Friday, April 29, 2011

Spurs' Regular-Season Fade Carries Over to Playoffs

The Memphis Grizzlies have just eliminated the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs, with a 99-91 victory in Game 6 of the teams' series. Issues of streakiness/momentum were implicated at both the micro and macro levels. Regarding the former, Memphis used a late 12-2 run (from down 80-79 to up 91-82) to blunt the Spurs' comeback and take control of the game. The Grizzlies had also jumped out to a 14-2 opening lead (play-by-play sheet).

At a macro, season-long level, we have seen an epic collapse by San Antonio, from at one point holding a 57-13 record (.814) to closing the regular season with a 4-8 mark, leaving the Spurs' record at 61-21 (game-by-game log). Now, with the series loss to Memphis, the Spurs have become one of the few No. 1 seeds within their conference to lose to a No. 8 seed.

Baseball studies have tended to find no connection between teams' performance levels toward the end of the regular season and in the playoffs (here and here). One series does not a trend make, but San Antonio's fall-off at the end of the regular season certainly presaged a playoff collapse in this instance.

Friday, April 22, 2011

K-State Baseballer Sees 93-Game On-Base Streak Come to an End

Kansas State University baseball player Nick Martini recently had his streak of reaching base in 93 straight games come to an end.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Late-Game Runs Highlight Opening Day of NBA Playoffs

Opening day of the NBA playoffs featured some dramatic fourth-quarter team runs. The Chicago Bulls closed their game against Indiana on a 16-1 spurt, in rallying for a 104-99 win. The Philadelphia 76ers outscored Miami 12-0 in the closing minutes to pull within 88-87, but the Heat held on to win, 97-89.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Schwartzel Closes with Four Straight Birdies to Claim Masters

It was a streaky final day at the Masters golf tournament. Coming down to the end, several contenders were centered around a score of 10-under-par. The winner was an unknown (to me at least), South Africa's Charl Schwartzel. According to this article, "Schwartzel emerged from the madness by becoming the first Masters champion to close with four straight birdies," leaving him on top at minus-14.

Australians Jason Day (holes 17 and 18) and Adam Scott (14 and 16) each recorded two late birdies to finish tied for second at minus-12. Tiger Woods was hot early, lowering his score from minus-5 to minus-10 within the first eight holes today, but minus-10 was where Woods was at the finish line, tied with Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald.

And then there was Rory McIlroy, who entered the final round with a four-stroke lead, but then developed a decidedly cold hand. Quoting again from the aforementioned article:

Still leading by one shot as he headed to the back nine, McIlroy hit a tee shot next to the cabins left of the 10th fairway and twice hit a tree to make triple bogey. He three-putted from 7 feet for bogey on the 11th, four-putted from about 12 feet on the next hole and buried his head into his forearm as the shock began to settle in.

McIlroy shot 80, the highest final round by the 54-hole leader since Ken Venturi in 1956.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

MLB: Losing First 5 Games of Season A Surprisingly Strong Predictor of Missing the Playoffs

The slow start of the highly regarded Boston Red Sox (losses in their first six games before finally winning last night), as well as those of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (0-6) and Houston Astros (0-5), have prompted a lot of discussion over the seemingly great prognostic significance of such a small number of early-season games for teams' postseason prospects. As Sports Illustrated's Cliff Corcoran writes:

To suggest that any team has reason to worry after such a small dry spell to start the season seems absurd, but here are the facts:

In major league history, which dates to 1871, 110 teams have started a season 0-5. Just two of those 110 went on to make the postseason, less than two percent.

Corcoran goes on to provide his own analysis of the phenomenon, as do other commentators here, here, and here.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Woods Turning Things Around at Masters

After struggling a bit on Thursday and early Friday in the Masters golf tournament, Tiger Woods turned things around midway through the second round. As noted in this article, Woods "returned to his brilliant best holing seven birdies in his last 11 holes in a sparkling 66 to lie ominously poised in a tie for third, three shots of[f] the lead."

Thursday, April 07, 2011

ESPN Retrospective on Nicklaus's 1986 Sizzling Final Masters Round

With the annual Masters golf tournament getting underway today, has a 25-year retrospective on then-46 year-old Jack Nicklaus's scorching final round -- "Birdies at 9, 10, 11, 13, 16 and 17. An eagle at 15" -- to win the 1986 event.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Butler Didn't Do It (Shoot Well) in NCAA Title Game

Not much to say about last night's NCAA men's basketball title game, except that Butler's cold shooting was the story. As the linked article says, "[Connecticut] won the title with a defensive showing for the ages, holding Butler to 12-for-64 shooting. That's 18.8 percent, the worst ever in a title game."

Monday, April 04, 2011

NBA Streakiness Notes

Some NBA items:

The Denver Nuggets came into Los Angeles Sunday and cooled off the Lakers a little bit, winning 95-90. According to this game article, "It was only the second defeat in 19 games for the Lakers since the All-Star break. The other came against Miami on March 10."

Also on Sunday, San Antonio's George Hill scored 16 points in just the last six minutes of the first quarter, ending up with 29 in all, in the Spurs' 114-97 win over Phoenix.

The Chicago Bulls, who last played Saturday, winning 113-106 over Toronto, have now won 15 of their last 17 games (game-by-game log).

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Djokovic with 26-Match Win Streak

Defeating Rafael Nadal in a dramatic final-set tie-breaker, Novak Djokovic won the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament and, in the process, extended his winning streak to 26 matches.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Live Blogging Men's Final Four

Live blogging the men's NCAA basketball Final Four (with postgame annotation in red from the official play-by-play sheets and box scores, linked below).

Game 1 (play-by-play, box score):

Virginia Commonwealth unleashes an 11-0 run after falling behind 5-0.

Butler ties game 15-15 with 8-0 run.

Butler closes the first half on a 19-8 run to lead 34-28.

VCU scores first 7 points of second half to lead 35-34.

I haven't seen any statistics lately, but the three-point shooting in this game seems uniformly awful. [VCU shot 8-for-22 for the game (.364), but 4 of the made threes were in the first 7:00 of the game; Butler hit 8-for-23 for the game (.348), so you can imagine how low the team's shooting percentage was before the upcoming barrage of 4 made threes!]

No sooner do I make my last comment than Butler hits 4 three-pointers, helping the Bulldogs to a 52-45 edge. [Zach Hahn 14:01, Hahn 13:31, Shelvin Mack 11:16, Mack 9:57]

Announcer Jim Nantz points out that Shelvin Mack has scored Butler's last 10 points. A VCU three [Joey Rodriguez 8:33] keeps the Rams within 54-50.

Matt Howard, 11-of-12 for the game at the line, puts home a bunch of free throws to keep Butler comfortably ahead, 69-59 with 30.5 seconds left.

It's Butler, 70-62.

Game 2 (play-by-play, box score):

Kentucky on an 8-0 run to close within 31-29 of UConn, early second half.

A tight game most of the second half, with UConn generally leading. The Huskies win 56-55, although it was 56-52 with two seconds remaining and Kentucky made a three-pointer at the buzzer for window dressing.

It's been a strange season for UConn (game-by-game log). The Huskies started out 17-2 (5-2 in the Big East), then won only 4-of-11 conference games to close the regular season. UConn then captured the Big East tournament with five wins in five days, and now has won five straight NCAA tournament games to make Monday night's final against Butler.