Never Tell Me The Odds! | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
Red's Army

Never Tell Me The Odds!

As the 2009-2010 regular season comes to a close for the Celtics, it’s probably an easier task to completely solve all of the aspects to cold fusion.  This team has been mystifying throughout most of the season.  They cruised through Christmas Day riding shotgun on Santa’s sleigh to a 23-5 record.  Their second half and fourth-quarter collapses have become a league-wide punch line.  They’ve beaten the best team at home (Cleveland) and lost to one of the worst teams in NBA history at home (New Jersey).  Is there a way to make sense of any of this?

Historically, the NBA champion for any given year typically has a good record against the rest of the NBA’s elite.  There are some outliers sprinkled throughout the years but usually the eventual champions displayed relative success in the regular season.  These teams were especially very good/great home teams.  We’ve heard so many excuses reasons from the players, coaches, front office, fans as to what might cause their bi-polar style of play.  Boredom, complacency, injuries, lack of effort, etc., the list goes on.  The most precarious of all reasoning has been the “Just wait until the playoffs, we will beat anybody” attitude.

While we all wait to see if they can actually deliver on that premise, take a look at how they stack up against champions of the past 10 years.  Below is a table comparing champions’ records against the other top 6 teams of that same season.  It also lists how they fared at home against those same teams, as well as their overall home record.


As you can see the odds do not favor the Celtics.  The closest and perhaps only correlation that can be made is with the 2006 Miami Heat.  Miami finished 52-30 (Celtics are currently 48-29 and could easily match Miami’s record) which by champion standards is pretty mediocre.  Keep in mind though that beating the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals brought about some major controversy.  Tim Donaghy was one of the referees in the series and we all know how he influenced the game.  There was also the huge controversy of Dwyane Wade receiving more superstar treatment than even Michael Jordan did in any finals series.  The Mavericks were up 2-0 and proceeded to lose four consecutive games and the title.

The point of all of this is to show just how improbable it is that the Celtics win the title.  The disappointing loss to the New York Knicks only plants more seeds of doubt.  Or as Glen Davis puts it: “If you mess with the game – if you plant bad seed – then you’re going to reap a bad harvest.”

Could they emulate the 2006 Miami Heat and win the championship?  It’s possible.  Here are the key points from their season as well as the matchups Miami faced in those playoffs:

  • Miami won the Southeast Division with a 52-30 record
  • They finished 10 games ahead of the Washington Wizards
  • 52-30 was good enough for the 2nd seed that year (Detroit was #1 64-18)
  • Defeated the Chicago Bulls (41-41, 7th seed) in 6 games in round 1
  • Defeated the New Jersey Nets (49-33, 3rd seed) in 5 games in round 2
  • Defeated the Detroit Pistons (64-18, 1st seed) in 6 games in ECF
  • Defeated the Dallas Mavericks (60-22, 4th seed in WC) in 6 games in the Finals
  • They had home court advantage in the first two rounds only

Keep in mind also that this was the strange seeding out west that slotted the Denver Nuggets into the 3rd seed despite winning 16 fewer games than Dallas (4th seed) and 5 fewer games than the Memphis Grizzlies (5th seed).  This snowballed into an early matchup between the Mavericks and Spurs in the second round, when most people at the time felt that was the true western conference finals.  Furthermore, the eastern conference in 2006 was a LOT weaker than it is now.  The Bulls and Nets were decent that year and the Pistons had just come off two consecutive Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005, so one could use the tired argument there.  This season, the Celtics are looking at possibly facing the following in the playoffs:

  • Round 1: Milwaukee Bucks (43-34) | Miami Heat (43-34)
  • Round 2: Orlando Magic (54-23) | Cleveland Cavaliers (61-17)
  • Round 3: Same as above, plus the Atlanta Hawks (49-28)
  • Finals: Top 6 teams have an average of about 50+ wins

Essentially that’s a long winded piece of evidence that shows how strange the 2006 playoffs were.  Miami had a lot of things fall into place for them.  They also had a rejuvenated and extra motivated Shaquille O’Neal who was playing in the last year of his prime.  I don’t even need to get into how dominating Wade was in the Finals (with or without the help from the officials).

Could the Celtics collectively replicate this type of rare performance?  We’ll all find out soon enough, but if they do it will be one of the most impressive championships ever won in NBA history.  Those are the odds they are up against.  Now, they just need to take on Han Solo’s attitude when navigating through an asteroid field, being chased by the empire.



Like this Article? Share it!

  • Donald

    So your saying there’s a chance!

  • Double P Reppin the B

    What was all that 1 in a million talk?

  • Donald

    Nice Hooters!

  • The ball-fake

    little point in drawing comparisons between two different teams at two different times, but nontheless – a good read, as always.

  • DRJ

    How boring would life be if history did nothing but repeat itself, year after year after year? The past is interesting only as a general guide to what MIGHT happen. It is not predictive. Or rather, it should not be assumed to be.
    The Celtics this season have been in a unique position, one which no prior team has experienced (to my knowledge). The basic elements:
    – The Celtics are in the weakest division in the NBA.
    – The seeding rules were recently changed so that if they won their division, the Cs were guaranteed no worse than 4th seed.
    – KG needed most of the regular season to get back to his normal health state.
    – A whole bunch of other players, most notably Paul, were also injured at various times.
    – The Cs are older now. Conservation and preservation of health is even more of a priority than ever before.
    – The Cs are now an experienced bunch. No other contender has the same exact starting 5 as they had 2 years ago. Even the Celtics’ young players are seasoned playoff vets. With that comes some confidence in their ability to perform when the chips are down — i.e., in the playoffs. Other teams — like the ’06 Heat, the ’10 Cavs, The Bucks, Hawks, Nuggets, and many others — have no such experience, and no way to have such confidence. They must BUILD their confidence in the regular season.
    Since the Celtics were and still are in a unique position relative to past NBA champions, it stands to reason that they would BEHAVE uniquely. Why SHOULD they follow the well-traveled road? Because WE expect them to? Because YOU expect them to? Huh? Were you REALLY all bent out of shape because they lost to the Knicks? Are they trained monkeys, required to perform for our entertainment every night, 82 nights in a row?
    No — the Celtics made their own way through the yellow wood, and are now in position to do what they came to do. And all the chirping and quibbling and plaintive crying from the peanut galleries of media and fans amounts to little more than a hill of beans. The Celtics will ignore it all (except of course for the lip service they are required to give).
    These guys have a job to do now, and I believe they’re going to roll up their sleeves and do it. In any event, we will soon know the truth of it. At which point what we believe or don’t believe won’t matter at all. Good.

  • Double P Reppin the B

    I like the optimism but I need to throw in my two cents…
    Perhaps there are teams that were in situations similar to this throughout those seasons listed. They just weren’t able to win the title, which is the point. The article shows that for a team to WIN IT ALL they need to have a more productive season than what we have had

  • DRJ

    I’m not all THAT optimistic. I think they’ll get it done, but who knows, really. I’m just sick of ALL the articles comparing these Cs to other teams, and foretelling the future (usually negatively). Forget it. There IS no comparison worth making, is my point — these Cs are too different, their circumstances too unique, for ANY comparison to make enough sense to be worthwhile. (And the comparison to the 06 Heat is so far out there that it’s a total waste, imo.)
    We need to just wait a little while longer, and we’ll all know, finally.