May 27, 2011

Why the Mavs should be Favored

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 9:34 am

I am sure Vegas favors the Heat in the NBA finals, but the Mavs have been the better team in the playoffs. Here is how well the final four teams played during each series.

Team ROUND 1 ROUND 2 Round 3 Average
DAL 12.5 21.4 13.1 15.07
MIA 10.7 10.9 10.4 10.65
OKC 12.4 11.3 7.4 10.48
CHI 6 8.8 7.8 7.35

What does this 15.07 mean?  We looked at the ability of Dallas’ opposing players  to adjust the actual scoring margin. So if Dallas played opponents who average 10 points better than average for a game and won by 5 on road they played at a level of 10+5+3 (for home edge)=18. Thus Dallas played 15.7 points better than average per game during playoffs. The key thing to note is Heat played at almost exactly the same level during each series and the Mavs worst effort was better than the Heat’s best. Running these ratings through a Monte Carlo simulation gives the Mavs a 65% chance to win the series.

Here is the chance of each possible outcome:

Games Mavs Heat
4 0.11 0.03
5 0.24 0.04
6 0.16 0.11
7 0.14 0.17

For example, Mavs have a 14% chance to win in 7 games.


  1. Sorry, that’s not how sports work.

    All of these numbers are somewhat arbitrary and not suitable for making a head to head prediction.

    Comment by Oli — May 27, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

  2. You obviously completely ignore the fact of how the Mavs and Heat each got to the finals. The Mavs beat a Portland team that was good but not great, a Lakers team that their best player has aged and wont admit it, and clearly had issues behind the scenes, and a young and inexperienced OKC team that doesnt play defense. The Heat had to beat a 76ers team thats on par with portland, an extremely formidable Celtics team, and the number one defense and mvp. Safe to say the Mavs road to the finals has been far easier.

    Comment by mendel — May 27, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  3. Your picture tells me that you looked long and hard to massage a statistic that favors the Mavs.

    Comment by Ray — May 27, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  4. Different styles of play. Miami played against 3 very good defenses. Dallas played a Lakers team that lost TWO GAMES to Chris Paul and nobody and beat an OKC team that clearly was not as good as Chicago. I think Miami wins in 6.LbJ>Dirk

    Comment by Rolando — May 27, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  5. Wait, wait… can you honestly say, ” the Heat played at almost exactly the same level during each series and the Mavs worst effort was better than the Heat’s best.”??? If your answer is yes then you obviously need to watch the games and stop with just interpreting irrelevant numbers. But since you like stats, here are some for you pal…

    Opponents PPG in playoffs
    Heat: 88.3
    Mavs: 92.5

    Opponents FG% in playoffs
    Heat: .419
    Mavs: .446

    Rebound Differential in playoffs
    Heat: +2.7
    Mavs: -2.1

    TO Differential
    Heat: +0.8
    Mavs: -0.5

    Still think the Mavs worst effort was better than the Heat’s best? We’ll see for sure in the next few weeks but think about your crappy claims before they fly out of your mouth…

    Comment by Joe B. — May 27, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  6. This is… GREAT! LET’S GO MAVS!

    Comment by Bull SHEEET — May 27, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  7. I can’t help but think that your analysis is limited by both small sample size and the fact that the Mavs and Heat played *entirely* different opponents. I know you tried to control for the opponents, but the seven-game series dynamic may not allow for a simple points-adjustment.

    Furthermore, while we know that regular season point differential is a decent predictor of post-season success, it doesn’t necessarily follow that early round post-season point differential is indicative of later round success. From previous years of data, can we make this significant assumption?

    Seems like you’re over-reaching with the numbers here, especially when you take your initial questionable analysis and draw win% chances from it. With all due respect, that has false precision written all over it.

    Comment by Ignarus — May 27, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  8. It doesn’t seem like you are taking into account the defense that Miami has had to contend with compared to the weak-style defenses the Mavs have had to deal with. Miami played the Number One and Number Two defensive teams in the whole league and prevailed and handily if you take out the fact that Chicago’s game 1 blow out is truly a statistical abheration and skewed the differential in the ECF in a way that obscures Miami’s true scoring potential. No team in the league during the regular season had a larger point differential in wins than Miami. Chicago and Miami ended the season 1 and 2. You are taking small sample sizes here and obfuscating what is truly important for the finals. The Mavs have not faced a defense as potent as Miami’s. Some might say the speed of the Mavs and the way they swing the ball around quickly will counter Miami’s defense on a string, but there is no evidence to support such a claim as the Mavs played Miami when they were still experimenting with their lines. I believe your conclusions play the result and do not take into account the holistic picture of both teams.

    Comment by RK — May 27, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  9. The big problem with this leap is sample size. 16 games may be an aberration rather than a trend.

    Comment by Westy — May 27, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

  10. Who the hell are you? These stats are just for eyes. Everybody that you can make up whatever statistic you want. Doesn’t mean anything

    Comment by sdg — May 27, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

  11. stupid

    Comment by kid — May 27, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

  12. [...] Why the Mavs should be Favored: Wayne Winston says Dallas should be favored on the basis of playoff performance. [...]

    Pingback by Why the Mavs should be Favored » Stathead » Blog Archive — May 27, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  13. Problem with these stats:

    These figures do not account for the STYLE of play in each conference. Did the Mavs play a team with near the defensive abilities of Boston or Chicago.

    When predicting a series, one must imagine actual match ups and how each teams offense will function against the other’s defense. Does Miami’s fast defense that relies on great rotation have what it takes to stop Dirk and the good three point shooting of the Mavs. Does JJ Barea break down the Heat as easily as the slower Lakers. Have the Mavs gone against a team as offensively or defensively gifted as Miami. Can Lebron find ways to break down the Mavs defense with either his ability to score or pass?

    The stats are interesting to look at, but they can’t account for how the teams truly match up. The Heat will have smaller line ups than the ones in the Chicago series that shoot better from three, and it will be up to Dallas. Dirk’s greatness and Dallas’s shooting should give them two victories, but the last two games in Miami will be enough to give Miami the title.

    Comment by Kev — May 27, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

  14. Since the overall point totals during the Mavs run have been higher, the point differential should be expressed as a percentage. I can’t believe a stats person would not realize this prior to publishing.

    Comment by doug — May 28, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

  15. As a economics/statistics guy, I get what you’re doing. However, the small sample sizes make this calculation worthless.

    The difference in performance is *less* than 5 points, over 16 games. Anyone with any basic knowledge of statistics, or even a casual basketball fan, knows that a team that manages to score 2 more buckets per game in the games leading up to the Finals shouldn’t be automatically “favored to win the Finals.”

    Because the Heat and Mavericks played different teams for a small sample and the difference is most likely *not* statistically significant, you have to look at individual matchups.

    The Mavericks are a good team, and if they consistently knock down threes for 4 games, they win the series. However, if they can’t get their 3 point shots to go in, the Heat’s superior play in the paint gives them the series.

    Comment by Khalil — May 28, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

  16. Interesting stats…for all those who keep saying these stats do not take into account defense: these seem to be based on pt diff, which is supposedly a better measure of overal performance and quality. There are two sides of the ball, and while Dallas played no teams with the defensive ability of Chicago, it can just as easily be said that the Heat played no team with the offensive ability of the Lakers or OKC. Put another way, these stats actually do take into a account both offense and defense.

    To be sure, I agree that we need to look at the individual mathcups for this series (and any other for that matter), just pointing out that these stats are no totally ignoring the defensive abilities of the teams. Not sure how the matchup here plays out though, notwithstanding the fact that most seem to think they favor Miami. If anything, history tells us that the team that is the defense machine usually wins these series, as we saw with the 2008 Celts/Lakers mathcup, which favors the Heat. Both of these teams, however, got through the conf finals not on the strength of their play, but on the inability of their opponents to win games in which, for a majority of the game, they severely outplayed the Heat/Mavs. Miami will not fold like OKC did and the Mavs have the offensive weapons and experience that will keep them from the predictable and ineffective style Chicago resorted to late in games. Can Dirk play as efficiently against the Heat (likely not)? Will LBJ stay hot from the perimeter (prob not)? What’s more, both teams are amazing on the road. Conventional wisdom also says the Heat have no one ot guard Dirk, but the way LBJ is playing D right now, I think they have the ideal guy to play Dirk. He’s quick enough to bother his drives and big/strong enough to play him in the post, though of course no one is blocking the off-one-foot fadeaways. Mavs cant guard Wade and Bron? To my eye JKidd has been the best permiter defender in these playoffs after LBJ. He was great against KB and KD at the end of games and is gathering steals at an amazing rate. Marion has played well too and seems like a pretty good matchup on James, at least as good as one could hope for at this point, not to mention Stephenson and Brewer. This series seems like a total toss up to me. My gut tells me Mavs, but based on defense winning and the Heat having three stars to the Mavs one, my brain tells me Miami is the favorite.

    Comment by Herman — May 28, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  17. Proof reading. It’s called proof reading.

    Comment by brd — May 28, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  18. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned that Heat could be favored simply because they have home court-advantage ;-)

    Comment by wiLQ — May 28, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  19. RK – I agree. And don’t forget Dallas’ 36 point blowout in Game 4 against the Lakers, also another statistical aberration. Take away those two matches and Miami is +91 against opponents while Dallas is +71. Lots of variation when dealing with such a small sample size. These stats point out an interesting perspective, but to make them a sole determinate in favoring the Mavs is silly.

    Comment by Ivan — May 29, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

  20. This stat analysis is not accurate, because they both played different teams, is very hard to compare. Also, if one team is supremely playing inferior to either Mavs or Heat, it would skew the stats big time given the sample size you used! Nevermind the extra bias you have being a dallas fan.

    Comment by m3kw — May 29, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  21. All of you heat fans are conveniently ignoring the fact that the heat had Philly which was like a first round bye(they are not anywhere close to Portland), they played an old, injured Celtics team, and the bulls have no offense outside of rose.I know you all will say Kobe is old but the Lakers and okc are way better offenses than anyone the heat has played played.the heat have t@he better d but the mavs are way better on offense.the matchup is closer than you all realize

    Comment by mavsfan — May 29, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  22. I totall agree. Thanks. Also Chicago and Boston cannot space flor like Mavs

    Comment by wwinston — May 29, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  23. The numbers are not subject to any bias. They come from a Fortan program

    Comment by wwinston — May 29, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  24. One thing you Heat fans are forgetting is that Chicago would have won two of those games if they hadn’t voluntarily played with a 5-second shot clock for the last six minutes of the game. (i.e., dribbling out the clock at the bottom of the center circle until there’s 5 seconds left on the clock)

    Probably explains some of the Heat’s defensive #s…

    Comment by Jab — May 29, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

  25. Hey dude, I think this is a pretty thorough analysis. Obviously your conclusion doesn’t go over well with some fans, but lets be honest, sports fans can be huge weiners sometimes.

    Comment by Oscar — May 29, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

  26. Wow, who is this idiot? The competition was weaker in the West. Lakers were terrible coming into the playoffs. Lost 2 games to the 7th seed Hornets. Thunder were pushed to 7 games against the 8th seeded Memphis and Dallas did not have the easiest time dealing with Portland, who were the 6th seed and proved to be the more challenging of Dallas’ post season opponent.
    You take Miami out of the East and you put them in the West, numbers will be better or similar in favor of Miami. You put Dallas in the East and they would more than likely, “gone fishing” with the TNT crew.

    Comment by vkmja — May 29, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

  27. There are a lot of Miami fans on this blog..LOL!

    The reality is that neither team has faced an opponent that has prepared them for the NBA Finals. Dallas has played some good/very good offensive teams with questionable defenses. Conversely, Miami has faced off with good/very good defenses with shaky offenses. When most people look at a series (and actually have a dog in the fight) they imagine a scenario where their teams’ top players (Dirk, LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Kidd) play at normal to slightly above average level. This is fine and to be expected. The problem starts when Miami fans assume that the Mike Miller’s and Joel Anthony’s of the world will contribute considerably more than normal…or if Mavs Maniacs think the Brendan Haywood’s and Peja’s will own the paint/3pt. line.

    Past performance is often an indicator of future performance; the question is how far back do we look. Based on these playoffs, I’d say that the two teams are about as even as can be. Normally, you can “feel” that one team has an advantage over the other but this time…it seems that only fans of each team can find that “feel.”

    Homecourt in this series will mean nothing because neither team plays in an overly raucous arena. Miami fans are fairly blase (kinda like L.A. fans but worse) and only get excited blood is in the water. Dallas fans (the types that attend many Mavs games) tend to prefer looking good over shouting while holding a beer and nachos. Each team is great on the road and both have played in fairly hostile cities (Portland, OKC, Boston, Chicago).

    Keys for the Series:

    They cannot pack the paint in and dare Dallas to shoot. Dallas is not and isolation/drive team. They pass the ball well and constantly move. This type of offense forces a defense to work…and work hard. Miami has a solid defense but chasing Dallas around may impact their ability to score points. Heavy usage of LeBron, Wade and Bosh is okay since they are young and this is the Finals. The problem is that these guys will have to work much harder on defense against a much bigger team than any they have faced. Miami (no matter how good their D is) will need every point they can get. In other words, Dallas may not be as “talented” but Miami has less margin for error because they don’t have as many CONSISTENT and capable scorers. Miami will need contributions from players that have been “up and down” in addition to the big 3. Dallas can win relying on guys that have consistently performed well (Terry, Barea in addition to Chandler, Kidd, Nowitzki and Kidd); Marion may be Dallas’ “X” factor.

    Miami will need their Big 3 to play at a high level. In additon, one other player will have to make a big contribution or two players will need to have reasonable contributions. This is not an impossible task. Miami is athletic and can give the Mavericks fits with the slashing and dishing of LeBron and Wade. If Mike Miller and co. can shoot from long range, it gives the Heat an added dose of potency which is key against the Mavs. The Heat WILL NEED to shoot well…as a TEAM. LeBron hitting 50% of his shots alone/or Bosh doing something similar by himself is not enough. Dallas (especially Dirk) can be ruthlessly efficient shooting the basketball. Dallas will utilize their zone, and try to force Miami into a shot-making contest; this is a game they cannot win without superhuman efforts in all seven games. In packing in their defense Dallas can use their size advantage to dominate the glass. Miami should force the issue by driving the lane and using their stars’ ability to finish at the hoop. Worst case scenario is that a Heat player draws a foul and get two free throws.

    I think that Miami is perfectly capable of winning…however, they will need at least two of their stars to play out of this world each night (with big contributions from one or two other players to win). Dallas is less top heavy outside of Dirk. I think Dallas can have an “ok to fairly good game” and beat Miami, though with great struggle. Dallas’s “B” game will beat Miami’s “B” game. If both teams play at their max level, I will still say Dallas only because Dallas has more guys that are fully capable of influencing the outcome of any game on their own.

    Keys for the Mavericks:

    Comment by gnj — May 29, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

  28. Miami Heat is in a way easier division,don’t forget! I think the Mavs have to many weapons and will win in the end…

    Comment by dimegirl — May 31, 2011 @ 12:09 am

  29. only 2 wins to go. to all NBA analyst, pls revised your analysis in favor to Miami

    Comment by thanix — June 5, 2011 @ 11:19 pm


    <—————– This ARTICLE is plain plaigerism.

    “2.You obviously completely ignore the fact of how the Mavs and Heat each got to the finals. The Mavs beat a Portland team that was good but not great, a Lakers team that their best player has aged and wont admit it, and clearly had issues behind the scenes, and a young and inexperienced OKC team that doesnt play defense. The Heat had to beat a 76ers team thats on par with portland, an extremely formidable Celtics team, and the number one defense and mvp. Safe to say the Mavs road to the finals has been far easier.”

    Comment #2 (mendel), go report!!! lol

    Comment by BeLucky — June 9, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  31. is it just me, or is this series not getting enough attention?

    Comment by BeLucky — June 9, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  32. The series right now appears to vindicate Mr Winston’s work. Maybe I should have bet on the Mavs.

    Comment by Cartwright — June 11, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

  33. Thanks Wayne. I would love to see the faces of your critics above. Your analysis won me $70.

    Comment by Mike — June 12, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

  34. You sir nailed this series. You deserve your props despite what your earlier critics said on previous posts.

    Comment by Tyler — June 12, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

  35. Good job Wayne. Looking forward to your series recap.

    Comment by Mike — June 12, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

  36. You told us.

    We wanted to believe.

    They did it.

    Best regards from all the fans over here in Germany.

    Comment by Ralf — June 16, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  37. Thanks. Dirk was awesome and is such as great guy!

    Comment by wwinston — June 16, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

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