Algorithm predicts Celtics will beat Lakers in NBA Finals

A points analysis metric developed by NBA statisticians and Lenovo engineers predicts that the Boston Celtics will beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals based on the statistical superior play of Boston's five top players when they have shared the court in the playoffs. The Finals started Thursday night, with Boston winning the first game, 98-88.

Lenovo Stat , a plus/minus algorithm featured on NBA.com , shows Boston should win the best-of-seven games series because the Celtics'top players have had a bigger impact on the outcome of their games compared to LA's biggest five scorers. The stats tool calculates the point differential of how a player or combination of players performs when they're on the court, said Michael Glideman, senior vice president and CIO of NBA.

This is the second season in which Lenovo Stat has been used by the NBA to measure "teamwork" and in-game player effectiveness, he said. The statistical analysis tool works by giving a combination of players a plus when they score and a minus when they're scored upon by opponents. Those results are added in real-time to box scores on NBA.com during games.

The algorithm analyzes each scoring event during a game to assess the productivity of each player combo against a given point in time. The analysis can be applied to a single player, five players, or any number in between, said Glideman.

According to current Lenovo Stat rankings, Boston's top five-player combination -- Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo -- scored a +79 rating. By comparison, the Lakers'top five unit -- Kobe Bryant , Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Vladimir Radmanovic -- notched a +66 post-season rating.

The +13 point differential could prove to be a sizeble advantage for Boston over LA since a team's top players traditionally spend the bulk of the game on the floor and have the greatest impact on the outcome.

Boston's top five have never played in an NBA Finals game. By contrast, Laker forwards Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher were part of three NBA championship teams from LA between 2000 and 2002.

This year's championship fight marks the 11th time the Celtics and Lakers have faced off in the NBA Finals. Although the Celtics won eight of the previous 10 match-ups, the Lakers won the most recent series against Boston in 1985 and 1987.

"It's a classic combo of teams and you're going to add this enhancement of technology to go against it, which is something we didn't have before in previous [NBA Finals] match-ups," Glideman said.

Lenovo Stat information is collected courtside at 29 NBA arenas on IBMThinkPad X60 Tablets by statisticians who log approximately 500 pieces of data in during each game. The data is delivered to a Sybase database at the NBA's data center in New York for analysis, before being quickly pushed out to the NBA.com site, as well as televisions, mobile phones and other distribution points, he noted.

Glideman said that the NBA plans to enhance Lenovo Stat in the future so fans can see player and team stats in dream match-ups. For example, the tool could square-off the 2007-2008 Celtics against the 1985-1986 NBA Champion Celtics squad which featured NBA legends Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish.

"We're taking all of [NBA] history and applying those algorithms against it. It's on the roadmap and definitely something we plan on doing with it," he added.

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This story, "Algorithm predicts Celtics will beat Lakers in NBA Finals" was originally published by Computerworld.

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