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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
ESPN Forecast takes fresh look at playoffs

By Adam Reisinger

Before the second round tipped off on Sunday, our ESPN Forecast panel predicted the Knicks would beat the Pacers in seven games and the Grizzlies would beat the Thunder in six. Both New York and Memphis lost in Game 1, so how would the panel adjust?

In one case, dramatically. In another? Not as much.

After Game 1, we asked our ESPN Forecast panel to predict each team’s chance of winning each remaining game in the series, as well as what they thought the results overall for the series would be.

In the East, sentiment has moved from the Knicks to the Pacers. More than three-fifths of the panel (63.0 percent, to be exact) is now picking the Pacers to win the series.

When all of the picks are averaged, the panel is leaning toward Pacers in 7, but the most common exact pick is Pacers in 6. We also asked the panel to rate the teams’ specific chances of winning each game; the Pacers were favored in all three games in Indiana (ranging between 56 and 62 percent confidence), which again lends itself to the “Pacers in 6” thinking.

Historically, winning Game 1 on the road is helpful, but no guarantee of success to come. In all NBA best-of-seven series where a team wins Game 1 on the road, that team goes on to win the series 56 percent of the time. That number falls to 52 percent in this specific round (conference semifinals or the “quarterfinal” round). However, looking just at the Knicks, the numbers are more distressing. They have been just 4-19 in series when dropping Game 1 and 0-5 when losing Game 1 at home.

Things are more muddled in the West, where the panel originally picked the Grizzlies in 6. That’s still the most common series pick among our panelists -- 60 percent of whom are still picking the Grizzlies to win the series -- but the game-by-game percentages suggest a most-likely scenario of Thunder in 7. That’s not surprising, considering that among the panelists who picked the Thunder to win the series, more than two out of three said it would take Oklahoma City the full seven games to advance. They may like the fact that teams that win Game 1 at home go on to win the series in the NBA 85 percent of the time, and that number jumps to 88 percent in the conference semifinals.

Looking ahead to Game 2, the panel gives the Knicks a 66 percent chance on average of evening the series. The Thunder’s average chance of winning again at home comes to just 53 percent. In two series this close, it’s not surprising to see an expectation for the team that lost Game 1 to put up a strong effort in Game 2.

The closeness also comes through in the “sweep percentage.” No panelist predicted a sweep in either series, and looking at the game-by-game percentages, the Pacers have just an 11.8 percent chance of sweeping, while OKC’s chances of winning 4-0 are pegged at just 7.3 percent.