LeBron's Cramps (06/06/14)

John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
LeBron's cramps dramatically altered Game 1 of the NBA Finals. How would the game have been different if the other stars would have gotten the cramps?



San Antonio defeated Miami 110-95 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Tim Duncan had 21 points and 10 rebounds as Tony Parker added 19 points and eight assists. The Spurs earned the victory but the temperature in the arena, over 90 degrees in the second half, played a key role.

LeBron James missed most of the 4th quarter with cramps related to the sweltering conditions on the court. When LeBron left the game with 7:31 remaining in the 4th, Miami led 86-84 and the Heat were 56.4 percent likely to win. In LeBron's absence, San Antonio finished the game on a 26-to-9 run.

What does LeBron mean to Miami's chances of winning?

Utilizing Live ScoreCaster, which allows you to view current scores and play-by-play as well as live, updating projections from 50,000 simulations of the remaining time in each NBA game, we simulated what happened when cramps knocked LeBron out of Game 1.

LeBron exited the game with 7:31 left in the 4th quarter, he did play 34 more seconds but for all intents and purposes he missed the decisive stretch of the game.

With LeBron out for the final seven minutes of game time, Miami's expected win probability decreased from 56.4 percent to 38.8 percent. News flash: the Heat need LeBron on the court to win!

How would the outcome of Game 1 changed if another star suffered cramps?

Note: These are the simulated results, Miami's expected win probability, after cramps knock individual players out of the game for the final seven minutes.

Player Heat's Odds of Winning Projected Final Score (MIA-SA)
LeBron James 38.8% 99.8-101.6
Dwyane Wade 50.3% 100.6-100.5
Chris Bosh 51.2% 100.8-100.5
Tim Duncan 61.1% 101.7-99.8
Tony Parker 59.0% 101.5-100.0

If cramps strike any other player besides LeBron, Miami wins Game 1. The NBA said the conditions were the 'Same for both' teams, this is true, but it is unfortunate for Miami that LeBron was the player to develop cramps.

For the full breakdown of Game 1: Spurs vs. Heat, click here.


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