Thursday, March 06, 2008

Break up the Houston Rockets!

The guys from H-town won their 17th straight tonight, with a 113-98 victory at Dallas. The Mavericks were without the suspended Dirk Nowitzki, but I think the Rockets' win is nevertheless impressive because (a) a road win against a good team is never easy, and (b) Houston has been without Yao Ming, who is out for the season.

One thing I learned from this game article is that "Houston's streak is tied for seventh-best in NBA history." The Rockets' turnaround actually goes beyond the current 17-game winning streak, however.

As can be seen on Houston's game-by-game log, the Rockets were floundering at 15-17 around New Year's Day. I (along with a lot of Houston fans, I'm sure) was beginning to wonder whether veteran coach Rick Adelman, in his first year with the Rockets, really was going to get any improvement out of the team.

Houston then went on a 9-3 stretch, before launching the 17-game winning streak. The Rockets thus are now 41-20. To get some idea of how improbable such a turnaround may have been -- albeit in post hoc fashion -- let's say for simplicity that the Rockets were a .500 team before they got hot (roughly corresponding to the 15-17 start). How likely is it, therefore, that a previously .500 team could win 26 (or more) games out of 29?

According to this online binomial calculator, the answer is .000008. About 1-in-100,000.

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