« Sports

By the numbers

by Nick Vitrano

Despite their present 3-2 deficit in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat is feeling confident.  "If you would have told this team at the beginning of the season that, 'Hey, you win two games at home to win a championship,' I'm going to take that bet," said Miami’s Chris Bosh.

Nice.  I like that from Bosh.  

Of course, the reaction from many has been precisely the opposite.  Citing stats such as: ‘since 1985 only 3 teams of 10 have lost game 5 and won the title,’ many have already put Bosh and the Heat in the grave.  Some are even engaging in final analysis of the “big 3 experiment.”   You know, ‘cause making back-to-back-to-back title series and only winning one is a colossal fail.   

I’ll grant you that this team was assembled for the purpose of winning titles.  So yeah, one in three is, I suppose, falling short.  But it’s funny how we regard championships in this era of sports.  For some reason, fans and analysts feel entitled to rings.  When did this happen?  When did we stop embracing the competition itself?  When did we forget that only one team every year wins it all?  When did ‘all or bust’ become the only path to contentment?

And then there’s this: did I miss the part where the Heat has lost?

Stats are a funny thing.  A statistic’s objective reality is entirely subject to the user.  That is to say – a dude can make pretty much any argument appear sound by selective use of stats.  Often it’s the unquoted stats that tell a greater story, provide the greater tell. 

It’s absolutely true that 7 of 10 game 5 winners since 1985 have won the NBA crown.  Only 3 of 8 since 1985 have ever won the final two home games to secure the same.  It’s also true that the Heat won 27 consecutive games this season.  They don’t seem daunted by the task of winning two straight, especially in an arena in which they were successful 37 of 41 times.  And the Spurs?  They were 23-18 on the road in 2012-’13.  Then there’s the stat that suggests that in a 2-3-2 format, this is precisely how it should be after 5 games.

Of course, you’re only as good as your last.  So, let’s look at that.  The Heat are 7-4 at home in this post-season.  The Spurs are 7-2 on the road.  But, if the Heat can get to a Game 7, that looks pretty solid, right?  After all, home teams have won the last 5 Game 7s in the NBA finals.  But Miami hasn’t won back-to-back since they opened with a victory against Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals.   Of course, they don’t have to worry about that unless they win tonight.

It’s a jumbled freakin’ mess, and I suppose that’s what I’m getting at.  Sometimes stats reveal a legitimate trend when placed side-by-side.  More often than not, as is the case here, stats contradict each other at every turn. 

Let’s just sit back and enjoy the game and conduct our zoomed out analysis after the trophy has been presented.