Knicks-Celtics: A 30 to 16 to 1 Series Post Mortem

Posted on April 28, 2011 by


The following was originally posted at Arturo Galletti’s Amazing Stats.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
-Sir Winston Churchill, Speech in November 1942

Has it really almost been a year?

The first post I ever wrote for the Wages of Win network (and in fact the first post written for the network) was about my beloved Celtics and how people should not be surprised by their success in the 2010 Playoffs against the Cavaliers (see here). One of the key points in the article was that bad minute allocation and inefficient use of resources doomed the Cavaliers. This led me to think about teams that were successful in the regular season but dramatic failures in the playoff which led to the Half-Baked Notion (full article here ).

The Half Baked Notion

The Half-Baked notion is this: what wins in the regular season is not necessarily what gets you the big trophy.

What’s the difference? Minute allocation& how wins produced are affected by that allocation. We continuously hear terms like playoff rotation and playoff minutes thrown around come playoff time. The funny thing is that when we use math and science to take a take a look at the data we see that the pundits may just be right .

The half baked notion tells us that a good deep team filled with average and above average players will get you in the playoffs but to get far in the playoffs you need your wins to be concentrated in your Top 6.

If we look at 2010 numbers:

  • The best two players accounted for 55% of a teams wins in the 2010 Playoffs.
  • The top three players are just below the pareto threshold (80% of the Wins)
  • The next three (4,5,6th man) account for the rest of the positive win contribution about equally.
  • After that everybody else actually hurt teams in the playoffs.

30 to 16 to 1

30 to 16. When looking at the NBA, we typically focus our energy on what happens in the regular season to turn thirty regular season teams into 16 playoff teams. This is perfectly understandable but I believe it misses the point somewhat.

16 to 1. The true goal of any NBA season is to turn thirty teams into one champion and based on the Half-Baked Notion what gets you from 30 to 16 is not what gets you from 16 to 1.

With 30 to 16 to 1, I focus on the top six players for each team that will make the difference come playoff time.

In the pre-season, I worked my way through every team in the 2009-2010 NBA Playoffs based on my half-baked notion about the difference between the Regular season in the NBA and the Playoffs.

This year god-willing we will do that too .

Thunder god that is!

But this year we are going to start with series post mortem first. We will look at each series thru the prism of Wins Produced and the Half Baked Notion (see the Basics if you’re new here).

Couple of more things before we go:

  • The Championship equation (originally seen here, here and here). I’ve found when looking at all the champions since 1978:
  • Win 52 or more games (Houston is an aberration that can be explained in one word: Hakeem)
  • Have two star points (either >2 Stars, > Star + Superstar or > 2 Superstars) in your Playoff Top 6
  • Have at least one .140 WP48 player who plays PF or Center in your Playoff Top 6 (credit to some dude and we’ll call it the Suns Corollary)
  • A superstar puts you in the conversation if you can make it in and surround him some talent (credit to Neal Frazier and we’ll call it the Hakeem Factor or for this year The Chris F#$%ing Paul Factor).
  • The Measure of a Champion ( see Here and Here).A team need someone who’s done it before to win it all (unless of course they have Larry Legend playing for them and a ridiculous roster). Magic, Horry, Duncan,Kobe, Manu,Billups, Prince, Rondo did it on the first go but were playing with Kareem, Hakeem,Robinson, Shaq, Duncan,Wallace & Garnett (all bigs). So Howard needs that plus one to get it done (Lebron had it right).
  • Homecourt matters ( see here& here). Discount it at your peril.

Let’s get this party started.



Yeah, it's like that

What I thought:

The Facts: Boston may have been the best team in the league but then they went and blew it up. The Knicks were finally a good team with some hope then they succumbed to their base instincts and blew it up.

Win % @ Neutral Site: About 61% for Boston in the worst possible case. 70 % + in the Best. New York is a bleh team, that 7 game winning streak featured NJ twice, Cleveland, Toronto and Indiana. I’ll take 65%

The Numbers say:

Home Team Win Margin 65%
W4 17%
W5 30%
W6 18%
W7 18%
L4 1%
L5 3%
L6 7%
L7 6%

Celts in 5

My Initial Prediction: Celts in 6. Celts will screw around like they like to do in the early rounds. Rondo will find his groove. Shaq will be back by the end to close it out at MSG.

What we got:

Instead of creaky Celtics screwing around, we got creaky Knicks screwing around. Not good. Bad teams cannot afford to dick around come playoff time. Throw in some Homecourt mojo (it’s not really luck if it’s statistically probable as a feature in the NBA) and this was over very,very quickly.

The Numbers Breakdown for the series:

The Celts were 8.5 points better and trending up in this series. This was over on Friday.

The Celts were better on offense and way better on defense. Knicks beat the Celts on Blocks and Offensive rebounds and thus got more offensive plays. But the Celts killed them everywhere else. Mismatch across the board on the court.

It was also a mismatch on the sidelines as well. The Celts big Four all showed up and Doc Rivers played them accordingly. About the only complaint there is with Baby over Jermaine and Kristic. This hopefully will be less of a problem if Shaq becomes available.

The Knicks failed to capitalize on their one advantage at the five position. Turiaf (when used) was effective against O’Neal. Jeffries, Williams and Carter could have helped Melo break his playoff losing streak. D’antoni gets a D and only because the injuries limited his options. He might just get a nice TV contract as consolation though.

What we learned:

The Knicks are a non-starter as currently built. They lack the talent and depth to compete. Their best players (Fields & Billups) showed their age in negative ways. Melo is miscast at the three and plays better at the 4 (i.e on the post which we’d seen in Denver). This is a problem because Amare at the 4 is ok but at the 5? Not good. Throw in a horrible cap situation and next year is a car wreck waiting to happen. Howard and Paul are not coming Knick fans, get used to it. On the plus side, they might go to Brooklyn and the Nyets.

Evil Plan? What are you talking about?BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

The Celtics are who I thought they were. They just got there faster than I thought. Rondo has his head on straight. Ray is lighting up inferior competition. Pierce and Garnett are efficient on both ends. They have a Shaq/Perk sized hole at the five. Luckily, their likely second round opponent cannot do anything about that. The NBA championship will be decided between the Big 4 and the the Big two and a half.

My money would ride with the Heat (but it’s a close,close thing and it comes down to the Homecourt). My Heart lies with the Celts.

Bring it on.

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