Saturday, October 30, 2010

Heat Streak: How Many Games Can The Miami Heat Win In A Row?

After beating the snot out of the Orlando Magic 96-70, the Miami Heat have their first winning streak of the season.  This summer, Jeff Van Gundy made the following prediction about the Miami Heat:

"They will break the single-season win record [of 72]," Jeff Van Gundy said. "And I think they have a legit shot at the Lakers' 33-game [winning] streak [in 1971-72], as well."

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I've already covered whether or not the Heat can win 72 games, so the next question is - how many games can they win in a row?  I really didn't care about the 33-game winning streak, but a post at Hot Hot Hoops on various gambling options for the Miami Heat available from Bodog got me interested.  One of the prop bets you can make is, "What will be the Miami Heat’s Longest Win Streak of the Regular Season?"  The over/under for that bet is 12.5.  I'm not a gambler, but that number appeared to be too low and I decided to investigate.

Thanks to Arturo Galletti, the James Brown of WoW Journalists, I have a handy tool to help me with this investigation.  Arturo came up with a formula for calculating the probability of a team winning a single game.  This formula can use a team's Wins Produced per 48 minutes statistic (WP48) or winning percentage.  For simplicity's sake, I used winning percentage based on the Bodog over/under for each team's regular season record.

Here's Arturo's formula:  

Probability of Winning at Home = [Heat winning percentage] - [opponent winning percentage] + 0.606

Probability of Winning on Road = [Heat winning percentage] - [opponent winning percentage] + 0.394

The Bodog over/under for the Miami Heat's record this season is 64.5 wins, which would give them a 0.793 winning percentage.  With a winning percentage that high, the Heat would only have a 50% chance or more of losing at home if they were facing a team with an over/under of 72.5.  That team doesn't exist.  The Heat have the highest over/under on Bodog's website, so they'll have a better than 50% chance of winning every home game.

The Heat will only have a 50% chance or less of winning on the road when they face a team with an over/under of 55.5.  That only leaves two teams - the Lakers and Magic. I added the Celtics (their Bodog over/under is 54.5) since the Heat already lost to them on the road and they have a puncher's shot with a 48% chance of beating Miami in Boston.

Now that I know where the potholes are in the schedule (games in Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles against the Lakers) I can figure out how many games they'll be favored to win in a row.

First Look
Taking a look at the schedule, they should be the favorites 13 games in a row heading to Orlando on November 24th, 15 in a row heading to LA on Christmas Day, 16 in a row heading to ORL on February 3rd and 28 games in a row after they visit Boston on February 13th.  

Four shots to win 13 in a row? I like those odds!  However, I don't like the odds of winning more than 33 games in a row.  There are four potholes in the schedule that would make me too nervous to take a bet on the Heat winning 34 games in a row.  Unless they beat the Magic on February 3rd and the Celtics on February 13th.  If they manage to do that, then I think 34 wins in a row is a possibility.

Second Look: Less Risk, Less Opportunity
Someone more risk-averse might want to see what the Heat's chances are when they only have a 60% chance or higher of winning each game, so let's do it that way, too.  The Heat would have a 60% chance or less of winning any game on the road against a team with an over/under of 47.5.  That expands the number of potholes from three teams to nine teams - Celtics, Mavericks, Rockets, Lakers, Thunder, Magic, Blazers, Spurs and Jazz.

How do the Heat chances look with those potholes on the schedule?  They would still be the favorite for 13 games in a row heading to Orlando on November 24th and 20 games in a row after visiting San Antonio on March 4th.  With a risk threshold of 60%, the Heat only give you two chances to win the bet and no chance of breaking the record of 33 wins in a row.

Last Look: Supreme Confidence?
Of course, if I use my own predictions for the Heat and the rest of the league this season, then there's only one pothole on the Heat schedule - the December 25th game against the Lakers.  I don't know if my prediction will be proven right, but two down, 73 to go...

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