBron continues to show up."

    That happened because he hit Chalmers/Miller for good shots instead. Offense wasn't the problem in this game.

  6. Anon Says:

    @5 No one is ever going to give LeBron a break no matter how often he makes the correct play. He's brought that onto himself, fairly or unfairly. If they win Game 6 and 7, no one will ever remember how the finals went. If they lose, Game 3 and Game 4 is on his A-roll for the rest of his career.

    Anyone know what the vegas odds are for the series at this point?

  7. Anon Says:

    You also gotta love the obvious media agenda in this series. "Dallas holds LBJ to 2 4th quarter points..." Wait, apparently the "stats people dont watch the games", but were they NOT paying attention to the 4 assists in the quarter? He would've had more in the 4th if the recipient of the LBJ pass didn't get fouled on the shot.

  8. Luke Says:

    I don't know how I feel about that game. Dallas shot the lights out. Wade's injury killed Miami. LeBron had a triple-double but didn't do much in the 4th... And the Heat were still in the game until about a minute left. I have no idea what to expect in Game 6.

  9. Anon Says:

    "He's brought that onto himself, fairly or unfairly."

    Lemme guess, "The Decision" right? Don't like "his ego"? Thankfully I don't care about these things about athletes, otherwise players like MJ wouldn't even be in my top 100. I only care about the on-court play.

    (And no, I'm not along to myself.)

  10. Anon Says:

    *TALKING to myself. Love spelling.

  11. PBRfan Says:

    @8: (I changed my name to clear up the confusion.)

    I'm actually a huge James fan. I think he's being treated very unfairly by the press. I didn't even mind the Decision. MJ was a much bigger DB than James has ever been. I probably should have said "he's brought that onto himself, unfairly."

    My point at the end is that he fortunately has a chance to erase all of this by winning Game 6 and 7. I'd probably say MIA has a 60% chance of closing out in MIA. That James charge goes the other way in MIA. DAL will not shoot 68% from 3 point again.

  12. sean Says:

    LeBron has been a jerk. But you have to separate that from his play if you wish to be fair to yourself in your evaluation of him. Yeah, he has invited all kinds of criticism, but as (one of the?) Anon(s) said-----put that aside and talk basketball.

    17/ 10/ 10 is a REALLY nice game. 4 fourth quarter assists is pretty darned good. And the Heat scored over 100 points, so LeBron had his hand in quite a bit of the scoring. He did post up rather effectively early in the game... but why not in the 4th Quarter?

    To be fair, LeBron called this game 'the biggest of his career'. 2 points (on a late driving layup that didn't impact the game)in the 4th Quarter, you know.... just ISN'T enough. He played solidly. He was better than solid. But I just get the feeling I've been swindled by the build-up. I though Mount St. LeBron would errupt. Maybe in Miami? I though for sure with Wade in the lockerroom, you'd see LeBron have all the carte blanche he needed to 'take over'. He doesn't appear to be THAT player, though. Very hard to quantify him. He got back on Marion's missed layup------he totally gets credit for taking that '2' off the board. But then Terry stuck a 3 in his face. Should he get Dirk late?

    If Miami protects home court, LeBron gets a ring. That simple. I also think it's obvious that he doesn't care HOW that's achieved--------which, IMO, is a credit to him. He doesn't appear to care about legacy to any degree that would interfere with winning... but the question still remains: is what he is doing going to result in winning?

    GREAT series.

  13. PBRfan Says:

    I'm seeing one line of MIA -6 in Game 6. That seems about right to me.

  14. Scott Kacsmar Says:

    17/10/10 is a nice game if you're a mid-level PG, not LeBron James. And it's the weakest triple-double of his career. If you don't believe me, go check out his game finder. The few other times he just barely hit the 10 assists and 10 rebound marks, he scored 30 and 40 points. Not 17, the 3rd lowest he's ever had in a triple-double. Usually he scores 26+ when he gets a triple-double, a mark he has yet to hit in 10 career Finals games.

    And it's indefensible. This guy is 3rd all time in reg. season PPG and 5th in the playoffs. You don't do that by being a passive player. He's done that because he's one of the best scorers in NBA history. He does the other things too, but scoring is the constant. Just in this series, the best chance he's had at winning a title yet, he is not playing the way he is capable of playing, and that's a problem when you're a player that's as highly regarded as LeBron. He'll have his chance at home to shine, but if he doesn't, he's going to get a storm of criticism, and a good chunk of it will actually be deserved.

  15. PBRfan Says:

    @12 agree with all of that. Has been a great series.

    Thing is, you can't point to much that James did wrong in the 4th quarter. He was making all the right passes. I thought his 2 pull up jumpers (1 from 3) were the wrong play because MIA was just murdering DAL inside up to that point. Seemed like he settled there. The charge call was a back breaker. Close call; probably goes to the home team. He gets the 3 point play there and the 4th quarter looks and feels very different.

  16. sean Says:

    @ #14...

    Scott, you're not saying anything wrong. I'm just really wrestling with what this guy is. I think a lot of us thought we knew... but I just dunno anymore. Part of me feels like I'm watching 'Tin Cup'-----and LeBron is playing Costner INSISTING he can win THIS way.

    @ #15...

    PBRfan, right.... there isn't much that James did wrong in the 4th quarter. But he's better than 'avoiding the wrong', isn't he? He's more than a cog. When is he going to be GREAT in the 4th quarter.

    Larry Bird scored 20 points against Dominique Wilkins in the 4th quarter of the ECSF in 1988? LeBron doesn't have to do THAT-------but he's gotta be GREATER than he's been in these 4th quarters, doesn't he?

  17. Persefone Says:

    Mavs were overdue for a shooting game.

    they have 3 (maybe 4) of the best 3 point shooters in the history of the game.
    I'm impressed Miami could hold them down in the first 4 games though

  18. sean Says:

    Although Scott, 17/ 10/ 10 IS probably better than a nice game for a mid-level PG, no? I hear what you're saying-------but 17/ 10 /10 for almost anybody NOT calling it the 'biggest game of his life' is HUGE.

  19. Anon Says:

    No problem, PBRFan.

    Sean, LBJ scored 2 points in the fourth because 1) he shares the ball with Wade, who's another high-usage player, and 2) he helped the Heat score 8 4th quarter points off his assists. 9 if you count the Bosh free throw that came as a result of a LBJ pass. Like I said, with him and Wade also scoring and assisting the offense wasn't the issue here.

  20. Anon Says:

    Also, that Terry three summed up the night for the Mavs. LBJ dared him to take that shot, and Terry in his arrogance launched a sidearmer from 5 feet behind the line, lol. Swish.

  21. Anon Says:

    "I thought his 2 pull up jumpers (1 from 3) were the wrong play because MIA was just murdering DAL inside up to that point."

    To his credit, LBJ's first jumper over Kidd (gotta give him credit for his D) shows his confidence in the midrange jumper that he has worked hard on polishing over the years and has done well with in the playoffs. Can't fault him for that.

    The three I agree is more of a settle, but I've seen him make that shot before, too.

  22. PBRfan Says:

    @20: The Terry side arm 3, Barea's rainbow 3s, and Dirk's rainbow 3. They all went in and they all count, but probably not a sustainable strategy for DAL in Game 6.

  23. themojojedi Says:

    LeBron better hope that the mid-range and outside game is waiting for him in Miami, because by my quick calculations he is 3-26 on shots 10 feet and out, starting from half-time in Game 2 up to the end of Game 5.

  24. Anon Says:

    "The few other times he just barely hit the 10 assists and 10 rebound marks, he scored 30 and 40 points."

    He also played in CLE, where he wasn't sharing the ball with Wade/Bosh.

    The only blemish is his 8-19 from the field. Fine, turn it into 10-19 with both of them 3s. That's 23/10/10, while taking care of the ball and 50+% shooting. Mavs win the game by 3 (they won by 9). Still think the Heat offense was the weak link?

  25. Luke Says:

    @12 Good points. And yes, this is one of the best Finals in the last decade. Maybe the Celtics-Lakers in '08 and '10 were better just because of the legacies and history involved, but '08 wasn't altogether that great, and '10 had it's moments and Game 7 was incredible because of the intensity, but not every game was insanely good/competitive like this series has been. It'll depend on how the last game or two plays out to decide where it ranks with those two, and it might end up being the best since Chicago-Utah.

  26. Luke Says:

    To amend my above comment, 2005 between San Antonio and Detroit was really competitive and underrated. But nobody watched it or cared other than die hard NBA fans and fans of those teams, so it's hard to rank it up there when the vast majority of people don't even remember that it happened.

  27. themojojedi Says:

    22. Stranger things have happened. Mario Chalmers quarter-ending buzzer beaters have become old reliable for the Heat :)

  28. Kevin Rossen Says:

    LeBron has been raked over the coals by the media for sure. In Games 4 & 5 there were two problems from him. 1) He wasn't scoring, which is the that most media-types look at first. And 2) Jason Terry was scoring with LBJ guarding him. That may be a bigger slam against him than anything else.

  29. themojojedi Says:

    Neil, I was wondering whether you have quick access to the pre-Finals WS and PER for Wade and James?

    From memory Wade was about 1.2 or 1.3 WS behind James and now the two are essentially even at 3.8. That's an enormous swing in just 5 games.

  30. sean Says:

    @ #19...

    Yep, Anon. I really do NOT think 'LeBron is messing up' so much as maybe some of us have to re-assess what he is. For example, YES---he's playing nice basketball... but is that the bill of goods we were all sold? Whether the Heat win or lose the series, this level of play that LeBron is demonstrating probably fails to meet expectations (for many)that have been set.

    I don't feel right now that the story is that one can/ should BLAME LeBron (hey, look---I still think Miami defends home court and wins this thing)... it's just that I think I was looking for more out of him than this---and rather than try to play his performance off as bad (which it is NOT), I have to adjust what type of player he is and what can be expected of him.

  31. sean Says:

    I think there was A LOT of shots going in for BOTH sides last night. The Mavs results from 3 were pretty remarkable. That probably won't be replicated, but as someone intimated-------will Mario Chalmers be lights out for entire halves going forward either? There IS a trend it seems, that may be repeated more, though: James not taking over the game in the 4th Quarter and the Mavs finishing well. Both of those trends which ARE very repeateable, would bode well for Dallas.

    On the flip side, last night, the Mavs got 30 points from Barrea and Kidd. Is THAT happening again?

  32. Anon Says:

    Sean, of course he could play better. The point about "expectations" though is kinda silly (not yours here, I'm mainly referring to the talking heads in the media and the casual fan) because these expectations were always going to be set at impossibly high levels. We've seen LBJ torch teams before (um, '09 ECF? Perhaps the best single individual series I've seen by a player in awhile), only to be written off because "he didn't win". Remember, before LBJ joined Miami, the mantra of the (irrational) LBJ narrative was "only the W matters, not the stats". Apparently these same people pulled a John Kerry flip-flop in this narrative when they slammed LBJ for his game 3 performance IN A HEAT WIN.

    Anything short of LBJ winning a Finals ring, Finals MVP, going 50/30/20 and fixing the US economy is met with scrutiny, and some were even willing to write that off because "LBJ plays alongside Wade and Bosh". So as you can see, I could give two cents about what people's "expectations" of LBJ are. We know this has more to do with LBJ off the court than him on the court.

  33. Albert Says:

    23. I think this is an undermentioned point. Lebron is at his best when his outside shot (not necessarily 3 pt) is falling, making it easier for him to get to the rim. Great wing players rarely have monster scoring nights when their outside shot isn't falling (or if they do, it comes at the expense of FG%). Looking at Lebron's game 5 shot chart, he shot 1-9 from beyond 9 ft. That's not going to get it done.

    While watching game 4, I didn't think Lebron was playing terribly. I know the stats look bad, and his FG% was worse than I thouhght. In game 5, he played well, though not spectacularly. Yes, he had a triple double. Was it a monster-sized triple double? Not really. In fact, his lines of 17/10/10 and 8/9/7 the last two games are more reminiscent of Jason Kidd's numbers. You want a monster triple double? Look no further than Chris Paul's 27/13/15 on 7/14 shooting, 11-11 from the line performance from game 3 of the first round.

    What I wouldn't have predicted is that Miami needs Lebron to be great, not good, for them to win. If he plays only okay, Wade plays well, and Bosh plays kind of eh, the Heat are only able to keep it close with the Mavs. I would've thought that things would be different from the Cleveland days where if James had an off night, they were doomed. I guess that's why it's the Finals, and why the Mavs are so good.

  34. Anon Says:

    Good points Albert. You're looking at one side of the court though - 130 points yield per 100 possessions doesn't win game either. The Hea certainly could've won this game with a "meh" LBJ game if they played the defense that got them to the Finals.

  35. marparker Says:

    Lebron is having trouble turning the corner without falling down right now. I don't know where this came from but he seems to fall everytime he gets his shoulders over his toes. I think this is why he is being so passive.

    There have been 20 quarters. Dallas has been favored to win after only 3 of them.

    I didn't believe anyone could go 7 games with Miami. Now, they are on the verge of elimination. At least I'm getting to watch a great series. I thought Dallas would finally stay on the mat when Miami went up 4 in the 4th. Nope. They got up swinging.

  36. sean Says:

    Anon, I definitely think there is a group of people who detest James and therefore NOTHING will be 'good enough'.

    There are also people (not you) who curiously make excuses (including that LeBron is getting older!) that when read aloud, do NOT lead one to believe that LeBron could have ever soberly been heaped with so much hype and praise.

    I think there's plenty of room IN BETWEEN those extremes, though. LeBron's been good. He hasn't been GREAT. I thought I was going to see GREAT. He doesn't have to go 50/ 30/ 20 for A LOT of reasonably critical people to view his play as GREAT.

    But he's gotta be better than THIS. I think the more his level of play in these Finals is defended, the more it becomes apparent that he's NOT the player people thought he was... and many of those people are NOT unrealistic or unreasonable. And the people who 'like' what they see out of him in this series and are 'OK' with it must have had expectations for him that weren't GREAT to begin with (which means they understood what to expect from him better than the rest). He just hasn't been GREAT. Most players aren't.

    I look at the games and I don't look to get stars off the hook. I think LeBron was supposed to be somebody that you didn't judge on whether he did just enough to not put blame on him. I thought he would be GREAT.

  37. Adam Says:

    I love these data points!! Great work, keep it up!!

  38. Dan Says:

    Let me add a point without propping up (or bringing down) LeBron:

    MIA did exactly what they needed to do - get home-court advantage back. To nearly every other team in history, this would've been considered a "victory" of sorts. Since it's the Heat, though, they have to turn straw into gold before people acknowledge the same.

  39. Albert Says:

    Good point, Anon. I haven't looked too much into the defensive stats of the series, only some video breakdowns of late game plays (courtesy of BBallBreakdown and NBA Playbook). I don't need stats to know that the Heat aren't playing the same kind of lockdown D they played against Boston and Chicago, however. Lebron suffers more in the public eye when he's not only struggling on offense but also being scored on by Terry on defense. While Lebron's game 1 performance was notable for his solid offensive production (24/9/5, 9-16), what stuck out to me was his defense on Terry late. Unfortunately for the Heat, Jet has had 8 pts in each of the past two fourth quarters.

    The Heat's late game failures have been on both sides of the ball, however. I'm not accusing you of this, but I do think the players' post game repetition of "our offense isn't the problem, we need to focus better on defense" is a little lazy. Then again, most of the questions they're being asked after the game are lazy and asinine. But that's another story . . .

    How many good shots have the Heat gotten off in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter the last two games? How many TOs did they have late in game 4? Yes, they need to get more stops, and yes, "defense wins championships." But they also need to run better offense late.

  40. Anon Says:

    "But he's gotta be better than THIS. I think the more his level of play in these Finals is defended, the more it becomes apparent that he's NOT the player people thought he was... and many of those people are NOT unrealistic or unreasonable."

    Agree with you first point. Don't agree with your second one - a five-game sample isn't exactly a good representation of a player's career. Wade was still a top 5 player in the league before AND after the garbage series he played against the Bulls. Kobe Bryant is one of the all-time greats, and he stunk it up more than a landfill on a hot summer's day in the most important game of the playoffs in 2010.

    That's because In basketball, you win in one of three ways:
    1) good offense
    2) good defense
    3) a combination of the two

    and this ultimately is a TEAM EFFORT. You would think people who use team wins and titles as a referendum of LBJ's career would get by now that the Heat could very well be the ones up 3-2 regardless (or win the series) regardless of how LBJ plays on the offensive end. Think about it Sean - the Heat DEFINITELY got a better offensive game from Bron in game 5 than game 4, and the Mavs won game 5 by EIGHT MORE POINTS! It's not like LBJ was the one responsible for the Mavs hot 3-point shooting either; many of them came from either the Heat guard/big not playing the pick and roll correctly or simply because the stars were out for the Mavs last night from 3. Some of those shots were ridiculous.

    We've seen stars play crappy in a win and legendary in a loss, even in championship wins and losses. Are we as basketball fans going to "get" that it's a team game yet?

  41. sean Says:

    Anon in #40....

    Agree with you first point. Don't agree with your second one - a five-game sample isn't exactly a good representation of a player's career. Wade was still a top 5 player in the league before AND after the garbage series he played against the Bulls. Kobe Bryant is one of the all-time greats, and he stunk it up more than a landfill on a hot summer's day in the most important game of the playoffs in 2010.>>>>>>>>>>>

    If someone said 'LeBron isn't really playing great/ he is much better than he is showing'------I'd be in tune with that....

    ...BUT... it sounds like people are saying that LeBron's Finals so far are nothing to be critical about--------which is something entirely different. Acceptance of his level of play in these Finals (so far) SUGGESTS that this is all that can be expected of him and that expecting more is being unreasonable.

    And that might be TRUE about LeBron. Maybe this IS as good as he is. I just don't think it's that GREAT. I actually am giving him MORE credit than his supporters are. I thought he was BETTER than this. His supporters are admitting he's NOT when they find little to nothing wrong with his performance.

    They're saying: 'here it is... this is LeBron... this is what you get.' I thought there was MORE.

    He's ONE OF 2 THINGS in these Finals: (1) Not a better player than he's shown and thus people should back off and lower their expectations or (2) He's better than this---but his performance thus far is below him and with Miami down 3-2, his performance IS ripe for critique.

    I was thinking it was more #2....... but maybe I ought to rethink that and slide more to #1.

    If this is his top gear, he's just not that GREAT. If this isn't his top gear-------then it's justified to ask critically: WHERE IS IT? I think he's BETTER than this. With that, comes some justified criticism, though.

  42. sean Says:

    Sean - the Heat DEFINITELY got a better offensive game from Bron in game 5 than game 4, and the Mavs won game 5 by EIGHT MORE POINTS! It's not like LBJ was the one responsible for the Mavs hot 3-point shooting either; many of them came from either the Heat guard/big not playing the pick and roll correctly or simply because the stars were out for the Mavs last night from 3. Some of those shots were ridiculous.

    Anon, I look at you as one of the most well thought out guys here. Even when we disagree, I always walk away saying "he's got as point" Lol. And you're making points all over the place AGAIN, as you typically do.

    And it's not even that I'm disagreeing with most/ much of what you're saying.

    Miami DID get a better offensive game from LeBron and still lost by more. Other players played badly defensively. It's all true.

    I'm not interested, though, in whether other players played poorly or if the Mavs were ridiculously hot....I just wanna know when LeBron is going to be GREAT. And if someone is saying that this IS LeBron being great-------then LeBron's 'great' ain't AS great as I thought it was.

    Lemme type 'great' some more----I think I win something if I do. Greatgreatgreatgreat.... LOl.

  43. Anon Says:

    "If this is his top gear, he's just not that GREAT. If this isn't his top gear-------then it's justified to ask critically: WHERE IS IT?"

    Were you watching the playoffs prior to the Finals?

    Someone needs to insert one of ElGee's "cognitive bias" articles on LBJ right here...

  44. Anon Says:

    Seasn, I would like LBJ to be great as well. Maybe you'll see it in game 6.

    I'm just not going to judge his career greatness based on a mere five game sample size. I didn't do it for Wade in the ECF when he played like Dwayne Wayne (see "A Different World" on Google) than Dwyane Wade. And neither should you for LBJ here. Of course, you'll probably say that "You gotta play well in the Finals!" but this brings us back to the question if Finals games are truly more important than other games IN RETROSPECTIVE when winning a title. They're not - and Wade should be thanking his friend LBJ like LBJ in that series because he wouldn't be "redeeming" himself in the Finals without him and have people blasting LBJ as a player as a result simply because they are influenced by the recency effect (look that one up as well).

  45. Anon Says:

    *thanking his friend LBJ FOR PLAYING like LBJ in that series...

  46. Neil Paine Says:

    Finals games really are more important from a win expectancy standpoint, though. In the ECF, the teams were playing to raise their p(championship) from roughly 25% to 50%. Now the Mavs and Heat have been playing to raise it from 50% to 100%. That basically makes performance in the Finals twice as important as performance in the ECF. Each team's hypothetical "2011 championship leverage index" has never been higher than in this series, and when evaluating these playoffs in retrospect, you absolutely have to account for that.

    Are metrics that take leverage into account (like Win Probability Added) predictive? No, the "clutch" aspect actually makes them less predictive. But as I've said many times, there's a big difference between 'ability' and 'value'. Ability should take into account the entirety of LeBron's season, as big a sample as possible, and weigh all of it equally. But value has to account for the fact that in the biggest series of the season, the importance of which compares to the regular-season like VY Canis Majoris compares to the Sun, LeBron has not shifted into his "top gear".

  47. marc Says:

    best Mavs players:Chandler, Nowitzki
    best Heat players:Wade, Chalmers and James
    In that order.
    No comment.

  48. Bill Says:


    You know what Michael Jordan never did? Got a triple-double in the Finals.

    James isn't a Jordan-clone. (That's Kobe) That's not necessarily a bad thing. Jordan was incapable of success without good teammates (never got above 0.500 before Pippen -- a top-50 all-time player -- arrived) and neglected them badly even when he had them. The reason the Paxson 3 to beat Phoenix was so surprising is that Jordan, for better or worse, never passed in the clutch. His teams also lost a lot of games because of it.

    LBJ is something else. He's like Larry Bird in Dr. J's body, but his mindset appears to be somewhere in between the two. He also suffers a bit from Wilt syndrome. Sometimes it's hard to get up when the game comes so easily.

  49. DJ Says:

    43: how about this...
    It has been repeatedly shown that humans do not reason in accordance with the dictates of mathematical or probabilistic logic. (See the work of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and their numerous colleagues and students.)

    One particular bias is that a specific salient example will skew our judgment, so, for example, after a famous DC-10 crash, people all wanted to fly on other aircraft, even though the DC-10's overall safety record was much better, and it was shown that the cause of the crash was mechanic's error (they forgot to tighten a bolt).

    The statistics say that James is an elite player...elite elite...inner circle elite. But then people see one bad game and that's the end of it. Nope, he had a bad game; he can't be great.

    If I were a betting man, and you ask me whether James is (1) going to show up and play like he has in the first five games of the series, or whether he's (2) going to show up and play in line with his career norms, or his career playoff norms, I'm going with option #2.

    If James is the DC-10, he's got the better safety record than pretty much anyone, but it happens that his few crashes came at notable moments. So people misjudge the importance of those moments in assessing him.

    James's statistics are so good that logically/rationally/mathematically only a nut would try to dismiss him as anything less than one of the best players ever. But, as research has shown, humans are nutty in that way.

    That being said, I don't think I've ever seen a great player wear such a hang-dog look as James has late in playoff games that he's losing but are in reach. And even if his stats were off the board, I think that such body language doesn't help the team.
    My memory is a little foggy--was it game 6 against Boston in 2010 when James had monster stats, but at the end, the game was in reach and he just seemed to be walking it up taking his time? I wouldn't blame James for the loss, but I would say that even though he carried his team through the first 40 minutes of that game, his behavior and body language at the end were not helping his team. But maybe I'm wrong...maybe Bird, Magic, Jordan had their moments of moping at the end of a frustrating playoff loss and I just no longer remember.

    In the conversation for GOAT, stuff like this matters. But overall, it's good to be aware that one bad crash (one bad game) will skew human judgment out of line with probabilistic expectations of future performance.

  50. UsuallyLurkin Says:

    DJ, that's a good one. Humans also tend to over-interpret reliability of perceived patterns. The mistake in both cases is that it's impossible to know what base rates to use within a specific context. If the DC-10 you are relying on has a recent history of losing engine power on the final leg of a flight, what're you going to use to fill up your statistical tables? Data from other DC-10s? Data from that DC-10 earlier in it's career? Or are you going to give the ball to DWade cause it's safer?

    Look at that crazy probability chart. If the Mavs win, that chart was way off more than it was on. 20 percentage points swings by quarter. ugh. Those are probabilities of what just happened, not of what will happen.

    James' poor showing thus far is his poor showing very recently. We can't know anything about inner character or anything like that till the end of his career. Look at the other side of the court. Just last year (and for the last decade, maybe, and maybe as recently as the beginning of these playoffs), Dirk was the guy who was soft, couldn't lead a team, didn't have the mental fortitude to close out big games, etc. etc. Trying to overwrite a human drama onto what is essentially sketchy data is a process of fiction.

  51. Anon Says:

    #46 - I absolutely agree Neil, and you mentioned this before. I'm still wrapping my mind around the causality aspect of this though.

    It's like playing that Mouse Trap board game - ask a kid what the most important part of the game is, and they'll probably say it's the cagetrap that comes down over the mouse. They would be right too; after all, if the cagetrap works then you achieve your objective. However, that is only possible if the rest of the trap that proceeds the cage drop actually works! Every other part of the trap then literally becomes just as important in that aspect, and it's why a bunch of kids (including yours truly) thought that game was a total rip-off. There's no point talking about the importance of the cagetrap if the damn swinging boot earlier in the trap doesn't work...

    How do you reconcile this?

  52. Anon Says:

    Also, DJ #49 - great write-up. Thanks.

  53. Anon Says:

    "Or are you going to give the ball to DWade cause it's safer?"

    The irony here (and I love D-Wade, he's been great this series) is that he has been far from "clutch" down the stretch of games 4 and 5. Remember, this is the guy that the media "wanted" to get the ball over LBJ in close games - and he's certainly gotten more touches after the media outrage over LBJ in game 2. Clearly Wade gets a "pass" from the media for winning a title in 2006, but in terms of how he's played down the stretch in this series, by their logic shouldn't he also be the most culpable for the Heat being down 3-2?

  54. UsuallyLurkin Says:

    If Wade is far from clutch in this series, then James is straight out choking. But it highlights the difficulty of scope in choosing the events upon which you should build your table of probabilities. If you tighten it too much, Miami should just give the ball to Chalmers and let him chuck something up from half court. If you loosen it too much, then just give it to Wade and let him dribble within an inch or two of any Maverick for a foul call.

  55. Jon Says:

    @21 I think the settled shot you referred to was a case of Dallas (more specifically Terry) getting inside LeBron's head. He went to that shot immediately after a Dallas (again I think it was Terry, but it may have been Kidd's) 3. It looked to me like he was playing the film director there, trying to ratchet up the drama by one upping the other team. Which had it worked would have been brilliant.

    It was not the best basketball play however. It also seemed to drain him when it didn't work.

    Yes, we are not logical in our valuations. The intriguing aspect of this to me is how do we apply that to LeBron himself. He isn't an airplane, he is all to human and I think he is much more susceptible to all the criticism he has received than he is letting on. He will be the first to tell you that he does not view these games as his career norms, but rather as something much more important to him.

    That doesn't throw out the concept that he can (and probably will) trend upwards towards his norms. It does raise some questions as to whether he is letting the moment get the best of him mentally. Watching LeBron, he is at his best when he seems not to have a care in the world, or looks like he has the game by the throat. At the end of games in the finals, he has not looked like that.

  56. Anon Says:

    "If Wade is far from clutch in this series, then James is straight out choking."

    I definitely agree that LBJ didn't play well down the stretch of games recently. But did you watch the end of Game 4? Wade missed the game-tying free-throw with a chance to help his team go up 3-1. Last night? Wade tov and missed shot with over a minute left and the team down 5. My point was simply that to those who construct the LBJ narrative, Wade is "The TRUE Man" down the stretch who hits the shots, brings his team back in crunchtime, and "makes up for LBJ's blunders"...except he's been exactly the opposite when the team has him take the ball over LBJ. Since these same people place this value on clutch production, doesn't this get factored in? Or are we just fascinated with size-fitting the "choker hat" on LBJ?

    By the way, I don't adopt these viewpoints. Just pointing out incongruities in the logic here.

  57. BSK Says:

    "Wade's injury killed Miami."

    My amateur eye told me that Miami, in general, and LeBron, specifically, played much better with Wade out.

  58. DJ Says:

    Anon asks: "Or are we just fascinated with size-fitting the "choker hat" on LBJ?"

    I think that because he has already been fitted with the choker hat, we look for evidence that confirms the label, and ignore evidence that disconfirms it. As UsuallyLurkin says: we tend to over-interpret patterns.

    So, for example, we think of Hakeem as this awesome playoff god, because of a few memorable playoff series (when he was, in fact, an awesome playoff god). Some people believe he's the best center of the last 25 years largely because he played so well in the playoffs. And we forget/ignore that his team was eliminated in the first round 8 of 15 times he went to the playoffs. But we decide he wears the champion hat and ignore the rest.

    I don't want to give James a pass on his performance in this finals, in the finals in 2007 and in game 6 (I think) last year against Boston. I think he deservedly should be downgraded for not playing up to his standards in the most important games. But, because he's got that choker hat on already, people forget about (for example) his stellar performance against the Magic in 2009. They don't notice that he's 8 for 8 in advancing out of the first round or that only once did he lose to a team that didn't play in the finals.

    Because Hakeem wears the champ hat and James wears the choker hat, Hakeem gets the benefit of "oh his teammates weren't good enough" and James doesn't. But look at Hakeem's '87-'89 squads and the teams that took them out (The Dale Ellis-led Sonics and the Aguirre-Harper Mavs) and then look at the teams that eliminated Bron's Cavs (the Billups-Hamilton-Prince-Wallace Pistons, the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili Spurs, the Garnett-Pierce-Allen Celtics and Howard's Magic) in comparison with the Cavs.

    But Hakeem had those couple of huge series against Robinson, against Ewing, and against O'Neal. So no one faults him for not carrying a mediocre squad to victory over some not-too-impressive opponents.

    Meanwhile, LeBron has left us with the image (for better or worse) of passing to players who missed shots and of not seeming to care at the end of that game against Boston. And so he takes all the blame for losing to very good teams, even though his teammates were little better than Hakeem's.

    It's cognitive inertia of sorts. Once Bronnie wins a championship or two, people will focus on that and forget his bad games.

  59. sean Says:

    @ #43...

    Anon Says:
    June 10th, 2011 at 10:35 am
    "If this is his top gear, he's just not that GREAT. If this isn't his top gear-------then it's justified to ask critically: WHERE IS IT?"

    Were you watching the playoffs prior to the Finals?


    I'm talking about these Finals, specifically. I thought that was clear.

  60. sean Says:


    I'm NOT judging the whole future and past of LBJ's career based on these last 5 games, so please, nobody accuse me of that...
    I THINK James is better than what he's been in these last 5 games...
    I don't think James has been BAD so much as he hasn't been THAT good/ great...
    I THINK James has underperformed in the Finals...
    I THINK James' performance in the Finals thus far is ripe for criticism, as he is underperforming and I believe he is better than this...
    It seems that some folks aren't allowing any criticism of his performance to get by without some kind of apology for him----HEY, JUST FACE IT.... he hasn't been that good/ great in these Finals. Period.
    The more people apologize for his performance thus far in the Finals, the more they lower the bar for him regarding what is good/ great.
    YES, there are morons overblowing it-------on 'The Herd' on ESPN this morning, I think someone gave James a 'D+' for Game #5... He had a trip/ doub----and this clown gives him a D+... Don't allow a clown like that to make you OVER apologize for LBJ's Finals thus far. Just call his performance what it is. We should all be doing that.

    This is my impression: suppose someone showed us a picture of a girl. And the girl in the pic did NOT look that attractive... we can assume 1 of 2 things-----> either this girl REALLY is not pretty...OR.... she is pretty, but this is a bad snapshot of her.

    We CANNOT say, however, that she is actually REALLY pretty AND this is an accurate snapshot of her.

    It seems like some folks are trying to make LBJ's Finals thus far a better performance than it's been.

    I think he hasn't been that good-------but I also think he's better than this. I think it's a bad snapshot of him.

  61. Anon Says:

    Sean, yes I agree - James has not played up to par in the Finals. I'm not making excuses for him because he definitely CAN play better, and he SHOULD to help his team win. All I'm doing is showing much of the silliness in the LBJ dialogue. He's still arguably the best play in the league regardless. Wade could be the greatest championship performer in in sports history, his play is absolutely useless if teammates like James don't compensate for his play in prior rounds against better defenses so he can get to the Finals (see the ECF against the Bulls). Apparently, people who are eager to slam LeBron are acting as if the first three rounds didn't exist, especially in the ECF in which LBJ and Bosh had to make up for Wade's subpar play.

    LBJ puts up a legendary performance, people aren't satisfied with it if his team doesn't win. LBJ puts up a subpar performance with his team in the Finals lead (and a Wade ft miss away from tying the score in game 4 with an opportunity to go up 3-1), people are also not satisfied. The agenda here is clear as day...

  62. sean Says:

    At #61... Anon, I'm totally hearing your frustration. If people are writing off LeBron or discounting what he's done in prior playoffs, they're being silly.

    Yeah, and LeBron is is a VERY interesting bind. The RIGHT thing to do for him is to maybe continue with his protocol (though I have to admit that adding the wrinkle of posting up more---possibly in the 4th Quarter or when his jumper has abandoned him might be PART OF 'the right thing to do' going forward)-------but the hordes are clamoring for a 40 point explosion. What if he goes OFF and they lose?

    Like everyone else, you have to shut out the critics and just do/ make the right things/ decisions and perform. If it's not enough to win, you have to suffer the naysayers (even when they're wrong). Popular opinion will NEVER be a substitute for the truth. LeBron just has to do the right thing(s) and let the chips fall where they may. (I do think the right thing MUST incorporate more post-ups if the jumper isn't falling----hell, even if it IS falling, though).

  63. EastDallas Says:

    I agree that Lebron's 17/10/10 line is impressive, and he did have 4 assists in the fourth, but they ALL came before the 5 minute mark. He pulled up when Kidd was defending him, he has to take someone Kidd's size to the rack, and I think we can all agree that the three was ill-advised. He's catching the ball and then thinking about what he's going to do, rather than doing what's instinctive. He ran right into Chandler after catching a ball in the lower box, like it or not, that's a charge. He's letting Terry break him down, he's not helping on defense late in games. Do you really think it's better to let Dirk drive for an easy layup or dunk than to leave Terry open from 25 feet?

    I think he's struggling with what to do without the ball and I think that the Mavs are in his head little. Think about the way that Deshawn called him out, he didn't really 'talk trash', he said Lebron was a better player than he showed, and that sometimes it's easy to check out when you are watching someone else play the game at the level Wade was playing. If you are already doubting yourself those type of honest observations can play more with your head than trash talk.

  64. huevonkiller Says:

    I think it is very unlikely DeShawn is in his head, more than the 44 MPG he plays a night on both sides of the ball.

    If he can get Dirk's rest in the playoffs he'll be fine next season.