Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Biggest Comeback of the 2013 NBA Playoffs...

..was not Heat/Spurs in Game Six of the Finals.  That distinction belongs to the Chicago Bulls with their triple overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets in game 4 of their opening round series (see table below).  With 2:59 left in the fourth quarter, the Bulls were down by 14 points and had a win probability of 0.2%.  The Bulls ended the game on a 16-2 run and prevailed (eventually) in overtime.  At their lowest point, the Heat's win probability in game six last night was 1.5%.

The Heat's comeback wasn't even the second biggest of the playoffs.  In game 1 of the Spurs-Warriors round 2 series, the Spurs were down by sixteen with 4:18 left to go in the game, working out to a win probability of 0.4%.  An 18-2 run by the Spurs sent the game to overtime, and then double overtime, and then this.

Quantifying Excitement (what fun)

As with many features on this site, I have borrowed the concept of the "Excitement" index from the Advanced NFL Stats win probability graphs.  The index attempts to quantify how dramatic a game was by summing up how much the win probability graph travels over the course of the game.  By that metric, the Heat/Spurs game was only the fourth most exciting of the playoffs.  

Number one and number two were the Bulls-Nets and Spurs-Warriors matchups mentioned above.  Number three was game 1 of the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals (the game included Paul George's desperation three to force overtime and Lebron James' buzzer beating layup for the win).  The sum total of the win probability graph's "jitters" amounted to 9.4 wins.  In contrast, the Heat/Spurs game excitement index was 8.9.

Of course, when it comes to excitement, this metric is ignoring something very important: what was at stake.  For all the considerable excitement of the Bulls/Nets game, it was a round 1 game between two teams that weren't expected to make it far in the playoffs.  You can see that in my Finals win probability chart.  Well, actually you can't see it because the Bulls and Nets Finals win probabilities (according to my simulation model) were so small that they barely merited pixels on the screen.  But, if you are careful with your mouse and hover over the graph at just the right spot (April 27 and April 28), you can see that the Bulls' chances of winning the finals as a result of their win increased from 0.02% to 0.04%.

The Top 10 Games of the Playoffs (and everything else)

The table below ranks the 2013 playoff games according to the excitement index.  The links go to a separate page which gives you access to win probability graphs for all 84 playoff games.  Happy clicking.

3 comments:

  1. Now this brings one interesting concept: which play singlehandedly increased a team's odds of winning the *championship*. When all is done, Ray Allen's 3 pointer play's will be heads & shoulders above the rest of plays this entire season, eh?

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    1. Most likely, but it all depends on how game 7 play out. Allen's shot added 39% to the Heat's win probability. Winning that game has given the Heat a ~75% chance of winning the title. So, Ray's Trophy Probability Added (TPA?) with that shot was 29%.

      So, we would need a play with at least 29% WPA in game 7 to top Ray's play last night.

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    2. Doesn't 'peak TPA' end up being a measurement of how close the game is as it goes into the waning moments? It's all about a buzzer beater in the 7th game. First-round blowouts aren't going to have any massive TPA plays.

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