Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Clippers at Celtics

Clippers lost by thirteen. Spead was 8.5.   Not the blowout I predicted, but they nevertheless lost and failed to cover the spread.  rah.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chris Paul: Overly reliant on Big Men?

I just read this in Marc Stein's power ratings:

They look like the Hornets again with Chandler back -- 30-13 when TC plays, 11-11 when he doesn't -- but you wonder how much Chris Paul and D-West will have left for the playoffs given the loads they're lugging.

This helps my assertion that a small point guard who loves to get steals is a major defensive liability if there isn't an athletic big man waiting in the middle to clean up his mistakes-- not to mention catch lob passes to bail him out when he gets in the lane with no where to go.  

I would be the Hornets are likely to fail to cover the spread any game that Tyson Chandler sits out....

Utah Jazz: Finally Flaming Out

Select quotes from the game: 
The Magic built a 13-2 lead and never allowed the Jazz closer than nine points for the rest of the game. Utah dropped its third straight to close a five-game, eight-day Eastern swing.

The Magic led by as many as 20 midway in the second quarter and were ahead 57-43 at the half.The game could have been more lopsided, but the Magic struggled at the free throw line, making only 14 of 28 attempts.

Another factor is that the Celtics lost earlier in the day, giving the Magic the added incentive of closing to a tie wth Boston for the 2 seed.  

I wrote about the Jazz earlier as they were in a ten game winning streak, playing hard and then went to Toronto and had to deal with the time zone difference PLUS they had daylight savings.  

Finally it looks like they ran out of gas at the end of a road trip.  

Predictable? I think so.  

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Various Big Words

Semiotics: Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or semiology, is the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification and communication, signs and symbols, both individually and grouped into sign systems. It includes the study of how meaning is constructed and understood.

Epistemology:Epistemology (from Greek ἐπιστήμη - episteme-, "knowledge, science" + λόγος, "logos") or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge.[1] It addresses the questions:
  • What is knowledge?
  • How is knowledge acquired?
  • What do people know?
  • How do we know what we know?
  • Why do we know what we know?

This is all from wikipedia.

Semiotics and Epistemology.  Interesting

The Black Swan: the first twelve pages

Wow.  This book is incredible.  A lot of the topics that I have scratched the surface of, and had a hint of a thought about, this man has delved deeply into.  He is Varsity, I am on the freshman team.  It is really impressing me with the depth of his thought and his search into the causality of cognitive biases and also his historical research into the subject.  He can discuss and quote Arabic philosophers from the 1100s, Euro philosophers from the 1600s, and modern philosophers and economists, all concerning the problem of induction and knowledge of knowledge, or more simply, epistemology.  

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, how does it relate to sports betting?  

One key concept is platonicity, named after the philosopher Plato.  Plato was known to construct utopias, or Ideal governments and concepts.  This is supposed to be held up as the gold standard and the ideal to which all others are compared.  Humans tend to Platonify many concepts and situations.  It helps us deal with life and make decisions.  If we didn't Platonify, we would be mired in the gritty details of even the most minute decision.  

He refers to Umberto Eco and his library which allegedly contains 30,000 books.  A personal library is supposed to be a research tool.  And a library consisting solely of read books does not provide much possibility for research.  Most of his books are unread and thus provide their value because when he needs to find information he can go get it.  He also uses that example to highlight that humans focus on what we know, rather than what we don't know.  Very interesting.

He wrote that the human mind suffers from the "triplet of opacity" when it encounters history.  These are the illusion of understanding (people think they know what is going on in a world that is increasingly random), the retrospective distortion (we can only view events after the fact, and the accounts are over-simplified), overvaluation of factual information (people who know a lot tend to be overly confident and authoritative).  

The human mind is a great explainer, capable of finding meaning and patterns where none exist.  It is a great evolutionary tool for detecting the migration of birds, seasonal changes, patterns in waterfall, hunting, etc.  It is no so great when dealing with modern day life, where randomness has a large effect.  That is a really good thought!!!  Basically, our brains evolved to succeed in a slow-paced, more deterministic world.  Now we operate in an environment ruled by people and our whimsical, group-think choices that are not subject to the same rules.  Yet we still are stuck with the same equipment.  

Funes, the memorious.  He talks about someone who has a perfect memory.  Interesting.  

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bleacher Report, Brief Recap

I've posted four articles on bleacherreport.com .   I wrote one article each about the Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks, and Steelers.  Combined they have been read 1,723.  This is very exciting and cool.  Bleacher Report allows me to practice my writing skills and spread my ideas out to a community of people. I hope to ideally find a few other people who are interested in researching, cognitive biases and prediction.  

Also, earlier I predicted the Mavs would be the Spurs.  They were two point underdogs, and they won.  Niiiiiice.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Regression to the Mean, East meets West Part II

I was thinking about regression to the mean with regards to football betting.  Specifically, that a team on a losing streak, or playing really poorly, is bound to bounce back to "normal".  And when the team is really looking bad, and everyone is convinced they are in a funk, to the point where it has depressed their rating to produce a large disparity in the spread, is the right time to bet.  Essentially, betting losers.  but they have to be GOOD losers.  

And when people think a team has given up is probably when they are going to bounce back and "surprise" everyone.

Great quote from Deron Williams (courtesy of the Daily Dime):
Williams said it was difficult to prepare for the 12:30 p.m. tip-off after flying two time zones east and losing another hour of sleep after the clocks were moved ahead for the switch to Eastern Daylight Time.

"It's different," Williams said. "I was on the taping table laying down and I fell asleep. That was like 15 minutes before the game, so I was out of it."

The Jazz were also riding a ten game win streak, so I could have blamed them for being overly-fatigued from the win streak and losing badly.  Unfortunately, they covered the spread of 5, winning 109-101.  

Another note: Toronto held its opponent below 50 first-half points for the first time in eight games.

The jazz won the fourth quarter 28-14.  Thats unfortunate.  The Raptors should have won but I guess they aren't that good of a team.  Conversely, this could mean that the Jazz are a really good team now, able to win in those conditions.  it could also mean they are being set up for an energy-dump game coming up.  

Who knows?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Copied post from "Into the Ordinary"

Here I have copied a very interesting point from the blog "into the ordinary".  I don't know what the rules are on re-posting material I found on another blog.  but here it is:

Gladwell: This is actually a question I'm obsessed with: Why don't people work hard when it's in their best interest to do so? Why does Eddy Curry come to camp every year overweight?

The (short) answer is that it's really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn't work hard. It's a form of self-protection. I swear that's why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I'll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience. Most of the psychological research on this is focused on why some kids don't study for tests -- which is a much more serious version of the same problem. If you get drunk the night before an exam instead of studying and you fail, then the problem is that you got drunk. If you do study and you fail, the problem is that you're stupid -- and stupid, for a student, is a death sentence. The point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare. People think that Tiger is tougher than Mickelson because he works harder. Wrong: Tiger is tougher than Mickelson and because of that he works harder.

To me, this is what Peyton Manning's problem is. He has the work habits and dedication and obsessiveness of Jordan and Tiger Woods. But he can't deal with the accompanying preparation anxiety. The Manning face is the look of someone who has just faced up to a sobering fact: I am in complete control of this offense. I prepare for games like no other quarterback in the NFL. I am in the best shape of my life. I have done everything I can to succeed -- and I'm losing. Ohmigod. I'm not that good. (Under the same circumstances, Ben Roethlisberger is thinking: maybe next time I stop after five beers). I don't know if I've ever felt sorrier for someone than I did for Manning at the end of that Pittsburgh playoff game.

Initial Pac-10 research, potential Bias discovered,

Before I forget, the bias that I thought up today is thus: a college football team that plays a majority of its early-schedule games at home will suffer from Home Field Bias.  Essentially, this means that its stats will be inflated because it will have a disproportionate amount of games played at home.  Homefield advantage has been proven to pump up scoring, improve defense, and generally make the team look better than it actually will when it travels.

Now, on to the research results.  I looked at each team in the Pac ten and their points scored in away games and at home.  The results were not surprising, but still important.

For the season
Home team: 2589 points.   Away Team: 2245 points.
A difference of 344 points spread out over 45 games.  That makes it 7.64 points per game!  That is over one touchdown difference per game that you get for playing at home.  In the pros it is a mere three points.  

I also read in Stanford Wong's book Sharp Sports Betting that home field advantage decreases between division rivals.  It would also be interesting to look at inter-conference games.  Perhaps if I picked another conference, say the Mountain West Conference, and also compared the inter-conference games between the two, to look at home field advantage in another conference and also the difference in inter-conference games compared to in-conference games.  

Also, if the implications of this research are correct, then the younger the team, the bigger the discrepancy between homefield advantage and away disadvantage.  Also, my data may be skewed because of certain "neutral" games that are technically listed as home/away, like USC/UCLA.  These rivalry games may have stadiums that are split.  

Possibly maximized when a young team is a road favorite over a home team with more experienced players.  

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Clippers: Laziest Team Ever?

I just read the Daily Dime on ESPN and they had a scouts message saying the Clippers were the laziest team he had ever seen.  Now that is quite a statement.  The laziest team ever seen in the NBA?  What conspires to create the laziest team ever?

First off, I think it is that they play in the Laker's shadow.  There is usually very little attention and fanfare.  Unfortunately, little attention means little negative press when they suck.  Little attention paid, few fans demanding improvement.  So there is much less pressure to improve.  And the Lakers are doing so well that it has to affect the conscious of the whole organization.  They are the second fiddle, and the first fiddle has the best record in the NBA.

Not only is there little negativity when they lose, but there is little praise when they win?  They beat the Celtics?  Lakers did it twice already.  Everything they do is already surpassed.  It creates a very laissez-faire mentality.  

Of he who little is expected, little is received.  

Here are selected quotes from the Daily Dime's interview with anonymous scouts:

"I think a lot of people would say Toronto. Not me. The Clippers are the laziest team I've ever seen. I know they've had a lot of injuries, but they just don't play hard. Their good players don't play hard.

"They have enough talent to be relevant. But it looks to me like they're trying to become the Oakland Raiders, going out and getting all the guys who are on their last chance.

"So don't be surprised if they go after Iverson in the summer. If there's one place where [signing Iverson as a free agent] can sell tickets, it's there [in Clipperland]."

What does this mean for the rest of the season?  As the focus and attention is focused in on the Lakers and their playoff race for homecourt, people will care less about the Clippers.  

Teams in tight playoff races will most likely deliver the worst beatings to the Clippers.  Teams either clearly in or clearly out would seem to take the Clippers most seriously.  Younger teams will try harder than older teams (OKC).  

Looking specifically at their schedule, they have a six game trip.  I predict that two early wins would mean the would lose the rest of their games.  They also play at Boston.  Two factors here:  revenge game for Boston (they lost at LA a few weeks ago) at home, and a tight playoff race.  Boston doesn't let up and their bench is big, strong, and plays extremely hard.  This could be a thirty to forty point loss.  

They also host Cleveland and play at Denver twice.  These two games will probably be one bad loss and one close game.  If first game is close, second will be very bad, likely.  Also, if the Clippers win the first one, they would almost certainly lose the second one.  

They also host Portland and play at Utah.  Those two games could be ugly.  Portland is young and in a playoff race, but it is away.  So that will hurt. However, it is at the end of the season so I don't know how full the stadium will be.  The game at Utah will likely feature Utah in a very tight race for the highest playoff seeding possible.  They are fresh (because of injuries and players finally returning) so they could give a pounding to LA.

I'll have to watch the Clippers as the season finishes to see if these predictions are right.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bleacher Report and Mavs Follow-up

I recently wrote my second article at bleacherreport.com 

Article writing is not my main focus but it is a great community to voice ideas, receive feedback, and generally communicate and learn.  I wrote an article about the Lakers (specifically Andrew Bynum) and one about the Dallas Mavericks (specifically Mark Cuban).  

My first article received over 240 reads and one comment.  

My goal is to use the website as a way to post about various predictions and effort-skewed results.  These are games results which are heavily biased or skewed by either lack of effort or extra effort.  Blogging on here and writing on bleacher report will let me keep abreast of what happens in the NBA and record my observations for future use.  

I also want to reprint my articles here so that I can have a back up copy.  

Lastly, I'm hoping to meet one or two other people who are interested in my effort-based investigations in the NBA and have a similar eye for it.  

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Last night's game and win streaks

A couple of thoughts today.  One is the game last night.  The Mavericks were at home and beat the Spurs 107-102.  They were two point underdogs and the Spurs are a good team.  

A few factors in their favor I knew about:
They had lost to the Spurs at San Antonio a few games before.
Mark Cuban had called out the team publicly and was demanding greater effort.
Effort trumps talent in the NBA.

One I didn't know about:
Joey Crawford was one of the referees. He has feuded with Duncan several times before and that would surely get in Duncans head.  It may have focused him more or less, I don't know, but he responded poorly this game.  

Selected quotes:
"I put it on my shoulders," Duncan said. "I really played an awful game on both ends. I've got to clean that up. ... They were real physical and I felt I got fouled on a couple things. But everybody feels like they get fouled sometimes. I tried to play through it, then started compounding by missing layups and missing shots. Frustrating night."

Critical phrase:  "they were real physical". that is the sign of a team that is playing hard, with sustained superior effort for the duration of the game.  Thats all one needs to know.  In fact, at the NBA level, it seems like one just needs to know who is going to play harder.  

Another thought:
I talked with my Dad last night and we talked about win streaks.  And I thought about how tough it would be to test win streaks for significance.  Essentially, if a team is winning games, are they more probable to continue winning games?  Are they on a "roll".  

And more critically, when do teams let up?  After how many games in a row will a team "ease off" or have a bad night with increasing probability?  How do I even go about testing these things?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Game Prediction: Dallas over San Antonio

I read that Mark Cuban called out his players publicly after their last game against OKC.  Although negative press isn't the best motivator, I think it will be a deciding factor.  That and Dallas lost recently at San Antonio.  

An away loss is easily followed up by a home win.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Spurs Watch? Why not!

I read the comments in the Spurs loss to Cleveland and Portland and found some interesting nuggets.

"That's the best thing about the NBA," James said. "In the NBA you can play as bad as you ever played one night and the NBA schedule allows you to make up for it the next night."

A great quote by Tony Parker:  "I wanted Timmy to play," Parker said. "I was worried in a game like that everybody would run out of gas because the last two games we spent so much energy in a back-to-back, especially coming off a long road trip. I was just scared we didn't have enough in the tank, and it showed tonight."

Shorthanded all week, Parker scored a combined 76 points to carry the Spurs in victories over Dallas and Portland. But Cleveland wasn't a one-man job.

Portland game:
The Spurs didn't even play Duncan in the fourth quarter after Portland led by as many as 29 points. 

"To start the game that way against a team we had beaten pretty good quite recently was disappointing. It shows possibly a laissez-faire sort of attitude," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I would have expected us to come out knowing we were in for a heck of a battle. I'm not sure we came with the approach or respect we needed."

So what can be concluded from this?  The Spurs went on a road trip, played hard and focused.  They came home and played back to backs without Tim Duncan- they won both, showing they played hard and were focused.  Then they played another game at home with Duncan a late scratch.  They weren't emotionally or energetically ready to play without T.D. and were flat.  They lost badly.  

Then they went to Portland and played a team they beat badly only now it was at home.  Portland ran them out of the building.  Also, Parker scored a bunch of points in the back to backs, so he was drained.  Its a classic case of a player stepping up his game during an injury to a team mate.  But with every step up comes a step down.  No one can exceed their normal efforts for too long without requiring rest.  

Lakers Watch: Games 5 and 6

Lakers game 5 was at Denver.  I already made a post about their effort levels and the "perfect storm" occurance of the Nuggets being fired up because of their loss a few days prior to the Celtics.  Both games were at home, both were championship level teams and the Nuggets had another chance.  They are also a division leading team and a team with aspirations of at least making the secnod round of the playoffs.  Obviously the Lakers didn't cover the spread, as they lost.

Game 6 for the Lakers was at Phoenix.  Here I think we could have expected more of an energy level rebound for the Lakers.  Again they may have been stymied though by the Suns own rebounding energy level.  They were blown out by thirty something at LA and were ready this time.  Shaq scored 35 points.  Again, Shaq has a lot of pride and I'm sure he got the team fired up for this one.  He doesn't want to lose badly to LA twice in a row, he doesnt' want to lose badly to Kobe twice in a row.  Kobe scored 49 points but obviously he couldn't win the game by himself.  

So the Lakers Watch recap is a six game stretch where they went 2-4 against the spread and almost went 1-5.  It took a late-game run against the OKC Thunder to pull them to 2-4.  2-4 is a good percentage ,1-5 can make you a millionaire. 

Also the Laker's success has meant that the beatings they deliver ensure teams will be trying harder the next time they meet.  Of course, the team has to have the skills and ability to translate increased effort into increased points and wins.