"Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise” – Maya Angelou
Much like a good meal or a good wine, each playoffs – hell, each playoff series – have a unique flow and flavor that must be experienced to be understood.
For me as a fan and as a writer, there is a process to that discovery. First, I must spend an inordinate amount of time pouring over all the regular season data to make the playoff picks. Then I take the pulse of the room through the playoff contest. The games themselves follow – along with the cacophany of sound and excitement that we all love – and it is that that typically drives the majority of all the narratives. But we are not common media pundits, we are scientists.
We want to get at the nuts of what actually happened. The truth – not as a subjective feeling, but as an objective fact – is what we pursue, and for that we want the numbers.
To that end, we keep track of any and all relevant stats and work out all the Wins Produced numbers shortly after the games have been played. This allows me to do proper analysis, build my model, and come up with my picks for subsequent rounds.
The math, you see, provides the depth to the story being told by our eyes.
Case in point, the odds shifted.
Let’s get to those boxscores and recaps right?
A few quick notes before we go:
- We are using Wins Produced numbers. I am manually compiling them for the playoffs and we've compiled them for the season. There will be some drift in the numbers as we go along (don’t worry, it’s a function of moving averages), but it’s good enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and tactical nuclear weapons.
- The Boxscore contains:
- Basic information: player, team, Game ID (who, what, and when)
- Classic Stats: points, shots, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists (because the classics are classics for a reason).
- Simple spins on classics: % of team minutes (player minutes as % of total minutes available), position (average player position)
- Possession and play stats: offensive plays: FGA + 0.434 * FTA + TO, usage of offensive plays: % of offensive plays used by player when in the game
- All the classic offensive efficiency stats (and some slightly modded ones): effective field goal % = (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA, true shooting % = PTS / (2 * (FGA + 0.44 * FTA), points per shot = PTS/FGA, points per offensive play = PTS/offensive plays
- Do-it-yourself offensive point margin stats:
- Offensive point margin: this is the marginal value created by the player per offensive play spent. The calculation is: OPM = (points per play for player- average points per play for player for League) * offensive plays for player.
- Defensive point margin: this is the marginal value surrendered by the player per offensive play spent. The calculation is: DPM = (points per play for opponent- average points per play for player for league) * offensive plays for opponent. I’m doing this one by position averages per game.
- Combined margin: this is just OPM-DPM
- Rebounding rates: % of rebounds on offense, % of rebounds on defense.
- Points over Par (PoP). This is our points version of Wins Produced that tells you the direct effect of a player’s production on the game's point margin. This is the key number boys and girls. In the interest of keeping it to each series and games I am using Point over Par in comparison to the players on the court for each game. What this means is that each player will not be judged against the average playoff production for their position, but rather their opponents. This guarantees that on a game level PoP maps to actual point margin.
- I’ve classified performances on a sliding scale:
- Hall of Famer: 12.5 PoP48 and Above. Submit tape of performance to Hall of Fame voters.
- Superstar: 5 to 12.5 PoP48. LeBron on a regular night.
- Star: 2.5 to 5 PoP48. A good night.
- Starter: 0 to 2.5 PoP48. Positive contributions to the outcome.
- Bench: -2.5 to 0 PoP48. Not worthy of a starting role.
- Scrub: -5 to -2.5 PoP48. Play only in case of emergency.
- Traitor: less than -5 POP48. You’re wearing the wrong uniform.
Now for the recaps.
On Sunday, the Mavs gave it their best shot but it wasn't quite enough. Jae Crowder having that kind of game is not going to happen again. Also, Kawhi Leonard was not his usual fantastic self. The Spurs, however, meandered around and completely destroyed the Mavs in the last part of the 4th quarter. Tony Parker looked as good as he has since Game 1 of the Finals last year. This is my way of saying it's about to go poorly for the Mavs.
Initial Prediction: Spurs in 4 (99.9% Win)
MVP so Far: Vive la France!
Updated Prediction: Spurs in 4 (99.9% Win). It's inevitable
This series has had all the awesome so far. In Game 1, the Grizzlies erased a 22 point first half deficit but faltered in the end; in Game 2, KD forced OT by making the craziest shot of the playoffs so far, but Memphis grinded out the win. Here's a formula for you: Thunder + Grizzlies = Teh wesome. More please!
Initial Prediction: OKC in 7 (59.6%% Win)
MVP so Far: Conley has a case but looked shook at the end of Game 2. Ibaka has a stronger case, but it's Scotty Brooks for Memphis.
Updated Prediction: OKC in 7 (53.4%% Win). Best looking 1st round series so far. Thank you basketball gods.
The only people who can cover Blake Griffin in this series are the refs, and in Game 1 they did. Get Blake on the floor with no Bogut and it looks downright terrible for the Warriors. Anyone remember Blake laying down a fatality versus the Warriors this season?
Yeah. I still think this is gonna stay ugly for the Warriors.
Initial Prediction: Clips in 5 (79.3% Win)
MVP so Far: Blake. He might dunk on me if I don't give it to him.
Updated Prediction: Clips in 7 (71.5% Win). The model doesn't account for bad refeering, but I do. I think that Warriors are in danger of being swept like gentlemen (in five) after last night's drubbing.
I told you that the Rockets would give at least one game away. LMA, Lillard, and Batum were beasting. Harden missed the winners to close regulation. It also feels like Stotts outcoached McHale in this one. Houston is still the better team, but they're sloppy like that, and Portland is good enough to capitalize.
Initial Prediction: Rockets in 5 (88.2% Win) (I personally liked HOU in 6)
MVP so Far: Batum
Updated Prediction: Rockets in 6 (73.4% Win). See, the model came around.
The Bobcats are really outmatched here, particularly since it looks like Playoff Dwyane Wade has arrived. As mentioned, Wade was excellent for the Heat, along with James Jones and Birdman. And LeBron was just OK and Bosh was bad (hey! Playoff Bosh is here too!). Other than McBob, it was a rough night for Charlotte. I still think they win one, but that's it.
Initial Prediction: Heat in 5 (97% Win)
MVP so Far: @DwyaneWade
Updated Prediction: Heat in 4 (98% Win). I still like five; the model now prefers 4.
We called this one, didn't we? The Pacers look terrible. In particular, Roy Hibbert has been excruciatingly bad recently. The Hawks are better than their record, particularly against the Pacers.
Some fun facts:
Pacers were outscoring teams by 9.9 pts per gm in the 1st half of season. That fell 10.7 to -0.8 in the 2nd half. 2nd biggest drop ever (ever as in in the history of the NBA). Pacers also had the 11th biggest drop in win % from 1st to second half of season in NBA history.
Combine that with the Game 1 results and those holding Hawks' betting slips are totally smiling right now.
Initial Prediction: Pacers in 7 (53.5% Win)
MVP so Far: Trillsap was outstanding in Game 1.
Updated Prediction: Hawks in 6 (66.4% Win). Yeah, I said the Hawks. Is everyone prepared for the possibility of the Hawks or Wizards in the ECF?
F##k father time. For one night it was 2007 again, and the Nets roster looked like world-beaters. The Raptors' guards couldn't handle Joe Johnson at all. DeMar, Terrence, and Kyle also managed to look like playoff rookies. All in all, the Raptors basically looked like playoff noobs giving homecourt away.
We did kind of expect that though. I do also expect some bounce back from the Raptors and a long, fun series (even if I don't know what to with myself trying to root against Paul Pierce).
Initial Prediction: Nets in 6 (51.4% Win).
MVP so Far: Joe Johnson
Updated Prediction: Nets in 6 (69% Win). This'll jump the other way if Raptors win Game 2 (as they should).
Nobody expects the professor. I was really surprised at the amount of Andre Miller and Nene we saw from the Wizards in Game 1. The track record of minutes did not foreshadow that. What Miller did with those minutes is not unexpected, as he's always been excellent. I also kinda forgot Ariza (the Wiz MVP) being in two Finals and Gortat in one. Translation? I may have misread the playoff experience edge; the Wizards were poised and ready.
It didn't help that the Bulls will periodically crap the bed on offense, and this was that game.
Initial Prediction: Bulls in 5 (90% Win)
MVP so Far: Trevor Ariza (the only guy with a ring in the series)
Updated Prediction: Bulls in 7 (75.4% Win). I may actually have to go back and redo the lineups for this series (game 2 will tell).
(Note: I was supposed to put this up to 4/22 but ran out of time. It'll go up later with the updated series odds after the 4/23 games. See below. The games will come a bit later.)