Disclaimer: My head still hurts from last night, so I can't even begin to fully comprehend all of Kevin's logic below. That said, he sounds confident and it's on the internet, so it must be true, right? Something that's not addressed that some people will likely bring up is home court advantage in the ECF, but speaking just for me, I think that's completely overrated. Yes, the possibility of playing a Game 7 at home is nice, but not as nice as three games in a row (3, 4 and 5) at home, at least in my book. But that's a topic for another post.
By Kevin Sawyer
After the Celtics debacle last night, a commenter wondered what we were so afraid of when it came to the Cavaliers. If we are championship material, he argued, shouldn’t we be able to knock off a 47 win team. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to review why we MUST hope the Cavs get the four seed.
For my explanation, I am operating under some assumptions, which you may or may not agree with, but here they are:
The Pistons and Celtics are about evenly matched.
Each team is a 2 to 1 favorite over the Cavs.
Each team is a 10 to 1 favorite over the Magic.
That seems about right, yes? If the Magic somehow survive the EC, Magic fans can heap crap on us for establishing 100 to 1 odds against the three seed.
At any rate, assuming we are certain to beat a Philadelphia-Washington-NJ type in the first round, that gives us a 66% chance of advancing to the EC Finals if we face Cleveland, and a 90% chance if we face the Magic in the 2nd round. Assuming the Celtics are our EC Finals opponent, that gives us a 33% and 45% shot at the finals, respectively. So there is some incentive right there.
But if the CELTICS play the Cavs, then their odds of making the EC Finals diminish from 90% to 66%. If we have a 50-50 shot against Boston, but a 66% chance against Cleveland, that means that, in one third of possible outcomes, we will be a 2 to 1 favorite to advance to the finals. We then have a 55% chance of beating a composite finals opponent, and a 50% shot at the finals overall. So we have gone from a 1 in 3 chance to a 1 in 2 chance.
But wait, there’s more! If two teams are evenly matched, you are going to give the advantage to the team that had an easier second round opponent, particularly when both teams sport aging vets, yah? The Cavs are difficult enough that which ever team plays them is reduced to a 1.5 to 1 dog (that’s 60/40). So if the Pistons DO get by the Cavs, they only have a 40% shot at beating the Celts, reducing their chances of making the finals from 33% to 26%. Conversely, if the Celtics play the Cavs, the Pistons have a 60% shot of beating them, increasing their shot of making the finals from 55% to 62%.
So, if the Cavs overtake Orlando for the three seed, our chances of making the championship fall from 62% to 26%.