Final Numbers and Charts and the Pick prior to the NBA Finals

At the very beginning of the season, I simulated the season and the playoffs.
My playoff predictions looked like so:

I said:

The model likes San Antonio to undress George Karl in the Western Conference Finals and to win the Finals regardless of who has the homecourt advantage.

And after seven months and change, 82 games, three playoff rounds, and many many words, we wind up at the predicted finals. Making a pick should be easy right? Not so fast.

But before I make any predictions, let’s go over what we know.

We start with a graphical preview per our friends at statographics:

NBA Finals Preview


Next, I’m giving you the full workup of my numbers for the Finals:


That table gives me an idea of who these teams have been throughout the season and helps me see the different possible scenarios. The next step is to look at just the playoffs:


This gives a picture of what’s actually going on now and let’s me get to the picks.

Typically, picking the playoff gets easier as we go round by round for a few good reasons. We know who these teams are based on the data from the season. Where we don’t for one of the teams (because of trade, injury, or insane playoff rotations) we can generally use the rather large playoff series sample to make some reasonable conclusions in comparison.

If we know who team A is, we can use the actual data from the playoffs to figure out who team B is as well.

This season has been a bit atypical in that it has been pretty darn hard to get a handle on some of these teams. The Spurs faced a Lakers team rolling out D-League players making their NBA debut and Golden State team that in essence had their star center (Bogut) play his first 100% healthy games with them in the playoffs. Denver lost Gallinari and pretty much every regular lineup that they played. Couple that with San Antonio shutting it down for the second half of the season because Popp wanted to save everyone’s legs and it’s no wonder we all got bushwacked by the Spurs sweeping the Grizzlies in Round 3.

In the East, it was a little more interesting but there where a few attenuating factors. The Heat are a better team than the Pacers when healthy, but they really weren’t (Wade’s knee in particular). Couple that with the Spurs sweep and the highly unsavory prospect of ten days of dead air prior to the Finals and it’s rather unsurprising that the series went as long as it did.

All props to the Pacers for making it easy for the league by playing such great D, but did you know that LeBron has only fouled out five times in his career? The two times it’s happened since 2008 have both been Eastern Conference Finals game fours reffed by Joey Crawford that were must wins for the opposing teams. Gosh, what are the odds? Really, the league and its partner’s helped this one along.

Let make this simple. The Spurs are back to being the historically great team that they were at the start of the season. The Heat are not quite the team that they were in the second half. Based on that my numbers have Miami as a slight favorite (50.4% on a neutral court). However, the Spurs homecourt is better than Miami’s. The Spurs, though, have the best coach in the NBA and given that Miami also clearly got outcoached by the Vogel/Shaw combo (i.e. Why didn’t they play more Birdman? Why didn’t they force the issue with Lebron and Bosh in the post more?), I have to give that edge to San Antonio.

As always I ran multiple models:


My personal take is that the full regular season and playoff models are the closest to the truth of the matter. This means that these teams are dead even and Miami probably gets the overall edge for the series but the most likely game outcome is Spurs in six.

Given that I want to try to finish second in the truehoop smackdown and I want to stick to my preseason Spurs over Miami in six pick. The pick is then:

Spurs in six.


Note: A sharp eyed reader noticed I screwed up and used a 2-2-1-1-1 instead of a 2-3-2 format. Ran the model again:


Model likes Spurs in 5. I’ll stick with 6.


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