The Last Act: Round 3 Wrap-Up and Finals picks by the numbers

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Winston Churchill

11-3 thru 14 series.

Let’s get the post-mortems out of the way and make that pick.

Because this model comes with references

Background first:

It’s about to get math intensive here so if it’s your first visit (or if you need to bone up) that’s what the Basics are for.

The NBA Playoff Preview and the Picks (Part 1: Just the Facts) Breaks down all the Maths and theories in detail.

with the visual summary here:

The Playoff Checklist for all the Factors:

And The Team Vitals for everyone:

The Team Vitals (Top 6 Approximation):

The NBA Playoff Preview and the Picks (Part 2: Skin in the Game) Breaks down all the 1st round picks.

First Round Recap and Second Round Playoff Preview by the Numbers: Has the post-mortem on the First round Picks (and why in a choice between math and instinct you should go with math) and breaks down all the 2nd round picks.

Pure Win: Round 2 Wrap-Up, Conference Finals picks by the numbers and Smackdown Update:

Has the post-mortem on Round 2 and the continuing inspirational story of math triumphing over incredible odds.

Numbers are your friends (Image courtesy of

Time for the Round 3 Recap:

Eastern Conference Finals: Chicago vs Miami

I ran the numbers:

In ever possible iteration, the Bulls emerged as the superior team. This lead to this:

and:The Results

Series 1: Chicago vs Miami: Win % @ Neutral Site: 55% for Bulls

The Numbers said: Bulls in 7

Result: Miami in 5 (6th most likely predicted scenario at 6.8%)

And then the rotations all changed and the last piece of the Miami Superfriends I expected finally showed up (hello Mr. Miller) and it killed all our predictions.

Next Year in the East, Not looking good. Pray for some bad Heat luck. Pray.

The Heat rolled with the 5 players they wanted (Lebron, Wade, Bosh,Haslem and Miller). The Heat adjusted to the Bulls. The Bulls failed to adjust. The experienced Heat beat the less experience Bulls (but we covered that already).
It’s important to note that given all that the Bulls were still a hair’s breadth away from being up 3-2.

The Recap follows:

For the Bulls, Rose was very bad. He looked his age. The good news for Bulls fans is that I expect him to continue to look his age in the future and get better.

On the opposite side of the ball, Lebron led his second team to the Finals. Bosh and Miller played very well. Two important points for the finals pick are that Wade did not look right at the end of that series and that reports of Haslem’s comeback are vastly overrated. Case in Point:

Keep in mind that those are the 5 games Haslem has played in 2011.

Notes so Far:

  • Lebron very,very good (so good that he merits his own theme music)
  • Miller and Bosh good
  • Wade good but possibly banged up
  • Haslem playing but not really back

Let’s head west.

Western Conference Finals: Dallas vs OKC

I ran the numbers here as well:


You’ll note that I added with and without Dirk into the equation and much like the Bulls and Heat in every possible iteration I came up with:

And a pick of Dallas in 7 (but Dallas in 5 was close behind)

The results

Series 2: Dallas vs OKC: Win % @ Neutral Site: 53% for Mavs

The Numbers said: Mavs in 7

Result: Mavs in 5 (2nd most likely predicted scenario at 17.9%)

OKC was done after their Game 4 Collapse.

Particularly when Dirk Nowitski was historically offensive.

The series wrap looked like so:

Five Mavs played above average ball to 4 for the Thunder. Russell Westbrook did kill OKC but he, like Rose simply looked his age. He’ll figure it out soon enough.

Couple of key learnings:

  1. Nobody is stopping Dirk. No one. He will get his point even if you hit him with a nine iron. Haslem is Miami’s best option here (but he still looks off).
  2. Kidd can run a heck of an offense and he’s tricky and more than a little dirty on D. Miami has nothing on the point to match him.
  3. The Matrix looked like his old self. He’s going to need that Mojo because a bad man is coming for him
  4. Tyson Chandler will be the best center in this series.
  5. Barea and Terry are both bipolar. Dallas needs tham on the positive side of the equation.

Let’s talk Finals.

The Finals

That’s the plain wins produced numbers for the playoffs. The Mavericks have looked significantly better than Miami in the playoffs against what I would consider equal opposition (perhaps even slightly better opposition given the Boston series).

But keep in mind that we use the actual minute allocation each team has used for the playoffs combined that with the raw productivity (ADJP48 not Wins Produced because having a big as your sixth man? In general better than having a small).

Please note I said : “In General”

There are some key assumptions I had to make for this series as I did my model:

  • Dallas has looked better than their full regular season numbers. In fact in general they’ve looked more like the second half team.
  • No-Dirk Dallas games are not considered in the model.
  • Haslem is not healthy and his 2010-11 regular season numbers are a small sample size (about 300 minutes) and not representative of the current reality. So straight playoff numbers for him.
  • Wade looks banged up but I’m assuming he’s 80% and improving.
  • Mike Miller is back.
  • Miami will go with the minute assignment from The Bulls series.

With all those assumptions, the pertinent numbers for this series are:

Which is how each team projects based on playoff minute allocation and their ADJP48 numbers.

To summarize, Mavs better post-all star break and in playoffs. Miami better in regular season and overall (by a sliver).

This series really is a coin flip. Miami has the Homecourt though.

It’ll come down to one man.

Just not the man you think

Udonis Haslem is the key. I think he’s not there yet and that will make all the difference at the 4 and 5.

The final numbers are:

To be clear, the straight model likes Miami by the barest of margins (i.e. Miami in seven). I’m choosing to give Dallas full credit for what they’ve done since february. The math in both scenarios looks like:

In the end, I am going off book again. The full numbers like Miami in 7 (a 20% chance by the straight numbers or #1 option and a 17% chance by the second half favoring numbers i’m going to roll with or #2 option).

I’m putting my faith in what Dallas has done lately and trusting the post All Star Break and playoff numbers.

My final pick is Dallas in 5 ( a 14.2% chance straight and option #3 and a 21% percent shot by the second half favoring numbers).

Besides, it wouldn’t be any fun to root for the Heat against this Dallas team. I’m also hoping for a little big Z.


  1. May 31

    What? No, you can’t pick Dallas! That means I can’t win the Smackdown!

    Unless Dallas wins in 6….

  2. EntityAbyss
    May 31

    I doubt that Wade really is in that bad shape and even then, it’s hard to see miami losing… Especially in 5. They’d probably have to go winless in Dallas. Keeping in mind that this Heat team beat the bulls that you expected to beat dallas in 7, in 5 (and chicago is better than okc), I just can’t see this happening. I like that you rooted for the mavs (dirk, kidd, and marion really deserve one). The model likes Miami though, and Miami has home court. Miami in 6 or 7.

    • EA,
      I expect Wade to be healthy and I expect Miami to stick to the rotation from the Chicago series (if not it goes really poorly for them).
      If you actually look at Haslem as he’s playing now then and not like he played six months ago then Miami and Dallas project dead even and HCA wins it for Miami.

      If I account for the fact that Dallas has consistently looked like the second half team in the playoffs (seriously they swept a full strength defending champion Lakers team with HCA and Phil Jackson) then big D gets the nod.

      It’s a coin flip series (as it really should be for two finals teams coming from two loaded conferences).

      I’m going with Dallas continuing to be who they’ve been since February.

      The Haslem thing is killer because they need him on Dirk. If he can’t do it then it’s going to end up being Lebron and Bosh (and that will get them in all sorts of foul trouble).

      I can’t wait.

  3. Rex
    May 31

    Fun analysis. Surprised by Dallas in 5 rather than 6, since that has them closing out on the road.

      • Rex
        May 31

        ah, brain cramped that one. thanks for the reply.

  4. Chicago Tim
    May 31

    Man, was Chicago that bad? They are going to look bad if the Mavs win in five. And if Haslem isn’t there yet, next year could be brutal for the Bulls. If there is a next year.

    Oh well, at least the Bulls are young and improving, unlike some other teams out there. It all seemed too easy this year — there probably should be a few years of failure before the big win. I just hope that there’s a big win at the end of the rainbow. And I also hope that Thibs knows how to design an offense and was just saving that for year two. And that Boozer was injured. And a host of other things as well, as you might imagine.

    For a while I couldn’t imagine watching the Mavs play the Heat. Now I’m looking forward to it, although this week is incredibly busy and for me it still isn’t must-see-TV. I’ll Tivo it and see what happens.

    Anyway, I’m glad you stuck with it after the Celtics were knocked out. And I’m looking forward to some post-season reflection, as well. Anyone want to talk about the draft?

    • CT,
      They really were. All the classic inexperienced team mistakes. Couldn’t figure out their rotation. Didn’t adjust to the Heat’s counter-moves. Didn’t attack the Miami defense to get to the line.

      That last one was really,really weird to me. Rose killed in the second half of the season by doing precisely that. Made him unguardable. He should have been getting to the line 20 times a game in that series. Someone needs to give him tape of Isaiah/Jordan/Wade in the Finals in the offseason.

      Post season reflection and draft talk are both coming.

  5. winniepoo
    June 1

    Hey Arturo,

    I asked on the round 2 Smackdown update. But how do we determine who picked who for the conference finals and finals in the WoW smackdown. The diagrams in Round 2 update only cover the just completed conference semi (2nd round) series.

    Would appreciate if you could point me to the link?


      • winniepoo
        June 1

        Cool thanks I have been hanging out for an update to see who was out of the game and what picks provided the chance to win similar to the Truehoop chart by Ben.

  6. marparker
    June 2

    Love your work Arturo. Gotta say, it seems a bit lame to blame the inputs for what the model incorrectly predicted.

    • Marparker,
      In essence, I’m saying the Model is perfectly valid at predicting y’s with proper x’s. So actually it’s me that’s screwing up.

      To be fair, I can only assume substitution and minute allocation patterns will hold true. That and injuries (hello Rajon!) are the big sources of error.

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