The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

A Thought On Stats

Check out this game, especially the way the scores go by quarter.

It’s an article of faith among many analysts (John Hollinger of ESPN.com pushes this very hard, for instance) that the best way to judge the actual performance of a team in-season with an eye towards predicting future results is to look at scoring margin. So far as they’ve determined results in very close games are heavily, for lack of a more precise term, luck-determined and therefor scoring margin trumps actual win-loss record so far as predicting the future goes. So here’s my question, to which I do not have a good answer: is this assumption confounded to a meaningful degree by differential substitution patterns in blowouts from team to team? This Celtics-Nets game is an example: the Celts very obviously called off the dogs and none of their starters even played 30 minutes, they were up by 36 at halftime, and ended up coasting to a 24 point win despite being outscored in both the 3rd and 4th. They’re also for the most part an older, veteran team with the intention of going deep into the playoffs. Are they more likely to call off the dogs sooner than, say, a younger team like the Hawks in this instance? Would there be more blowouts and thus an exaggeration of average decisive margin at each end of the scale in a conference with greater disparity between the best and worst teams? Or in a conference with nothing but very good and very bad teams? There’s a variety of questions along those lines, and I wonder whether these are issues which have been researched or whether it’s assumed that their effects are likely to be negligible on balance.

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January 14, 2010 - Posted by | Other NBA, The Nets

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