Finals Retrospective: Was It Quantitatively “Exciting”?

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I’ll spare no time in telling you what you likely already know: Dallas-Miami was one of the closest series in NBA Finals history.

Games from this past series were decided (on average) by 5.66 points; the 9th lowest point differential of any Finals series, and the lowest point differential of any NBA Finals to last exactly 6 games.

The match-up also went without any “Dominant Wins” by either team — a concept I first saw explored by Neil Paine over at BBR:

…I want to focus on “Dominating Wins” as an important indicator of team dominance, defining them as regulation wins of 13 or more points. Why 13? In NBA history, 13 is the standard deviation of single-game scoring margins, so any 13+ point win marks a team as at least 1 standard deviation above average for that game; plus, a 13-point MOV at the end of regulation basically signifies that the losing team went into the final 2:00 knowing it wasn’t going to win the game (Win Expectancy = 0%), an important aspect of breaking the opponent’s will.

This is important because, to me, consistently close games translate to exciting basketball. And that’s where the idea of “Non-Dominant Wins” comes into play.

If “Dominant Wins” are victories of 13 or more points, then “Non-Dominant Wins” shall be defined as victories of 12 or fewer points. When every game in a Finals series is “non-dominant” — meaning that the losing team went into the final 2:00 with at least some chance of winning (Win Expectancy > 0%) — it will be marked as a Quality Series (QS).

Here is a table with the NBA Finals which qualify as QS:

Note : APD – Average Point Differential

One might argue that given the narrow margin of victory throughout each of these series, the Finals listed above qualify as the most exciting ever (particularly the series lasting 6 and 7 games).


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