## Thursday, April 25, 2013

### Game 3: Swing Game

I have given you the percentages for teams after winning games 1 and 2 of a best of seven series. Now I will give you the percentages for teams after winning game 3 of a 1-1 series. As I told you earlier, in the last 22 years, 95 series have been tied 1-1. The team that wins game 3 has gone onto win the series 77.9% (74/95) of the time. Here it is broken down further:

When the home teams wins game 3 they win the series 68.8% (33/48) of the time.

When the road team wins and steals back the home court advantage, they win the series 87.2% (41/47) of the time.

## Monday, April 22, 2013

### NBA best-seven series trends after 2 games

Before the NBA Playoffs started, I went through the last 241 best of 7 NBA playoff series, over the last 23 years,  and I gave you the winning percentages for the team that has home court advantage following game 1. I will repeat the info here, and add what the percentages are following game 2.

In the last 241 best of 7 series the home team won game one 181 times. 156 of those teams won the series (86.2%).

When the team with home court advantage took a 2-0 series lead they won the series 93.3% of the time (126/135)

In the last 241 best of 7 series the road team won game one 60 times, 34 of those teams won the series (56.7%).

Just 11 of those 60 teams would go home with a 2-0 series lead, 9 of those teams held on and won the series (2005 Houston lost to Dallas in 7 games after winning games 1 and 2 in Dallas, and 1994 Phoenix lost to Houston in 7 games after winning games 1 and 2 in Houston.)

Of the last 241 best of 7 series, 95 have been split after 2 games. The team that began the series with the home court advantage won the series 56 times (58.9%)

Don’t be fooled by the 11 times in 23 years when it comes to the road team winning the first 2 games, it is much more rare than once every 2 years. I happened 4 times in a 3 year stretch from ’93-’95. The Rockets have been involved in both cases of a team blowing a 2-0 lead going home, they have actually been involved in 5 of the 11 series.

In 1995 they won the first 2 games on the road of the Western Conference Finals against San Antonio, and they took the first 2 games of the Finals in Orlando. They lost the first 2 games at home in 2008 against Utah. The teams that came back after losing the first 2 games at home each won the next 3, would lose on the road in game 6, and then win game 7 at home.

## Saturday, April 20, 2013

### Home court trends after game 1

Today marks the start of the 2013 NBA Playoffs. All weekend you will hear about the importance of winning the first game of a playoff series, and it is true that the winner of game 1 wins the series most of the time, but I dug a little deeper. In all, I took the last 241 best of 7 NBA playoff series, which goes back 23 years, here’s what I found:

190 of the 241 teams that won game 1 went on to win the series, which is 78.8%. I then separated the series into two categories: the first being when the home team wins game 1, the second being when to road team wins game 1. Here is what I found:

In the last 241 best of 7 series the home team won game one 181 times. 156 of those teams won the series (86.2%). That’s after 4 of the 13 home teams to win game 1 lost year lost their series.

In the last 241 best of 7 series the road team won game one 60 times. Only 34 of those teams won the series (56.7%).

What is also important to note is that in the last 241 best of seven series, the team with the home court advantage has won 182 times (75.5%).

It’s not hard to figure out why these numbers are the way they are. The team with home court is in most cases the better team. The reason why only 25 teams with home court have lost a series after winning game is that you are asking an inferior team to win 4 of the next 6 games. Its hard enough for those teams to win 3 of 6, as you can see by close to half of the road teams losing a series after winning game 1.

So while its just game 1, and it’s a long series, you can argue that the first game is the most important. It sets the tone for the rest of the series.

## Tuesday, January 8, 2013

### NFL Home Field Trends: Divisional Playoff Round

After the home teams went 3-1 on Wild Card Weekend, lets examine the importance of home field in divisional round, as the top two teams in each conference enter the fray. This is the 23rd season that the NFL has had this exact playoff format. Teams that have home field in the divisional round are 65-23, which means that on average home teams go 3-1, which is what happened last season. In the last 6 years, home teams are just 15-13, so the first 15 years of this format the home teams were winning at an 83% clip. Anyways, all 4 home teams have won 6 times, and no more than 2 road teams have won 4 times, all 4 have happened in the last 6 years. 4 years ago was the first time that more than 2 home teams have ever lost during one weekend in this round. Here it is broken down further:

#1 Seed AFC- 13-9
#2 Seed AFC- 16-6
#1 Seed NFC- 18-4
#2 Seed NFC- 18-4

3 of the 9 teams that have lost as the #1 seed in the AFC have been coached by Marty Schottenheimer.

AFC # 1 seeds that played on Saturday went 10-3, they went 4-6 on Sunday.
Home teams are 36-8 (.818) on Saturday, 29-15 on Sunday (.659)

Coincidentally the NFC home teams are 36-8 and the AFC home teams are 30-14

Peyton Manning has played in 7 divisonal playoff games. In those 7 games the home team is 2-5. He is 1-3 at home, and 2-1 on the road.

## Saturday, January 5, 2013

### For the Texans, winning ugly is beautiful

Everyone wants it to be pretty and look easy. They want those games where you score 40 points and your quarterback throws for 300 yards and a bunch of touchdowns. The Texans 19-13 win over Cincinnati on Saturday was the opposite of that, but it was beautiful in its own way.

The Manning, Brady, Rodgers way is more fun to watch, no question, but it isn’t a guaranteed way to win. Let’s remember, Manning and Rodgers have won one Super Bowl apiece, and ever since Brady’s Pats have been carried by its offense it has come up ringless. I’d rather be ugly and win than pretty and lose.

On the surface, Saturday’s game was ugly. There was no high-octane offense on the field. There was only one long pass play (AJ Green 45-yard catch), there was no breathtaking touchdown, unless you count Leon Hall’s pick-6, but for Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips, this game was beautiful. Houston got back to Texan football, and while the score won’t indicate it, they dominated the Bengals.

Matt Schaub and the offense controlled the ball for almost 40 minutes. Arian Foster ran the ball 32 times for 140. He was consistent and steady as was the offensive line which kept the power Bengal pass rush from sacking its quarterback. Nobody will confuse Schaub for Manning, Brady, or Rodgers, but he was efficient, and made the big throws when he had to, like the 3rd down pass to Garrett Graham to seal the win. More important than the offense however, was that the old Texans defense showed up again.

For much of the season, the secondary has been picked apart, the pass rush has been non-existent, and Phillip’s defense hasn’t been able to get off the field on third down. Saturday, the Texans defense held Andy Dalton to 127 passing yards, while completing half his passes, the pass rush was made him uncomfortable, and the Bengals offense didn’t complete a single third down.

Ball control and defense. It might not look good, but it’s the only way the Texans can win, and for one day, they did it as well as they have all season. Now the question is can they do it again, and again, and again?

All throughout the next seven days you will hear how the Texans have no chance to in New England next week. They’ll talk about the game from last month. They’ll say the Texans are a fraud, that the offense isn’t good enough, that Tom Brady will throw all over them. Those people are stupid, so don’t listen.

I’ve seen this episode before. The big-bad Patriots dominate a team in a high profile Monday Night game, only to see that same team again in the playoffs. It happened two years ago. New England beat the Jets 45-3. They met in the divisional round weeks later, at the exact same time (3:30 Sunday), and the entire world said it would be a blow out. Trent Dilfer went as far to say how he had watched hours and hours of tape, and didn’t see any way possible for the Jets to win. Guess what they did, and the team that went into Gillette Stadium two years ago is pretty similar to the team that will take the field next Sunday.

Like the Jets were back then, Houston is built on defense and a run game, and to be honest, the Texans are better at both. Their pass rush will be able to get to Brady a lot easier than Rex’s did. Their run game is better than the Shonn Greene LaDanian Tomlinson attack that Gang Green had. Oh ya, Matt Schaub is better than Mark Sanchez.

Saturday’s performance against the Bengals won’t have anyone jumping on the bandwagon because the score wasn’t what we consider to be impressive, but in the NFL, a playoff win is a playoff win no matter how you get it done, and what most people consider to be ugly football is beautiful to some teams, especially when those team’s move on in the end.

## Monday, December 31, 2012

### Wild Card Weekend homefield trends

This is the 11th season of the four-division setup in each conference. It has drastically changed the playoffs because there is one less wild card, and it pretty much makes it impossible to play a home playoff without winning your division. We are just days away from the start of Wild Card Weekend, and here is a trend that I have noticed over the last 10 years (02-11) with the record of home teams in wild card games as opposed to the ten years prior to the realignment (92-01).

2002-2011 Home teams went 23-17 (.575)
1992-2001 Home teams went 30-10 (.750)

I break it down further:
2002-2011 the #4 seeds went 12-8 (.600)
1992-2001 the #4 seeds went 16-4 (.800)

2002-2011 the #3 seed went 11-9 (.550)
1992-2001 the #3 seed went 14-6 (.700)

Now lets look at it by conference:

2002-2011 AFC Home teams went 11-9 (.550)
1992-2001 AFC Home teams went 16-4 (800)

2002-2011 AFC #3 seeds went 6-4 (.600)
1992-2001 AFC #3 seeds went 9-1 (.900)

2002-2011 AFC #4 seeds went 5-5 (.500)
1992-2001 AFC #4 seeds went 7-3 (.700)

2002-2011 NFC Home teams went 12-8 (.600)
1992-2001 NFC Home teams went 14-6 (.700)

2002-2011 NFC #3 seeds went 5-5 (.500)
1992-2001 NFC #3 seeds went 5-5 (.500)

2002-2011 NFC #4 seeds went 7-3 (.700)
1992-2001 NFC #4 seeds went 9-1 (.900)

Now lets look at it by day:

2002-2011 Saturday Home teams went 12-8 (.600)
1992-2001 Saturday Home teams went 15-5 (750)

2002-2011 Sunday home teams went 11-9 (.550)
1992-2001 Sunday home teams went 15-5 (.750)

2002-2011 Early Saturday home team went 6-4 (.600)
1992-2001 Early Saturday home team went 7-3 (.700)

2002-2011 Late Saturday home team went 6-4 (.600)
1992-2001 Late Saturday home team went 8-2 (.800)

2002-2011 Early Sunday home team went 5-5 (.500)
1992-2001 Early Sunday home team went 10-0 (1.000)

2002-2011 Late Sunday home team went 6-4 (.600)
1992-2001 Late Sunday home team went 5-5 (.500)

NOTE: 2011 was just the second time under the four division format that all four home teams have won on Wild Card Weekend (2006)

## Saturday, December 22, 2012

### Rockets owe David Stern, big time

When he’s here for the All Star game in February, David Stern will be booed. It will be loud, and it will be long. He’s been booed everywhere because he has stayed around too long and become less likeable than Deron Williams, but the big reason why it will happen in Houston is because of the trade he killed last year that would’ve netted the Rockets Pau Gasol. Instead of booing David Stern, the people in Houston need to thank him.

Had the trade gone through, and the rest of Darryl Morey’s plan had taken place (turning extra cap space into Nene) the Rockets would have a core of Gasol, Nene, and Kyle Lowry.  Nene and Lowry have been hurt a lot over the last season and a half, while Gasol has been lost in LA. It isn’t exactly and inspiring trio.

Of course, the trade didn’t go through, and the Rockets went though another playoff-less season. It looked like the 2012-13 season would be worse, until 72 hours before it started when Morey pulled off the James Harden trade. Now the Rockets have some life, and more importantly, have some hope.
Can you imagine if the first plan had taken place, we’d be trying to figure out ways to dump Gasol and figuring out a way to trick the league into letting the Rockets amnesty Nene (only players on a team’s roster before the lockout are amnesty candidates). Doesn’t sound like a fun situation. Sounds like a lot of “Does Darryl Morey need to be fired?” talk. Fortunately, we don’t have to have that conversation now.

Saturday night, the Rockets capped off what was their best week of the season. Monday they dominated the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Wednesday night, they put up 122 on the Sixers, and Saturday night they put up 121 against a Memphis defense that had gone 23 games without giving up 100 points. This team is young, fun to watch, and good, with a lot of room to get better.
The youth and inexperience on this Rockets team is pretty staggering. Saturday night’s starting 5 of Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, Omer Asik, and Harden had combined to start 97 NBA games before this season, and 63% of those starts belonged to Parsons. The bench is young with three first round picks (Terrance Jones, Donatas Montiejunas, and Royce White) that aren’t even making contributions in their rookie seasons. There is also cap space, lots of cap space.

Cap space isn’t always a good thing. It’s real easy to take cap space and spend it poorly (see Detroit: Ben Gordon, Charlie Vilanueva), but I’d rather have it than not have it. The key is being smart with it, and not just spending it just because you can. That will be the challenge for Darryl Morey going forward.

Building an NBA championship team is hard, real hard. It’s the hardest league to do it in. That’s why only 9 franchises have won titles since 1980. A lot still have to happen in order for the Rockets to get to that stage, but if you look real hard, you might even have to squint, you can see something starting to form. You have David Stern to thank for that. We wouldn’t be saying this had he not stepped in last year, so when you are booing him relentlessly on all star weekend, don’t do it because he killed the Gasol trade, do it because he’s a bad person.