Game 3 Between the Warriors and Rockets Saved the First Round of the NBA Playoffs
Crazy things happen during the playoffs in all sports. Underdogs pull off improbable wins, big blowouts become monster comebacks, evenly matched teams trade blows right down to the final buzzer.
One very cool thing about our numberFire Live platform (if we do say so ourselves) is that you can track all that madness in real time, as our win probability graphs rise and fall after every play.
Last night's Game 3 between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets was a great example of how fun these graphs can be to watch.
— numberFire (@numberFire) April 22, 2016
Despite playing without Stephen Curry, who injured his ankle in Game 1, the Golden State Warriors opened the game 70.30% favorites at opening tip, according to our algorithms. The Rockets had a strong first half and managed to hit 80.08% themselves with 4:08 to go in the second quarter. The Warriors kept threatening, and the Rockets kept pulling away until the Warriors narrowed the score to 81-80 with 9:00 to go.
From there, all hell broke loose.
With roughly three minutes to go, it was over 75% for the Rockets. Then, with less than a minute to go, it was roughly 75% for the Warriors.
Finally, with a mere two seconds remaining, James Harden hit a jumper to make the score 97-96, causing a whopping 47.64% swing in win probability, going from 73.82% Warriors to 73.82% in favor of the Rockets.
Eliminating the hope for a last-second shot, Draymond Green fumbled the subsequent inbounds pass off his leg, and the 97-96 score would stick as an upset win for Houston.
According to our Madness Meter, the game was -- as the kids say -- lit.
That was a lot of fun, but let's just say that it was the first time that thing has gotten much of a workout this postseason.
There have been 19 games played since the playoffs began last Saturday.
Of those 19 games, the team we projected to win won 16 of 'em. The only upsets were the aforementioned Rockets over Warriors in their Game 3, the Indiana Pacers overcoming the Toronto Raptors' 75.62% win probability at opening tip of Game 1 of their series for a 100-90 victory, and the Dallas Mavericks coming back to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 85-84 in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter of Game 2 of their series (despite OKC's 90.07% win probability at opening tip and 90.98% with roughly six minutes to go).
Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers - Game 1
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks - Game 2
It almost wouldn't be the NBA playoffs if the Raptors didn't lose a Game 1 at home to open the postseason (they've done so three years running now), so that Mavericks Game 2 win and last night's Rockets over Warriors thriller (even with no Curry) probably stand as the only two truly unlikely outcomes we've had yet.
In fact, not only has the favored team won 16 of the first 19 games, but 14 of those 16 favored victors never once dipped below a 50% chance of winning the game, according to our algorithms. As for the two that did momentarily dip below 50%, the outcome wasn't in doubt for very long.
In Game 1 of the series between the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, the Celtics held a 51.99% chance of winning for about eight seconds with 6:50 to go in the fourth. That was literally the only moment they were favored the whole game.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics - Game 1
The only other instance of a favored team briefly dipping below a 50% win probability and still winning was last night, when the Raptors and Pacers traded back and forth around 50% in the opening minutes of their Game 3.
That only lasted until Toronto took an 8-7 lead with 9:34 left to go in the first quarter. From there, the Raptors never again saw their odds of winning dip anywhere close to 50% on their way to a 101-85 blowout win.
Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers - Game 3
So, there you have it. Roughly one week and 19 games into the NBA playoffs and we've had one crazy, back-and-forth affair (Warriors versus Rockets in Game 3), two upsets on late rallies (Raptors and Pacers in Game 1, Thunder and Mavericks in Game 2), and 16 games where the winner was almost never in doubt.
That's right, almost 85% of the games we've seen so far have looked like this in graph form:
This year, for whatever reason, the first round of the NBA playoffs just isn't all that compelling.
As of now, every top-seeded team has a 2-0 or 2-1 series lead and at least a 78.92% chance of closing it out, according to our algorithms.
|Series||Lead||Odds of Winning Series|
|Cavaliers vs. Pistons||2-0 Cavaliers||88.02%|
|Hawks vs. Celtics||2-0 Hawks||80.06%|
|Raptors vs. Pacers||2-1 Raptors||78.92%|
|Heat vs. Hornets||2-0 Heat||79.53%|
|Warriors vs. Rockets||2-1 Warriors||90.12%|
|Clippers vs. Trail Blazers||2-0 Clippers||92.89%|
|Spurs vs. Grizzlies||2-0 Spurs||97.15%|
|Thunder vs. Mavericks||2-1 Thunder||83.52%|
There might be the occasional game like last night's thrilling upset of the Rockets over the Warriors, but we're all just about ready to fast-forward to the next round.