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A Bayesian Approach to NBA Playoffs

A week into the NBA playoffs, I have my task cut out: separate the winners from whiners. I hope you understand I am in a difficult position and can’t afford to take any chances – no more than the Houston Texans who passed up Reggie Bush (maybe it’s odd, but my seventh instinct tells me this is the twenty-first century equivalent of Sam Bowie over MJ).

For help I turned to Reverend Thomas Bayes whose Theorem (take my word here) is key to the Bayesian inference model used to update beliefs in the light of new information (in form of evidence or observations).

Probably you noticed, the best teams took the weekend off: Kobe’s buzzer beater setting the Suns, Spurs and Kings taking turns in trusting the rim more than ever – you name it.

Time to take an updated look at the future.

Pistons – Bucks (Prediction: 4-0 Pistons)
Currently: Pistons lead 2-1.
Now that the Bucks embarrassed them, expect the best team in the NBA to bounce back with vengeance. The new prediction is therefore 4-1 for Pistons. With all due respect to the Bucks there is only so much they are capable of.

Heat-Bulls (Prediction: 4-1 Heat)
Currently: series tied at 2-2.
I am an idiot – should have known better. With “Captain Kirk” Hinrich leading the way, these baby Bulls are booming with confidence. Time for Pat Riley to make serious adjustments – they have been exposed no less than a wardrobe malfunction. Yet, I don’t see an upset happening.
Updated prediction: 4-3 Heat.

Cavaliers-Wizards (Prediction: Cavaliers 4-2)
Currently: series tied 2-2.
My prediction came with a warning: LeBron should not try to win this all by himself. Right now he has 21 assists against 25 turnovers!!. Mike Brown as a coach needs to be more assertive.
Updated prediction: Wizards 4-3.

Mavericks-Grizzles (Prediction: 4-0)
Currently: Mavs leading 3-0.
Easiest pick of all.
New prediction: same as before.

Nets-Pacers (Prediction: Nets 4-3)
Currently: series tied 2-2.
Like any Rick Carlisle team, the Pacers are extremely well coached. It is however impossible to overcome the combined talent of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson.
Updated prediction: same as original.

Clippers-Nuggets (Prediction: Clippers 4-1)
Currently: Clippers leading 3-1.
The new darling of Los Angeles is all set for an all-L.A. showdown in the next round. I have two questions for you: Where do you see Carmelo five years from now? How long will it take Isiah to take the Kenyon Martin bait?
Updated prediction: same as before.

Spurs-Kings (Prediction: 4-1)
Currently: series tied 2-2.
In my earlier post I also wrote “I can be flat out wrong about five – this could go to seven. The only relevant word is Artest.” With two consecutive rim-deciders, the Spurs didn’t need the rim today – they just forgot to show up.
Updated prediction: Spurs 4-3 (Rick Adelman has earned my trust! but Spurs would win anyway).

Lakers – Suns
Currently: Lakers lead the series 3-1.
Just my luck. I did pick the Lakers to win in my earlier post – only forgot to mention the final scoreline. But trust me (I know I know), I thought about a possible 4-2 and I don’t see why should it change now. The absence of Amare or for that matter a decent body in the front court is simply killing the Suns. And by the way Phil Jackson’s team-Kobe plan is a masterstroke that caught the Suns completely off guard. In case you forgot, Kobe in clutch is as good as anyone ever played the game.

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