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The Shape of a 7-Game Series

Posted by Neil Paine on June 16, 2010

As a follow-up to this morning's post about historical 7-game series, here are some notes about the "shape" of this year's Finals...

First, what I mean by "shape" is the pattern of wins and losses by the home team in the series. For instance, the 2010 Finals look like this:


In other words, the home team won Game 1, lost Games 2 & 3, and then won Games 4, 5, & 6. How often has that happened through the first 6 games of a 7-game series?

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Posted in Analysis, Just For Fun, Playoffs | 6 Comments »

The Finals Are Even… But Are They Really Even?

Posted by Neil Paine on June 16, 2010

The Lakers needed to win last night to force a 7th game in the NBA Finals, and they didn't disappoint, delivering a brutal 89-67 beatdown that evened the series at 3 wins apiece. In NBA playoff history, this is the 105th series to go 7 games, and the 17th time the Finals have gone the distance. It should be a fitting finish to the season, and the capper to a thrilling 7-game Championship series with a razor-thin margin between the two teams...

Or has it really been that razor-thin? In the series, the Lakers have outscored the Celtics by 20 points after 6 games. Is that a lot, or a normal amount for a 7-game series? How does that compare to the margins of past 7-game playoff series through 6 games?

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Statgeekery | 15 Comments »

Layups: Basketball-Reference + Contest

Posted by Neil Paine on June 15, 2010

With the Celtics up 3-2 against the Lakers, the 2009-10 NBA season comes to an end this week as the two teams head back to Los Angeles for the sixth and possibly seventh games of the NBA Finals.

Below, you can watch the video of the Top 10 Moments of the Lakers/Celtics Rivalry:

Now, below here are Mini Movies from Games 1-5. Here’s how you’ll enter. Watch the five movies and let us know if you think any of these moments might break their way into the Top 10. Leave your answer in the comments section. The winner will be picked completely subjectively based upon whichever answer we like best and will receive a free prize courtesy of

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Posted in A Word From Our Sponsors, Layups, Playoffs | 3 Comments »

Layups: The NBA Finals… of Complaining, That Is

Posted by Neil Paine on June 15, 2010

Our friend David Biderman of the Wall Street Journal has a great piece today on the biggest complainers of the Finals so far:

"In the first five games of the Finals—which continue Tuesday with Game 6 in Los Angeles—the Celtics screamed, threw up their arms or spun around in disgust (or all three) after 48% of the fouls they were called for, according to an analysis by The Count. We looked at every foul in the series that wasn't intentional, tracked the observable reactions and gave extra weight to the more blatant complaints. The Lakers expressed displeasure about 36% of the time, even though Kobe Bryant disputed half of his while Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce only bickered about one-third of theirs."

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Posted in Just For Fun, Layups, Playoffs | 3 Comments »

Layups: Odds of LBJ Becoming the Top Twitter Athlete

Posted by Neil Paine on June 15, 2010

Somehow, LeBron James isn't on Twitter yet (seriously, how did that happen?), but his initiation into the Twitterverse has to be coming any day now. That's why SBR Forum has posted odds on King James' Twittering future:

"Currently, the top Twitter athlete is Shaq with over 2.9 million followers. The moment James actively decides to tweet, we anticipate his follower list to grow at unprecedented levels. The long wait of him finally becoming seemingly accessible will make his Twitter debut impressive. "

SBR guesses that James not only will get on Twitter in 2010,  but that he’ll become the top athlete on Twitter by Sept 1, 2010. Or at least they give him a 67% chance (1 to 2 odds). Would you take that bet?

Posted in Just For Fun, Layups | Comments Off on Layups: Odds of LBJ Becoming the Top Twitter Athlete

LakerTracker 2010: Games 1-5

Posted by Neil Paine on June 15, 2010

Last week, I took a look at Kobe Bryant's performance vs. the Boston Celtics in Games 1-3 of the Finals, and how it compared to his performance against them in 2008, as well as LeBron James' performance against them a month ago. With 2 more games having passed, it's time to update the numbers:

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Statgeekery | 18 Comments »

Uniform Tweaks: Washington Wizards

Posted by Neil Paine on June 14, 2010

New Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has stated that he's open to the possibility of changing the Wizards' team colors, if not their name. As we all know, the Washington Bullets had a good color scheme going throughout their history, but the prevalence of gun-related fatalities in the nation's capital led Abe Pollin to change the team's nickname to the Wizards -- and change the team colors to a scheme that not even God Michael Jordan himself could make look good. However, now that Leonsis is in charge, there's been a groundswell of fan support to change the colors -- and name -- back to the way they were before the late 1990s. Of course, my hunch is that it will stay the "Wizards" for the foreseeable future out of respect to Pollin... but a change back to the old red, white, & blue colors is highly probable. Here's my take:

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Posted in Uniforms | 14 Comments »

Best Performances in a Finals Loss (1991-2010)

Posted by Neil Paine on June 14, 2010

Last night, Kobe Bryant boldly attempted to take over Game 5 of the Finals, pouring in 23 consecutive Laker points in the 3rd quarter on a collection of the toughest shots you'll ever see. However, L.A. couldn't get stops during that span, and nobody but Bryant was scoring, so the Celtics were actually able to extend their lead even as Kobe's outburst was taking place. Bryant finished the game with 38 points, but half of them came in that 8-minute stretch during the 3rd quarter, and he couldn't will L.A. to a late-game charge even as Boston seemed on the verge of a collapse in the final minutes.

The frustration was apparent in Bryant's expressions and body language throughout the 4th quarter, as Kobe was unable to do any damage from the floor in the final 8 minutes of the game. But despite his failure to drive a stake into the Celtics' hearts in crunch time, Bryant's performance was still one of the most valiant in recent Finals history by a member of the losing team. According to Statistical +/-, here are the best individual performances in a Finals loss (minimum 30 minutes played):

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Statistical +/- | 24 Comments »

What’s The Matter With Kansas?

Posted by Neil Paine on June 11, 2010

In the midst of the current conference expansion insanity, we have a school that's soon to not be aligned with any major conference. They are the 3rd-winningest program in their sport's history. They've won 5 National Championships. Their first coach was the inventor of the sport itself.

So why doesn't anyone want Kansas?

Yeah, yeah, I know, football is king. Football makes the most money, has the most support, and consequently dictates every decision made by the major conferences. But how insane is it that Kansas, arguably the most storied program in college basketball history, will be left out in the cold while Nebraska, an irrelevant basketball school for its entire history and barely an above-average football one over the past decade, gets to decide the fate of an entire conference? How does that make any sense?

Over at ESPN, Eamonn Brennan tackled the issue of Kansas' inexplicable irrelevance in the conference shuffle:

"The Pac-10 doesn't want Kansas. The Big Ten doesn't seem wholly interested. The Jayhawks are, for the moment, on the outside of conference expansion looking in. Which says a lot more about conference expansion than it does the Kansas Jayhawks.

What it says is that college basketball doesn't at all factor into what conference expansion will produce."

What if the tables were turned? What if, say, Michigan was without an affiliation? Would other major conferences possibly be interested in adding them to their ranks?

Of course they would -- they'd kill for Michigan. Because Michigan is the football equivalent of Kansas basketball. Another KU analogue, Notre Dame, has been fending off would-be conference suitors (in football, at least) for decades. That's the reality of being a college football powerhouse. But when an elite basketball program becomes available, the only question is, "How's their football team?"

Like Brennan wrote, basketball fans may understand this summer's conference free-for-all on an intellectual level, but that doesn't make it any easier to stomach when one of the prestige programs in the entire country, the place where Dr. James Naismith himself coached, finds itself on the outside looking in while historically lame basketball programs like Colorado and Nebraska dictate its future.

Posted in NCAA, No Math Required, Rants & Ramblings | 6 Comments »

Boston’s Bench Boost

Posted by Neil Paine on June 11, 2010

Led by Glen Davis (18 pts, 5 reb) and a superb relief performance by the bench in general, the Celtics scrapped their way to a 96-89 win in Game 4 of the Finals, drawing the championship series even at 2 games apiece. Just how good were the Boston reserve corps last night? Since 1991, here are the teams that received the biggest Win Share boosts from non-starters in a Finals game:

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Win Shares | 6 Comments »