Saturday, May 30, 2009

LeBron's odds of beating the Magic...maybe no so insurmountable?

My Dad sent me a very interesting article calling into question whether or not the Cavaliers odds of beating the Magic were as bad as we all thought.

Teams that were once down 3-1 in a seven game series in the NBA have come back to win said series only eight times in 187 tries. Which is a winning percentage of roughly 4.


However, this article brought into question whether or not those numbers are actually reliable when comparing them to the current series.

Consider that in a large numbers of those series that the team that was supposed to win (the favorite) most likely held the 3-1 lead. They were probably led by All Stars, MVP's, and future Hall of Famers. I doubt Magic or MJ would ever relinquish a 3-1 strangle hold on a series.

So after a little digging, I found a neat little article (from a Cavaliers fan) that details and gives a short synopsis of the previous eight instances.

Here's a brief rundown of how they broke down:

  • 7 of the 8 times the team held home court advantage.
  • The one time the team didn't hold the home court advantage was the 1995 defending NBA Champion Houston Rockets against the Phoenix Suns. The Rocket were led by a guy named Hakeem and another named Clyde (who was acquired from Portland in a midseason trade). They'd go on to win their second title in as many years.
  • Three times it was during the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • One time Orlando was the loser.
  • Three times the team that won the series went on to win the NBA title.
  • The winners of these series had some of the greatest players to ever step foot on a basketball court. The names included: Elvin Hayes, Steve Nash, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning, Sam Jones, Robert Parish.

    But then there were guys like Clyde, Hakeem, Wilt, Russell, Bird, Havlicek, Baylor, West, McHale.

LeBron certainly has his work cut out for him, but the precedent has been set, and it is not an impossible task. Considering he's got home court, playing in an eastern conference final, and will be one of the best to ever play the game, at least he's pushed the odds a little more in his own favor. It will definitely not be easy, but it is certainly within reason considering the players and teams that have done it before him.

Here's to hoping that the Cav's win tonight and we all get treated to another Game 7.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nightly recap: Oddities and other fun stuff


The Cleveland LeBron's actually had a close game last night against the Atlanta Hawks. And by close I mean they only won by 10 points, 84-74. King James came through with 27-8-8. Which is almost exactly what he averaged during the regular season.

In such a low scoring game, those numbers are pretty unbelievable. LeBron either made or assisted on 17 of the Cavaliers 30 baskets. Meaning he was directly involved with 56% of his teams field goals! That's unreal.

To contrast that, in the Nuggets-Mavericks game (119-117 - Mavericks) last night two players scored over 40 points. Carmelo Anthony had 41 for the Nuggets and Dirk Nowitzki 44 for the Mav's. Respectively contributing 47% and 42.5%.

Granted, this is a pretty inexact science considering it doesn't take free throws into effect (and thus, overall points), as well as many other factors that make up a basketball game, but it just goes to show you how much LeBron means to that team.


There were only 4 games played last night, but some pretty neat things still happened.

Randy Johnson got the win, in a 11-7 Giants victory over the Nationals. Making it win number 298 for his career. He's inching closer to 300, but I imagine it's like watching an 65 year old former Olympic gold medalist run (walk maybe?) a 10k race. You know they're going to finish, and it'll be great when they do, but it's kind of painful to see them agonize their way through it. Kind of makes you wish they'd hang up the Asics and do something a little different.

Same thing applies to watching the 45 year old Johnson who has had chronic back problems for the past couple of seasons trying to make it to the magical 300 win plateau. The man has won 5 Cy Young awards, he doesn't need to prove anything else to get into Cooperstown.

Bronson Arroyo pitched well enough for the Reds to get another victory, bringing his record to 5-2 on the year (really good). Too bad he has an ERA hovering around 7 (really bad). Think anyone has ever had a winning percentage higher that 70% with an ERA higher than 7, with over 6 games started? If I worked at ESPN, I'd be able to tell you the answer to that, but I don't. I still really doubt anyone has.

Meanwhile the New York Mets as a team last night gave up 8 runs against the Braves, and only 3 of them were earned. Poor Johan Santana got the big L, even though he didn't allow an earned run, bringing his record to 4-2 on the season.

So a guy with an ERA of 0.78, a WHIP of 0.95, and 11.7 K's/9 innings, is on pace for fewer wins then a guy with an ERA of 7.02, WHIP of 1.61, and 5.0 K's/9?

That just ain't right.

I know no one would argue Arroyo is having a better year, but still, something about that just bothers me. But I guess that's just how the cookie crumbles, and as always, the stats don't lie.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rockets Rout the Lakers: A Showcase in Heart & Hustle

Today the Houston Rockets took down the Los Angeles Lakers 99-87. The Rockets were missing their best player Yao Ming, who was out with a broken foot.

After the Rockets stole the first game in Los Angeles, they promptly responded by getting blown out in the next two. Facing a 2-1 series deficit and missing their best player, the Rockets could have easily mailed in the next two games and started their summer vacation a few days early.

But they didn't. This afternoon the Rockets jumped out to an early 9-0 lead that they never relinquished. They started strong and showed the Lakers that they had no intention of laying down after Yao was declared out for the rest of the series.

In a post game recap for ESPN, former Laker great Magic Johnson said "The Lakers embarrassed themselves, the organization, and the Laker fans."

Clearly Earvin was not happy, and he had every right not to be.

Led on offense by minute guard Aaron Brooks (34 pts. 12/20 shooting) and supposed defensive specialist Shane Battier (23 pts. 6/12 shooting) the Rockets made all the plays necessary to take down the Lakers.

But the story here lies in the Rockets out-hustling the Lakers for loose balls, rebounds, and simply (using a cliché) wanting it more.

One can look no further in the box score to see where things went wrong for the Lakers. The Rockets out rebounded the Lakers 43-37 and 11-8 on the offensive glass, even without 7 foot-6 Yao Ming in the lineup.

Over the course of a game 6 rebounds, doesn't seem like much, but in reality, it is. During the regular season, Portland led the league in rebound differential at +5.4 per game and Golden State had the worst at -5.1 per game.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. After doing a little math (check it out - Spreadsheet Here), I discovered that the average height of a player on the floor (on a per minute basis) for the Lakers was 6 feet 7 1/2 inches. The average height of a Rockets player was 6 feet 5 inches.

The Rockets gave up 2 1/2 inches per player! Over an entire foot of height for the whole team on the court!! And the Lakers were still out rebounded at a margin that would have been the best in the Association this season? How is that possible?

6-6 power forward Chuck Hayes pulled down the same amount of rebounds (9) as 7 foot Pau Gasol. 6-9 Louis Scola grabbed almost as many boards (14) as the top two Laker rebounders combined (15).

Those numbers are indicative of one team simply exerting more energy and trying harder. Basketball is a game where hustle can trump skill, and the Rockets clearly displayed that they wanted nothing more than to take down the mighty Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers were content to let this happen, as they stood idly while the Rockets were determined to out worked them for the win. Because when you're almost 3 inches taller than your opponent, there is no excuse for losing the battle on the boards.

The Rockets may not win this series, because often talent trumps effort, but tonight they overcame the odds and won a game they had no business winning. Let's hope they can do it twice more.

Author's Note: Take a look at the spreadsheet, I did a little more than adding up every player's height and dividing it by the minutes they played. It's a pretty cool document.

Guess who's back...

I'll give you a hint, it's me!

After an admittedly long hiatus from blogging, I've decided that it's time to dust off the old keyboard and start writing again.

This past semester was pretty busy for me, but hopefully this marks a turnaround where I update Stats Don't Lie a few times a week.

I'm not entirely sure how to recap everything that I've missed, considering this is my first post of 2009, so I wont even try. Going over 5 months of sports would be a daunting task for anyone, including myself.

So, I'll leave it with a few final thoughts:

The SEC is the greatest football conference, and Florida will be even better next year.

The Tar Heels were the best basketball team all year and proved it in the tournament.

The Steelers played great, but I'll probably remember the Cardinals and Kurt Warner more than anything.

LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, no matter what happens in the post-season (sorry Kobe).

It's way to early to declare anything about this baseball season, except that the steroids scandal is not going away anytime soon, and it probably never will.

Tiger Woods is not back yet, but golf sure is more fun when he's involved.

Regrettably I couldn't tell you anything about hockey, but I do know that Hurricanes "fans" are out in full force around my stomping grounds.

And lastly, Brett Favre just needs to hang up the cleats and stay retired. I can't deal with another summer where SportsCenter only leads with stories about him. It might force me to do more productive things with my time, and who wants that?