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Man and machine agree: Spurs will beat LeBron James, Heat in the NBA Finals

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs each have their virtues for winning the NBA Finals, but it appears the majority believe the Spurs will emerge as champions.


The favoritism isn’t limited to just those made of flesh and bone: advanced algorithms are also predicting a San Antonio victory.

Swish Analytics, created by former Capital One Bank employees Bobby Skoff, Joe Hagen and Corey Beaumont, leverages the work used for predicting fraud in mobile payments and applies them to the NBA.

“We have the Spurs winning the series,” said Skoff. “Right now, prior to Game 1 our algorithm gives them a 67.4 percent chance of winning the NBA Finals. That prediction will change throughout the series and after Game 1 our algorithm will take into account what happened, re-run based on that and historical information and produce a new likelihood of that happening.”

When I asked for some specifics about their prediction engine they were not willing to give up the “secret sauce,” but did offer some insight into their methods.

“We use home performance versus away performance and matchup data, how the Heat and Spurs have matched up over the past couple of seasons, including the Finals last year,” explained Skoff. “We also built some proprietary metrics that take into account specific time frames and referee data – it’s not our philosophy to pinpoint one specific stat that is tipping the scale but overall we have enough information to give the Spurs the edge at this point.”

This falls in line with some other simulations being run, including those by Nathan Walker, whose number crunching has a Spurs victory most likely occurring in five games.

The bookmakers in Vegas also see San Antonio adding to their trophy collection. According to Bovada, the Spurs have an implied 54.6 percent chance at winning the series based on the current money line of minus-120.

And let’s not forget the Spurs themselves.

“We’ve got four more to win,” Tim Duncan said. “We’ll do it this time.”

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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