The Warriors are now up 2-0 in the NBA Finals after a 33-point blowout win in Game 2 last night. Golden State was dominant in every phase of the game, and that dominance caused many people to declare this series over before a game has even been played in Cleveland. That seems a little rash considering the Cavaliers are currently a 1-point favorite at Pinnacle. This seemed to confound a lot of people on social media. The Warriors had just dominated the Cavaliers, what would make Vegas and offshore bookmakers think the Cavaliers should be small favorites in Game 3?
The truth is that the books already made an adjustment based on those games. The “lookahead” line for Game 3 was Cleveland -2.5, meaning the books changed the line based on the first two games of the series. But should they have? How much does a loss affect a team in the next game of the series. By using the data in Bet Labs, I took a look at every team and how they performed the game after a loss. Here’s the results:
The x-axis represents the team’s previous game margin (the farther left you go, the larger the previous game loss was) while the y-axis represents the team’s next game margin. Every game above the x-axis represents a team that won after losing their last game. Since 2005, teams coming off of a loss have gone 412-414. The correlation coefficient between a team’s previous game margin and their next game margin is only 10%.
We can also look at teams coming off a loss that are now playing at home which fits the Cavaliers situation:
The correlation coefficient is around 7.7% for this data set. We do have more wins (dots above the x-axis) but that is to be expected as home teams win more often whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs.
We can look at one additional set of data that fits the predicament that the Cavaliers find themselves in. Looking at teams after a blowout loss of 30 points or more:
While the number of games is limited, teams coming off of a 30-point blowout or more are actually 12-15 in their next game so the Cavaliers bouncing back isn’t out of the question. In fact, LeBron can look back at one of his previous Cavs’ playoff runs as inspiration for this series. See that dot at the top of the chart? That indicates a team coming off of a 30-point loss that won their next game by 36 points. The team that did it was the Wizards. After losing to Cleveland 116-86 in Game 2, Washington was able to bounce back in a major way by protecting home court to the tune of a 108-72 shellacking.
It’s still possible that the Cavs get back into this series. It’s also a real possibility that the Warriors sweep the series. The data shows us that you shouldn’t factor in the Game 2 blowout either way.