“Sure I am this day we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond our endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.”
– Winston Churchill
10-2 thru 12 series.
That’s how you get it done. Apparently all that time spent looking at what makes a team successful in the playoffs was time well spent. All those interesting patterns, all that complicated math to build an accurate simulation seems to have paid off. To quote Feynman again:
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
Richard Feynman, in the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, appendix (1986)
Reality seems to be giving us a very nice thumbs up but as always there are opportunities.
Let me give you some background first:
It’s about to get math intensive here so if it’s your first visit (or if you need to bone up) that’s what the Basics are for.
The NBA Playoff Preview and the Picks (Part 1: Just the Facts) Breaks down all the Maths and theories in detail.
with the visual summary here:
The Playoff Checklist for all the Factors:
And The Team Vitals for everyone:
The Team Vitals (Top 6 Approximation):
The NBA Playoff Preview and the Picks (Part 2: Skin in the Game) Breaks down all the 1st round picks.
First Round Recap and Second Round Playoff Preview by the Numbers: Has the post-mortem on the First round Picks (and why in a choice between math and instinct you should go with math) and breaks down all the 2nd round picks.
Time for the Round 2 Recap:
I started with numbers for the remaining teams :
The big gain was that I had the actual minute allocation each team has used for the playoffs. I combined that with the raw productivity (ADJP48 not Wins Produced because having a big as your sixth man? In general better than having a small).
With that data, I did this:
An then I projected the matchups:
Using the numbers I then ran the math (which I learned in Round 1 to stick to it). The math looked like so:
Eastern Conference Round 2
Series 1: Chicago vs Atlanta: Win % @ Neutral Site: 80% for Bulls
The Numbers said: Bulls in 4
Result: Bulls in 6 (3rd most likely predicted scenario at 12%)
Chicago was clearly better than Atlanta. Atlanta though rode some hot shooting, the surprising play of Jeff Teague and the fact that Rose was banged up to a surprising two wins.
Result Right. Length Wrong.
Series 2: Miami vs Boston Win % @ Neutral Site: just about 50%/50%
The Numbers said:Heat in 7
Result: Heat in 5 (3rd most likely predicted scenario at 15%)
If you consider that Pierce was thrown out of game 1 and Rondo effectively lost an arm (both of which were most emphatically considered in the initial model) and that the Heat won one game in OT. This was a coin flip series with some bad luck on the C’s side of the equation.
Result Right. Length Wrong.
Western Conference Round 2
Series 3: Los Angeles vs Dallas: Win % @ Neutral Site: 53% for Mavs
The Numbers said: Mavs in 6
Result: Mavs in 4 (7th most likely predicted scenario at 7%)
The numbers showed Dallas matching up well with LA. Dallas was also the better team down the stretch. I had the call right, I made two mistakes though. The first is that Dallas played a good number of games without Dirk and they were just terrible without him (a mistake I corrected for in my Round three picks). I also missed the level of quit in the Lakers.
Result Right. Length Wrong.
Series 4: Thunder vs Grizzlies Win % @ Neutral Site: 53% for Thunder
The Numbers said:OKC in 7
Result: OKC in 7 (Most likely predicted scenario at 20%)
This was an awesome,awesome series. I actually think I underrated Marc Gasol who very much looks like a top 5 center since the all star break. So at a neutral site I should have had Memphis as the favorite. Sadly for Memphis, the playoffs are not neutral site. OKC was the better team but it really was by the barest of margins. Let’s not forget the 3 OTs and James Harden morphing into a top five player in the playoffs.
Result Right. Length Right.
Recap So Far (for the Model):
Series Outcome: 10 of 12 (83%)
Series Length: 4 of 12 (33%)
As you probably know, I’m not the only one making picks. Various luminaries (such as Henry Abbot’s mom and our own Prof. Berri) are taking part in the Truehoop Statgeek Smackdown. Everyone else at the WOW network has been taking part and I’ve been keeping score using the Smackdown scoring system (5 points for picking the winner and 7 for the winner and the series length).
The results so far are:
Right now the model sits in 1st place with 58 pts, followed by foolish old me with 54 pts, Stephen Ilardi in third with 53 and a three way tie for fourth between Benjamin Morris, Devin Dignam and Matthew Stahlhut.
As an interesting sidebar, I had a side bet going with Benjamin Morris (whose work I cannot recommend highly enough, seriously, go read it) on OKC-Memphis game 6. I won that one and a result I will be guest posting on his Blog (I’m thinking something graphical and Rodman/Jordan related would be appropriate🙂 ).
Let’s get to Round three
Eastern Conference Finals: Chicago vs Miami
I did Chicago – Miami already (see The Mission from God (My Eastern Finals conference pick)) but let’s recap:
I ran the numbers.Here, have a look:
In ever possible iteration, the Bulls emerged as the superior team. This lead to this:
Western Conference Finals: Dallas vs OKC
Let’s get to Dirk & the Old Veterans vs the Young Guns from OKC:
I ran the numbers here as well:
You’ll note that I added with and without Dirk into the equation and much like the Bulls and Heat in every possible iteration I came up with:
As for the Finals? After much crunching (more on that later) I get:
Bulls in 7
I like Rose as a player but I really am not mentally ready for a summer (and possibly a decade) of is “Rose the Greatest of All Time” discussion.
I’m looking at you Wilbon.