NBA Playoff Odds (Original)
Game 4 Update: After the Spurs won Game 4 of the series, San Antonio is now 88.4% likely to win the NBA Finals.
June 1, 2014 - After an NBA regular season that may long be remembered for one conference's dominance and one team's late season collapse, the 2014 NBA postseason has featured tremendous drama - at least as much off the court as on. As we stand though, with the San Antonio Spurs set to host the Miami Heat in Thursday's Game 1, the two clear best teams of the postseason and two of the best teams of the regular season will meet for the Larry O'Brien Trophy in what happens to be a rematch of last year's NBA Finals and the third time LeBron James has squared off against the Spurs in the Finals.
Before this NBA Playoffs season began, we projected the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat would meet in the NBA Finals 10.2% of the time, which was the third most likely finals matchup behind the Heat and Thunder (after Oklahoma City lost Serge Ibaka to injury early in the Western Conference Finals, a Heat-Spurs series became incredibly likely - even after his return in Oklahoma City) and Clippers and Heat. At that time, the numbers suggested that the Heat would be about 52.0% likely to make it this far and were 28.2% likely to win it all (almost twice as strong as the next best team). At that time, San Antonio was 19.7% likely to make the Finals and 11.3% likely to win it all. The Spurs were 57.4% likely to win an NBA Finals had they got there, while the Heat were just 54.2% likely to do so leading into the postseason. Despite an impressive playoff run by the Spurs though, the Heat look like the favorites to win three titles in a row in what looks like a great, close series.
Updating all numbers, while Las Vegas sees this as an even series, the Miami Heat are favored in our analysis, but barely.
In 50,000 simulations of the NBA Finals, Miami wins over San Antonio 53.1% of the time. The most likely scenario (as seen below) is a six game series won by the Heat, who do not have home court advantage for the series, yet would close out the Finals in front of the home crowd at American Airlines Arena in the NBA's new 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format. The current consensus lines have both Miami and San Antonio as -110 to win the series. This would suggest that books think that this series is dead even. To justify a wager on either team, one would need to have at least 52.4% confidence in that team winning (as we do - by the slimmest of margins - with Miami).
That being said, a longer series favors the Spurs. Of all series simulated, over one-third (33.4%) go seven games. At home in a Game 7, San Antonio would be 57% favorites to win the final game. Despite not having home court advantage, more than half (52.9%) of the Heat's series wins come at home. In total, 66.2% of series go at least six games, The exact most likely series outcome - Miami in six games at 21.6% - is more likely than either team winning in a sweep (12.7%) or either team winning in five games (21.1%).
It's certainly of note that the Spurs have essentially the same chance (11.5%) of winning in exactly five games as they do in six (11.3%), meaning that stealing a game in Miami is of the utmost importance for this Western Conference team. Having home court advantage for Game 7 is significant. Simulating the NBA Finals with the home court advantage going to the Heat instead of the Spurs, Miami becomes a 59.9% favorite to win the series.
Here are the results of the 2014 Heat-Spurs NBA Finals played 50,000 times (game-by-game odds will be updated throughout the series):
Heat vs. Spurs
San Antonio Spurs
How we do this:
The Predictalator plays this best-of-seven series 50,000 times. Each series is played in its entirety and recorded by which team wins and in how many games. The data we use incorporates individual player's statistics, where most recent games are given more weight. This helps us account for player development as well as those who may be playing differently now because of health (good or bad). Playing time and matchup assumptions are made with regards to recent team history, so they are dictated by coaching styles and not necessarily what would be optimal. Relevant statistics include individual and team per-possession statistics as adjusted by strength of schedule of opponents.
All highlighted, "normal" or better (greater than 57% confidence to cover) NBA Playoff picks for this postseason are 30-9 (77% ATS and O/U) while all full game picks are 65-48 (58% ATS and O/U). Get against-the-spread, over/under, straight-up and halftime picks for every NBA Finals game here.