Ups and Downs: Team Performance in Best-of-Seven Playoff Series

Tim B. Swartz 1 , Aruni Tennakoon 2 , Farouk Nathoo 3 , Min Tsao 4 ,  and Parminder Sarohia 5
  • 1 Simon Fraser University
  • 2 Simon Fraser University
  • 3 University of Victoria
  • 4 University of Victoria
  • 5 University of Victoria

This paper explores the impact of the status of a playoff series on team performance in a best-of-seven playoff format. Betting line data are collected on more than 1200 playoff matches from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) from 2003 through 2011. Regression methodology is used to suggest that teams in desperate situations (i.e., those teams close to elimination in a series) tend to have better results than when they are not in desperate situations. However, there also seem to exist situations where the mountain is too steep to climb, and desperation leads to capitulation. In comparing the two leagues, it appears that the effects due to the status of a series are less prominent in the NHL than in the NBA.

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JQAS, an official journal of the American Statistical Association, publishes research on the quantitative aspects of professional and collegiate sports. Articles deal with subjects as measurements of player performance, tournament structure, and the frequency and occurrence of records. Additionally, the journal serves as an outlet for professionals in the sports world to raise issues and ask questions that relate to quantitative sports analysis.