2014 NBA Finals: Numbers Predict Who Will Win

By Carlton Chin
LeBron James
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sport

This is the second of a two-part series on the NBA Finals that analyzes statistics related to concepts of sports psychology. In particular, the numbers show that factors such as experience, leadership, consistency and defense can make the difference between winning and losing championships — and can help predict the winner.

Together with Dr. Jay Granat, a psychotherapist, I quantified factors related to sports psychology. Our “quant facts” have successfully predicted the winner of this year’s Super Bowl and NCAA Men’s Final Four. Over the past several years, our predictions have been correct 63.5 percent of the time for major championships, while sometimes picking underdogs.

In part one of the series, we learned that the Miami Heat have an edge over the San Antonio Spurs in important factors such as big game experience and defense. What do the numbers say about other factors related to sports psychology?

Consistency is important when it comes to winning championships. In baseball, our research has shown that batting average is more important than home run power when it comes winning the World Series. The team with the higher batting average has a better chance of sustaining rallies and avoiding slumps. Similarly, the NBA team with the higher field goal percentage (FG%) during the regular season has won 57 percent of the NBA titles over the past 24 years. The Heat had an NBA-leading FG% of .501 while the Spurs were second at .486. Edge: Heat. 

Leadership has proven to be important to a team’s chances of winning championships. During the NBA Finals, the team with the better star, as measured by points per game (PPG), has won 67 percent of the time. LeBron James‘ 27.1 PPG gives the Heat another factor. Edge: Heat. 

Minimizing errors while playing at a high level is key to winning. The team with fewer turnovers during the regular season has won a stellar 75 percent of the titles over the past 24 years. This edge goes to San Antonio. Edge: San Antonio.  

Including the factors from part one of the series, our quant facts related to sports psychology favor the Miami Heat (4-1) to win their third consecutive title. Interestingly enough, Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Spurs a slight favorite, partly due to home-court advantage (2-2-1-1-1) during the finals.

Carlton Chin is a portfolio manager, quant researcher, and sports analysis contributor at Rant Sports. Please follow him on Twitter @QuantFacts, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your Google network. 

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