NBA Finals Analysis

Analysis from one of our contacts who gets published regularly the New York Times.  


Big Game Experience: Over the past 23 years, the team with more finals appearances over the previous three years has 12 of 15 (80.0%) in N.B.A. finals. The Miami Heat are in their third consecutive finals, winning the title last year. Edge: Miami.

Leadership: Over the past 23 years, the team with the better offensive star, measured by points per game, has won 15 times (65.2 percent). Miami’s LeBron James scored 26.8 points per game during the regular season. San Antonio’s Tony Parker scored 20.3 points per game. Edge: Miami.

Defense: Over the past 23 years, the team with the better defense, as measured by points-against per game, has won 14 N.B.A. finals (60.9 percent). The Heat allowed 95.0 points per game, and the Spurs 96.6 points per game, during the regular season. Edge: Miami.


Consistency Factors: Another key to winning championships is consistency. In the N.B.A. finals, field-goal percentage is a good consistency factor to analyze. Over the past 23 years, the team with the better field-goal percentage has won 12 of 22 series (54.5 percent). (One year, the teams had the same field-goal percentage). Miami has a field-goal percentage of ,496, and San Antonio’s is .481. Edge: Miami.

Error Control: Minimizing errors is also important to winning major sports championships. In baseball, fielding percentage during the regular season is correlated to winning the World Series. Similarly, in professional basketball, the team with fewer turnovers during the regular season has won 73.9 percent (17 of 23) of the N.B.A. finals over the past 23 years. Miami had 1,143 turnovers, while San Antonio had 1,206. Edge: Miami.

The championship factors all point to the Miami Heat winning this year. Does this mean that Miami will sweep the series? We ran a Monte Carlo simulation based on our factors and the home-away schedule for this year’s N.B.A. finals. The simulation says that Miami has a 71.2 percent chance of winning, with the following probabilities:

• Miami sweeps the series: 11.3%
• Miami in 5 games: 17.2%
• Miami in 6 games 23.4%
• Miami in 7 games: 19.4%
• San Antonio sweeps the series: 2.8%
• San Antonio in 5 games: 8.1%
• San Antonio in 6 games: 8.2%
• San Antonio in 7 games: 9.8%


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