As an unfortunate resident of America’s largest sports market, I am now victim to the New York sports noise machine. I am also subject to Knicks and Nets basketball. Oof.
The Knicks’ victory at the Miami Heat yesterday seems to have been a “statement win” for the newly-constructed Knicks. Carmelo Anthony scored big and this is the moment when the team is beginning to work as a team. (Bill Simmons notes that anyone who thinks Carmelo is not that good is really really stupid… but let’s reserve my hatred for The Sports Guy for another day.) But the Knicks also just lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the hands-down worst team in basketball with the same lineup!
So, which game tells us more about the Knicks’ “contender” status — the big win? Or the humiliating loss?
- The team with the better regular-season WPct vs. top-5 teams won the series 65.9% of the time.
- The team with the better regular-season WPct vs. top-10 teams won the series 71.8% of the time.
- The team with the better WPct vs. teams outside the top 10 won the series 73.2% of the time.
Basically, one regular season game doesn’t matter much more than another, but winning against elite teams in the regular season doesn’t mean squat when it comes to the playoffs.
Just another way in which perception (beating good teams now means higher probability of beating good teams in the future) doesn’t always line up with reality.