The Heat versus History : NBA Rankings for 2011-12 at midseason

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
— Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four

  • 22 wins in a row, the Houston Rockets, January thru March of 2008 is the longest post merger win streak in the NBA.
  • 33 wins in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers, November of 1971 to January of 1972 is the longest win streak period in the history of the NBA.

Why in the world am I bringing this up? The Heat are in the midst of an 8 game winning streak and are playing the best ball in the league. Don’t believe me? Take a look (full explanation for everything that follows and previous rankings are here):

That’s the raw point margin numbers for the season for every team broken up into six game samples. Miami doesn’t quite look like the clear favorite there but no worries it gets much clearer when I adjust for opponents and schedule:

So the final four for last year (Miami,Chicago, OKC and Dallas) very much look like the prospective final four this year. San Antonio and Portland  are hovering with Orlando in the second group but Orlando (until we know the end of the Dwight saga) doesn’t really count.

But that’s not the fun bit. The fun bit starts when I calculate the remaining strength of schedule and simulate every game for the remainder of the season using my current expectation of performance. If we do that we end up with:

The top seven in the East seems pretty set barring trades or serious injuries. Even the top three seem pretty locked in with Miami projecting as a clear #1 followed by Chicago then the Sixers. Boston, Milwaukee and Cleveland are in a dog fight for the honor of having the Heat and Lebron blow a playoff game (just the one) to them during a first round exit. The West as always is much more interesting. OKC and Dallas could end up happening in Round 2.

That’s still not the fun bit. Remember how I said I simulated every single game for the remainder of the season?

The Heat look like a lock for the #1 seed for the playoffs and the best record in the league. It’s when I took a deeper look at the numbers that my eyes crossed.

Sometimes the math can make me feel like this (Image courtesy of xkcd.com)

The Heat have some crazy records in their reach:

  • 22 games in a row? 82 to 1
  • 23 in a row? 111 to 1
  • 33 in a row? 1360 to 1
  • 34 in a row? 1567 to 1

Hell, winning every remaining game is a 4013 to 1 shot. To put this in perspective, the two next closest teams are Chicago at about 18000 to 1 odds and OKC at 67000 to 1. The fact that this is even remotely possible is somewhat stunning and is only due to the fact that Miami is really good and the Eastern conference is really, really bad.

Keep in mind, that through all the simulations I did the most likely scenario sees the Heat lose about 7 times but again this is about something terrible unlikely becoming much less so. One prediction we can be sure of is that if this comes true our friend Mosi of the Miami Heat Index will be insufferable for the next few months.

So no pressure Lebron.

-Arturo

P.S. This is in no way a reverse jinx. All the math is on the level.

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