Which Game In A Seven Game Playoff Series Is Most Crucial?

NBA Finals Logo

NBA Finals Logo

Oftentimes in conversation, sports fans will mention that a game is a must-win for their beloved team. The scenario might be a 2-2 series tie, or a 3-1 series deficit. Whether it be the NHL Playoffs, an NBA playoff series or the World Series, a seven game scenario enables fans to weigh specific games with greater or lesser significance. This article will look to analyze these assumptions, and with statistical proof will show which games in a seven game series truly are the most important.

In determining the importance of a specific game, the implications of it are important. How much the game factors into the team winning the overall series is what fans are ultimately looking for. Here are some interesting statistics in regards to specific game scenarios:

  1. Game 1:
    A team with home-court advantage in game 1 has a 53.2% of winning the entire series. A win in game 1 for the home team drives this percentage up by nearly 13% and thus a game 1 win for the home team means they have a pretty good shot (66%). A win for the away team interestingly enough drives their winning percentage up to the same 66% but from an initial 46.8% in game 1. If these numbers are averaged, a game 1 win leads to approximately a 15% increase in winning the series.
  2. Game 2:
    This is where it begins to get complicated. Simply note that a 2-0 series lead means the team will have an 84% chance of winning the series if at home, and a 79% chance of winning the series if away. Thus, in a way, game 2 can be extremely crucial.
  3. Game 3:
    Should the series be deadlocked at 1 a piece, contrary to popular opinion, game 3 actually isn’t as important relative to other scenarios. A game 3 win at home actually only increases the chances of winning a series by 15%, exactly the same percentage as a game 1 win.
  4. Game 4:
    This one is very dependent on scenario. If the series is at 3-0, the winning team would evidently win the series with a victory, but prior to the game their chances of winning the series would already have been at 94.2%. On the other hand, the team losing in a 3-0 series with a win would only increase their odds by 8%. Interestingly enough, if a team were to be down 2-1, a win away from home would swing their odds from 30.7% to 55%. A very significant 24.3% increase. They would have a 55% chance to win even with the series tied.
  5. Game 5:
    Note to playoff teams: Win game 5. In a 2-2 series tie, an away team winning game 5 leads to an enormous 28.8% increase to win the series. A home team winning game 5 has a relatively smaller increase at 19.9, but a loss would destroy their odds as they would drop from 44.8% to 16%.
  6. Game 6:
    If you are the home team in a 3-2 deficit, you are not in as bad of a shape as you might have thought. That home team still has a 36% shot at winning the series, whereas an away team in the same situation would have only a 16% chance.
  7. Game 7:
    There can be only one scenario in game 7, and that is a 3-3 series tie. In this case, the home team has a 60% shot at winning the series, whereas the away team has 40%. Clearly, home-court advantage does exist.

Keep in mind, the statistics provided are for a 2-3-2 series format. This format is in use currently in the NBA Finals series between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. Applying this data, Miami currently has a 69% shot at winning the series and an 85% shot if they win game 4.

This article should give readers a greater sense of what they are talking about when determining which games are truly crucial. Oftentimes however, statistics are but statistics and cannot be applied to every situation.

What do you readers think? Will the stats hold true for the Heat?

Source: Basketball-Reference

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