2011 NBA Playoffs Predictions: NBA Finals

The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat both rolled to Conference Finals wins in only five games. While we picked both winners correctly, we hadn’t projected such lopsided affairs. Though, lopsided may be a bit unfair to Oklahoma City. They weren’t blown out of the water; with a bit better late-game execution they could have easily led the series 3-2, rather than being eliminated 4-1.

The quick series win by Dallas wasn’t a great result for us in the 2011 TrueHoop Stat Geek Smackdown, which we’ve been unofficially playing along with this year. Stephen Ilardi was the only contestant to predict Dallas in 5, and the two bonus points he received for picking the length correctly broke our tie for first. So heading into the NBA Finals, the standings look like this:

65 pts – Stephen Ilardi
63 pts – TeamRankings (unofficially playing along)
61 pts – Benjamin Morris
56 pts – Mathew Stahlhut

Given that 7 points is the max possible for one round, none of the other contestants are within striking distance of us. Unfortunately, we expect that our pick for the last round will be a common one, so there’s a good chance that the order of the top few won’t change, and we’ll finish just out of first. So, what is that pick?

We’ve already revealed our thoughts in our Heat-Mavs preview piece for ESPN Insider (subscription required), and our most up to date series outcome probabilities can be found on our Miami-Dallas series page. The key points are that we project Miami has a 61.8% chance to win the NBA title, with the following specific chances for each series length:

– Miami in 6 games (21.0%)
– Miami in 7 games (20.0%)
– Miami in 5 games (12.8%)
– Dallas in 5 games (11.8%)
– Dallas in 7 games (11.2%)
– Dallas in 6 games (10.9%)
– Miami in 4 games (8.0%)
– Dallas in 4 games (4.3%)

While Dallas has performed spectacularly in the playoffs (they are #1 in our Last 10 Games power ratings), the Heat have played nearly as well (they’re #2), and have been the better team over the course of the season – Miami is #1 and Dallas #3 in our Predictive power ratings. Combine being the better team with having home field advantage (which seems important, given that the two teams have combined to go 15-1 at home in the playoffs this year), and the clear edge goes to Miami. We’re trusting our ratings, and our official pick is Miami in 6.