Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Streaks in the NBA

Even without much press for the Bulls and their 7 straight wins there's been a lot of coverage of win streaks so far this season. How unusual is it that teams win 10 in a row? It's not as easy to calculate because assuming a 50% chance of winning makes streaks unlikely. It's easier to win 10 games in a row if you're the favorite than if you're even. What we're gonna use then is the number from Random Chance In Sports which say the better team wins 77% of the time in the NBA. From that we know even the best team in the league has only a 7% chance of winning it's previous 10 games. From other (rough) approximations we can learn there's roughly a 20% chance of any team in the league being on a 10 game winning streak. On average there should be one 6 game winning streak, and one that's longer (about 8 games), which is less than our current and recent win streak total. One possibly reason is the stratification of the Eastern Conference. The few really good teams can beat up on the really bad teams, leading to long winning and losing streaks (Celtics and Heat vs Cavs and Nets). We can also dig in deeper for certain teams:
Chicago Bulls: 7 wins
They've got Carlos Boozer back, and the team is working well. Unfortunately it'll be a while till we see everyone again with Noah's surgery.
New York Knicks: 8 wins (just lost)
It sure helps to have the easiest schedule in the league (average opponent: The Toronto Raptors). They've played will, but they're not gonna get out of the first round of the playoffs.
Miami Heat: 10 wins
They've won 10 straight because they've become Dwyane Wade's team. The offseason was full of "Lebron is #2" jokes, but it might actually be the truth. Wade has averaged 25.3 ppg in wins (27.3 on the streak), but just 18.7 in losses. Lebron has averaged 23.2 ppg in wins (24.9 on the streak) and 26 in losses. So they are gelling better, but it's because Dwyane is now the alpha dog.
Boston Celtics: 11 wins
11 straight wins happens normally if you have 4 hall of fame starters and the 5th is an MVP candidate. Especially with a little schedule break and some luck.


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