If you’ve read this blog consistently (hi, Mom!), you know that I’m a bit of a numbers geek. While stats aren’t everything, they’re often a good indicator of what to expect.
After crunching the numbers, the Pacers’ hopes in their Eastern Conference Finals series with Miami rest on tonight's Game 2. Win to even the series 1-1, and they accomplish the necessary split. They steal homecourt advantage, and certainly give themselves a chance in a virtual best-of-five (with three games in Indianapolis). But, lose and fall into an 0-2 hole? History indicates that the Pacers would have a near impossible task of rallying to win the series. Here’s why:
TROUBLING STAT ONE: Only 16 teams in NBA Playoff history have ever rallied from an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
That stat is even more eye-popping when you consider that teams leading 2-0 have a .944 (233-16 all-time) winning percentage. This year's Grizzlies became lucky #16 after upending the Clippers in the First Round.
TROUBLING STAT TWO: Only 23 teams in NBA Playoff history have ever won a Game 7 on the road.
The NBA has had 112 Game 7s in playoff history, and the road team has won just 23 of those contests (20%). Of those Game 7 road winners, only ten have come in the Conference Finals or later, with the most recent being the Pistons winning in Miami in the 2005 East Finals.
Let’s cross-section the teams down 0-2 with the teams that won road Game 7s…
TROUBLING STAT THREE: Of 16 teams to rally from a 2-0 deficit, only 5 teams have won the series by taking Game 7 on the road.
When cross-sectioning the teams that rallied from 0-2 holes with the teams that won Game 7s, the odds jump even higher. Only the 1969 Celtics, 1971 Bullets, 1995 Rockets, 2007 Jazz, and 2008 Spurs won road Game 7s after falling behind 0-2. The eleven other teams that came back all won four straight games in order to do so.
Obviously, if the Pacers fall into an 0-2 hole, they would technically have to win four out of five against the Heat in order to win the series. However, when you consider troubling stat two, they probably have to win four straight and take the series in six. If they lose tonight...
HISTORICAL PROBABILITY PACERS WIN IN SIX: 6.8% (16 of 233 times)
HISTORICAL PROBABILITY PACERS WIN IN SEVEN: 2.0% (5 of 233 times)
Oof. Better win tonight, boys.
The Eastern Conference Finals begin tonight and no one is expecting Indiana to dethrone defending champion Miami. Of the nineteen NBA analysts on ESPN and SI.com, absolutely zero picked the Pacers to win the series.
I'm sure the Pacers wouldn't have it any other way.
The underdog role has fit the Blue and Gold well. In the celebratory postgame locker room following Saturday night's series-clinching win over New York, David West walked by myself and a bunch of other 5-foot, bearded, unathletic people that cover the Pacers a group of media members shouting, "Nobody had us. Knicks in five, Knicks in six... Ha. We still standing!" Roy Hibbert told us on Monday's show that he "didn't give a rat's a**" what ESPN and Stephen A. Smith had to say about them. Paul George told Scott Agness of Pacers.com, "If we played the Bobcats, we'd be the underdogs". While George's quote is an obvious exaggeration, it reveals how much this team is letting the bulletin board material motivate them.
In comparing Indy to the Bobcats, George has REALLY embraced the underdog role
In reality, most NBA analysts know that this Pacers team is very good. It's just hard to pick against a Miami team led by a four-time MVP and gunning for a third straight Eastern Conference crown, who threatened the all-time NBA record with a 27-game win streak at one point this season. In order for Indiana win the series, they'll have to beat the Heat four times in seven games. Considering that LeBron & Co. have lost just three times in their last forty-eight contests, you can understand why picking the Pacers to win feels like a stretch.
The only media member that I know of to pick Indiana is Mike Wells of the Star (shameless plug: he'll join us on the show later today). I'm not going to join him out on that limb. The Pacers do matchup well with the Heat, and they did take two of three from them this season, but the '11 Bulls took all four regular season meetings from Miami only to lose their Eastern Conference Finals series in five games. The postseason is a different animal, and the Heat have gone through this before, while the Pacers haven't. Despite a competitive and hard-fought series, Indiana's sloppy (almost 16 turnovers per game in the Knicks series) and inconsistent offense costs them - Miami in six.
But, hey, if you're Frank Vogel, the more doubters, the merrier.