The first round of the playoffs are over now that the Bulls have eliminated the Nets (and actually we’re already into the second since the Grizzlies and Thunder have started), so it’s time to see how the predictions went and make picks for the second round. As always, I’ll be using the model that’s linked in the banner above, and comparing myself to ESPN’s TrueHoop Stat Smackdown.
In the first round I was 100% correct on the Heat sweep, as was pretty much everyone else in the Smackdown (the lone exception was Benjamin Morris). I was also right about the Knicks, Pacers, Thunder, and Spurs. Everyone else also made the same picks, although Henry’s mom had the right number of games for the Spurs; she, Haberstroh, and the Crowd had the right number for the Pacers; and she, Ilardi, and the Crowd had the right number for the Knicks while Ma actually took the Celtics. So it’s fair to say that those series were never really in doubt. Those correct picks gave me 27 points in the first round.
Things went wrong with the Warriors-Nuggets series, where the Warriors pulled the upset. It’s fair to call it an upset for a variety of reasons, but the fact that everyone in the Smackdown picked the Nuggets seems to verify it. I also missed the Grizzlies’ victory, which only three people picked (Haberstroh, Ma, and Henry’s mom), and the Bulls’ victory, which half the field picked (the Crowd, Ma, Ilardi, and Arturo). The Grizzlies’ win was unexpected, I would say, but certainly helped by Griffin getting injured. That’s part of why these are probabilities and not certainties. The Bulls’ win, I think, was less expected in part because they were dealing with injuries as well as being on the road. But put it all together and my 27 points are about one series behind the average of 32.3; if the Nets had held on or the Clippers had played to form, I’d probably be right in there.
Let’s see if I can catch up in the next few rounds. One place that won’t happen is with the Heat-Bulls series. The Heat have a 7.6 point differential advantage, which my model translates into a 94% chance of victory. I have the most likely number of games as a sweep, although one Bulls win isn’t unlikely. Everyone in the Smackdown has the Heat in 5, so this is really a question of if anyone gets the bonus two points or not.
The other series in the East is Knicks-Pacers. This is an interesting one for a number of reasons (the teams are a good study in contrasts if nothing else), but in particular the Knicks only out-scored the Pacers by .2 over the course of the season. That’s pretty close, although their home court advantage will also help. I give the Knicks a 60% chance of winning, with the Pacers taking two. The Smackdown field is split here, with half taking the Pacers in six and the other half taking the Knicks (three in seven games, Ilardi in five). This will be one of the series that decides who wins the contest.
Moving to the West, we have the Spurs and the Warriors. The Spurs were probably the third-best team in the league this year, while the Warriors are playing this year’s version of the spunky team that everyone hopes has a good run. I think some people will want to give the Warriors a chance because they are much younger and more athletic than the Spurs, and Curry always has a chance of shooting them into a game, but the fact is that the Spurs are simply a much better team. I have them winning 89% of the time with the Warriors winning one (barely edging out a sweep). Spurs in 5 is a popular pick, as the only other choices in the Smackdown are Haberstroh taking the Spurs in 7 and Henry’s mom taking the Warriors in 7. Henry’s mom is inexplicably winning so far, so this will either be where she blows her shot or really puts things away.
Finally we have perhaps the most interesting series of the second round, the Grizzlies and Thunder. Just looking at the regular season, that wouldn’t be the case; the Thunder’s 5.1 better differential gives them a 87% chance of winning. But as we all know, part of that other 13% is crazy stuff like your second-best player injuring his knee in the first round. So the model is taking the Thunder in 5 because it doesn’t know any better, but it’s hard to imagine that the Thunder should really be favored to that extent (if at all). In fact, the Thunder were only 3.5 point favorites today, which suggests they should be about even with the Grizzlies, and six of the eight Smackdowners are taking Memphis to win in 6. The exceptions are Henry’s mom and Stahlhut, taking the Thunder in 6 and 7 respectively.
So there it is: Heat in 4, Knicks in 6, Spurs in 5, and Thunder in 5 (with an obvious caveat). The Heat, Spurs, and Grizzlies will have little effect on the Smackdown overall, as they are popular choices overall, but Knicks-Pacers will play a larger role and someone might make a big move if the Warriors or Thunder manage to win their series.