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2nd Annual Fun with ESPN’s Playoff Simulations Robot

Not as fun as last year! Mathematically, 1% as fun.

The Playoff Simulations Robot rolled into ESPN.comtown yesterday on his steam-powered wheels and his bright brushed-copper chassis. But while last year I got the Celtics to win the championship on my first three tries, the data stored in the robot’s tabulating machine punchcards was not so favorable this time around. It took me a very long time to get this to happen:

And I cheated. I stacked the East with exclusively non-playoff teams. Notice that Boston edged the Bucks in the Conference Finals. It still took me a minute to pull off, because they were upset by the Wizards in the second round more than once. Like, several times. I sort of think of Celtics and Wizards as having an historic rivalry now.

After the jump, Boston’s probabilitous path to a title if the season ended today, according to this machine.

FIRST ROUND: Miami (19% chance of winning the series)
CONFERENCE SEMIS: Orlando (30%), Atlanta (47%)
CONFERENCE FINALS: Chicago (21%), Philadelphia (22%), Indiana (28%), New York (50%)
FINALS: Spurs (15%), I got bored with this (quickly)

So, if we take the most likely path through the playoffs, that gives the Celtics:
-A 19% chance of making the second round
-A 5.7% chance of making the Conference Finals
-A 1.2% chance of making the Finals
-About a one-in-a-thousand chance of winning the title

The odds change a little if you mix up the seedings, but it’s impossible to get a favored matchup between the Celtics and any of the East playoff teams, no matter how you organize them. Recall that at this time last year, this very robot said the Celtics had about a 10-12% chance of winning the title. So: a hundred times more likely than this year.

A couple interesting things:
-The Celtics have slightly better odds against the Bulls than the Heat.
-The Celtics are only one-percent larger underdogs against the Sixers than they are against the Bulls.
-The machine gives the Thunder a 61% edge over the Heat in the Finals with homecourt, but the Bulls are 63% favorites over the Thunder with homecourt.
-I ran this thing probably 30-40 times using the current standings, and not once did I get a team other than the Bulls, Heat, Thunder, or Spurs to win the Finals.

  • Tos

    I get that the Bulls give us a better shot because Rose has been so injury prone this year.

  • Kivanc

    Ok, in my first two tries, C's lost to Hear in the first round. In my third try we past the Heat, but lost to Orlando in the 2nd round (no way?). But it only got worse: Lakers won the finals. I won't try ever, ever again.

  • http://twitter.com/M_DeVelaine @M_DeVelaine

    I'm going to have to laugh. I used it once, and watched as the Clippers upset everyone to win the title. I still don't know how that happened. I expect them to make noise in the playoffs, but yeah… Any of these "prediction tools" never take into account what's really likely to happen.

  • Sophomore

    Our best shot is: we get the four seed and beat number five. Then Derrick Rose sustains an injury and we beat Chicago. Meanwhile, Orlando beats Miami, owing to the matchups, and we beat Orlando to reach the Finals.

    Still having trouble seeing how we beat the Thunder. Kevin Durant falls in with bookies and throws the series?

  • http://lucidsportsfan.com LucidSportsFan

    Interesting. I actually really like the C’s chances in the first round against anybody but Chicago and Miami. They have owned Orlando so far this year, and have fared well against Atlanta and Indy too. Unfortunately, the 7th seed seems very likely: http://www.lucidsportsfan.com/2012_03_01_archive.html#3817867689167812383

  • Lantrell Walker

    Forget what any simulator says, our belief in the C's goes far beyond the numbers that any generator spits out. Probability never factors in will & never underestimate the heart of a champion.


  • janos

    Hi Haynes!
    Thank you do work , computer match is nice dream about differeent scanarios playoff. but you know program not take in count heart. NBA celtics proven winner

  • Josh

    I don't really understand why everybody thinks Boston will end up with the 7 seed. It's kind of frustrating listening to a bunch of negative nancys. Last time I checked they were only 1/2 game to a game out of the division. we take the 4 seed and hope Rose is hurt for the 2nd round.

    • CsFanInArkansas

      "hope Rose is hurt for the 2nd round" ?!?!

      If you think we have what it takes to go through a MUCH more difficult stretch of the season than we've had yet this year and snag the 4th seed by the end of the year (out-performing Philly the rest of the way), then why in the world would you "hope Rose is hurt"?
      We would have to have a dominating final 16 or 17 games to this season to out-pace Philly and their less-than-daunting remaining schedule. So, if we had the 4th seed secured, that would mean we were playing some seriously good ball.

      "hoping Rose is hurt" is certainly not the heart of a champion or the heart of a Celtic.

  • nfrench88

    I ran this thing more times than I'm comfortable to admit. I've had the Celtics in the finals 7 times, losing 5 to the Thunder and 2 to the Spurs. More frustrating, I've had them matched up against the Knicks in the ECF (a 50-50 chance) and LOST 6 times in a row. I'll send ya'll a pic once I get them to win it all, lol. I'm not giving up.

  • I_Love_Green

    Every time I get out of the first round we lose to the Magic!!! 8 times in a row now!!

    Why is this so frustrating?

  • noche

    On my first run through I got the C's in the ECF against the Pacers. The Pacers won (their chances are really 72%-28%?) and the Thunder beat the Pacers in the finals.

  • dasein

    Is Philly really going to be that much easier for the C's than Chicago? We seem to really struggle against the 6ers this year, so I'm not sure that getting up to the 4 spot helps that much anyway. If we must go out in the first round, I'd rather it be against Chicago or Miami, and actually feel like we'd have a better shot against one of those teams for some perverted reason.

  • noche

    I actually got the Celtics to win using this thing. If there was a way to post a picture on here I would. Guess I can go home from work now.

  • yeah

    We need to send the 76ers back to the 7 seed for one big reason: they can beat the Heat.

  • yeah

    On my 3rd try, the Heat & Bulls were both upset in the first round, and the Spurs and Thunder both went down in the 2nd. The Celtics lost to the Hawks, and the Knicks went all the way to the finals and lost to the Mavs. wat

  • ernest

    2nd try using Hollingers playoff odds! Miami, Orlando, Chicago, San Antonio –> NBA Champions 2012 Boston Celtics!
    For some reason I feel better about this team right now…

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