Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sports "Analytics" and the Misuse of Math

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After Golden State's 15 point victory over the Cavaliers in game 1 of the NBA Finals, all the "numbers crunchers" are off the formerly red hot Cavs and onto the Warriors' bandwagon.

Yes, that first game, in which Golden State won despite getting only 20 points combined from its all time backcourt duo of Curry and Thompson, was impressive, but the same "analytics" gave the Warriors virtually no chance of coming back from the 3 - 1 deficit they found themselves in against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In short, the "analytics" seem to fuel the "prisoner of the moment" vantage of the most fickle fans.

The problem here is that today's numbers don't tell tomorrow's story, because today's numbers are not related to the next game's numbers, or the next, or the next. Cleveland's strengths remain and they remain formidable. Golden State CAN actually play better, but should Stephon Curry and Klay Thompson get hot, expect the Warrior's bench to get a lot fewer looks.

At this level teams make adjustments game to game. Some of the best make big time in-game adjustments. Despite the "analytics," I'd expect the coming games to be a little closer, barring any unforeseen injuries on either side.

The Golden State Warriors are an awesome team, probably the most complete TEAM since those vintage Knicks teams of the late 60s and early 70s, albeit with even better shooters. The ball moves faster than the players can and they DON'T miss many open shots.

BUT LeBron James IS still the best player in the NBA right now. I fully expect the Cavs to make some major game 2 and for both teams to continue to do that in all the subsequent games as well.

Right now, all the Warriors have done is "hold serve" through game 1. They NEED to win game 2 just to keep their homecourt advantage. Cleveland is playing for chips right now. The Warriors are NOT.

Should the Warriors win game 2, THEN they'll be playing for chips on Cleveland's home court.

In either case, I fully expect "the analytics" to continue reinforcing whatever the current "prisoner of the moment" vantage is.

IF Cleveland should take game 2, just watch them go crazy over the Warriors losing homecourt and heading into Cleveland with no momentum.


The series doesn't change just like that.

These are two extremely talented teams, with perhaps a slight advantage to Golden State (but I'm probably biased in saying that). I wouldn't be surprised if Cleveland went out and won game 2. I wouldn't be surprised if both teams split the first two games in each other's buildings....BUT "the analytics" would have you believe "It's all over" after each and every game, often switching teams in the process.

This misuse of math ("analytics") just serves to feed into the hype of the moment.

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