Game 7: The Impact Plays

MIAMI – The most important play in a game isn’t always the one you remember most. Sometimes, it’s subtle and doesn’t even make the highlight reel. Sometimes, something as simple as a change in possession can be more important than a shot that does or doesn’t go in.

The NBA has a way to use analytics to figure out just which plays had the biggest impact on a close game. It’s a “leverage” model that was developed to evaluate and instruct referees by pointing out which calls or no-calls had the biggest impact on a game’s result.

Here’s the idea: At every point of a game, each team has a certain probability of winning. Putting the quality of each team to the side, when the game tips off, the home team has a 60 percent probability of winning and the road team has a 40 percent probability of winning. After the first basket, those numbers haven’t changed much. But if the home team is up 10 with the ball and five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, their win probability (WP) is obviously a lot greater than 60 percent.

So, by calculating win probability both before and after a play occurs, it can be determined just how important that play was. Score, possession and location are the factors. And obviously, plays in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter (or overtime) in a close game are more important than any others.

Using the league’s data model, we’ve determined the three most important plays of Game 7 of The Finals, a 95-88 victory by the Miami Heat, earning them their third NBA championship.

Appropriately, the final game of this incredible series came down to the final minute. And there were plenty of big plays down the stretch.

3. +10.9 percent – Leonard’s 3 cuts it to two


The Heat were seemingly in control, up five with just over two minutes left. And they had the Spurs stopped with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. But LeBron James gave Kawhi Leonard just enough space on the right wing and Leonard stroked a trey to make it a two-point game.

Before the shot, the Spurs’ WP was just 10.1 percent. After, it was up to 21.0 percent.

2. +11.0 percent – Duncan misses a chance to tie


Down two in the final minute, the Spurs quickly got the ball up the floor and into Tim Duncan in the post. Duncan had a mismatch against Shane Battier and got straight to the rim, but missed a short hook shot that would have tied the game with 50 seconds left. He got his hand on the rebound, but couldn’t control the tip.

With possession, the Spurs’ WP was 29.4 percent. But after the Heat grabbed the second rebound, it was down to 18.4 percent. If Duncan’s shot had gone in, it would have been up to 40.0 percent.

1. +16.4 percent – Chalmers’ steal leads to Battier’s three


With 3 1/2 minutes left and the Spurs down three, Tim Duncan grabbed a huge offensive rebound, but he was trapped on the baseline and Mario Chalmers intercepted his pass out to the perimeter. He got the ball to James, who raced down the floor, drew two defenders under the basket and found Battier in the corner.

Battier drained his sixth and final three of the night to put the Heat up six. Battier’s six threes are a record for a Finals Game 7.

Before the steal, the Heat’s WP was 75.3 percent. The change of possession increased it to 83.0 percent (+7.7) and the three increased it to 91.7 percent (+8.7).

35 Comments

  1. RS says:

    No matter what everyone says, this year’s Miami Heat is an incredible team. They won 27 in a row, finished first in the regular season, and played extraordinary basketball year long (and beautitul too) and especially following a defeat, hence their greatness. For these reasons, I am a huge fan of this team.

    The greatest player actually, and perphaps in NBA history (I say perhaprs because it is difficult t to compare) is truely LeBron James. The greatness of this player has lifted the whole team to an incredible confidence, which allowed them to win against teams such as the San Antonio Spurs .By the way, this is why this man was MVP 4 times in the last 5 years. Needless to say more.

  2. Cloned says:

    I Love the Haters They made this series interesting to watch so next season plss hate them more haha

  3. IRATECUSTOMER says:

    HEY JOHN I REMEMBER SPURS in 6 was it? HA! ha BURN!!!! by the HEAT

  4. theholyspectator says:

    that game 6 loss the spurs suffered is gonna be killing them, they had the yellow tape around the court and the trophy being rolled out, thats the closest they will ever get to a ring, ginobli needs to retire as does duncan, this is the highest point they will get to for the rest of their careers, OKC will be back next season as will clippers(if they make big moves) dont think spurs got anything left to go on another title run again..poor spurs..but they fought for it…gotta give them dudes props tho..they fought hard just not well..miami repeat!!! Miami better make some solid off season moves, two game 7 series in the same playoff season, thats just intense..even for them..thanks for a great season miami heat! it was fun watching you guys play, their is nothing like miami heat basketball…and as far as you haters, if you could please explain this concept of the “nba being rigged” theory? just really curious..i never understood how that quite worked..? whenever you done feeling sad and miserable..please leme know thanks..!

  5. afterkwiss says:

    What a great series indeed! Two great teams, great players on both sides, some great bball! Congrats to the champs … GO HEAT!
    Hey Miami haters, see y’all next year!

  6. Robert says:

    Statistics are for people looking for excuses. Meaningless statistics which are skewed to reflect an individual opinion such as “WP” have no place in professional basketball. The only statistic that matters is WINNING or LOSING. That is a fact.

  7. Wade fan says:

    For me as a Heat fan, game 6 and 7 were the best, most exciting NBA games I have seen, I am very happy for the Heat.
    I am only sorry for Tim Duncan. He played 44 and 43 minutes in game 6 and 7, he was +16 and +2 in these games, which they lost. At the age of 37 he had almost no rest, because the Spurs were just awful with him on the bench. At 37 he is still the best big man in the game, and the greatest PF of All-Time.

  8. Steve says:

    People still watch the NBA.

  9. James says:

    Calculating how each and every play increases the win percentage is just nonsense – every single play, no matter how big or small it is, adds up to the win. Miami WON the game

  10. MACKY says:

    after all tenacious drama, its nice to see victorious Miami Heat results of their collective effort to show the whole word they can make it 2 peat in a row to Nba Titles. The great team san Antonio spurs to show their sportsmanship, specially to coach Pop and TIM Duncan embracing LBJ and Wade, this is the sportsmanship display we want to witness. we fans of the whole world. We like to see not just winning but a true team sportsmanship. This is one of the greatest championship match up in NBA History. Nice Job both team. Congratulations Miami Heat 2013 Nba champs.

  11. Karlo Garcia says:

    LBJ still has 5 championshps to win still. Still not the greatest yet!

  12. Knicks Fan Alex says:

    Haters don’t hate the team. We hate you fans, you don’t deserve that championship. You morons are so pathetic. Best example was how many fans left in game 6 OT when they all thought it was a definite loss. LOLLL pathetic. I actually think the team deserved that win, each and every one of them. But Miami Heat fans, you deserve the Bobcats.

    • KG LBJ fan says:

      It’s unfair to blame the whole fan base for the mistakes made by a few fans in the stadium. Last time I checked the place was still packed with many fans when we won Game 6. I am a heat fan and I didn’t even flip the channel from the tip off till the buzzer. Go find someother reason to hate.

  13. pain@18 says:

    hope duncan wont retire..and go for another run..and give the heat a hard fight for their threepeat ;)

  14. Kamote says:

    Congratulations to the Heat for a well-deserved win. Good fight from the Spurs, hopefully they can still have one more year in them. All is well.

  15. Congratulate to LBJ says:

    LBJ will never be as great as MJ, Kobe, Duncan those great player in history.
    He is just a boy who seek for champion and join Maimi rely on Wade and Bosh

    • Erlo says:

      Lebron is already the best of all time. Watch out for the 3 other championships he will eventually win… HEARD

    • Ryezen says:

      Really? He’ll never be as great as “MJ, Kobe, Duncan” because he relies on Wade and Bosh? BOSH? Bosh didn’t score a SINGLE point in game 7; how is he relying on Bosh?? LeBron had 37 in that game, setting an NBA record! I seriously think your neurons are misfiring if you think LeBron “…rely on Wade and Bosh”. That’s a ridiculous statement, anyhow, implying that a player shouldn’t rely on their teammates? So MJ never relied on Pippen or Rodman or Kukoc? Kobe never relied on Shaq or Gasol? Duncan never relied on Ginobili or Parker? I hope your future posts are more intelligent than the one I’m replying to. If you want to hate, that’s your choice, but at least come up with a legitimate argument.

  16. The Truth says:

    Manu is really disappointed …. can’t produce big impact but big turnovers

  17. miniminer says:

    where are the haters? got choke? well deserved title for the heat..kudos to the spurs as well for having an epic series, my respects to TD, TP, MG and Pop

    • big cat says:

      not a hater just a truther , all most people are gonna remember about LeBron is him having to team up with a another top 5 player and all star and jumping ship to join form a superteam . The east has been CUPCAKE the last two yrs no competition easy path to the finals , something tells me Chicago bulls will have a say in this matter next yr and as for LeBron he’ll never win another championship the biggest flopper in nba history can only get away with so much . BTW way to swallow the whistle game 6 ginobili drive when ray allen raked his arms and to all you non educated heat wagon jumpers who say manu travelled LeBron takes four steps every other play when he takes it in so don’t give me that .

  18. ISBABOON says:

    I remember this Guy very BIAS to the SPURS not giving credit to the heat, hehe now hes writing in pain

  19. MTL says:

    Congrats to the Heat.

    NBA.com however, making us watch a 30-second commercial to watch a 30-second clip is lame.

  20. Bruce Duan says:

    battier, the league shall give him the small-MVP
    why? please go to see the data, go to see the video again.

  21. Jay T says:

    When is Game 8?

  22. Congrats to the Heat says:

    Still, what a disappointing end to the Greatest Power Forward and most consistent player of All-Time. I was rooting for the Spurs, because if Timmy decided to retire along with Pop, at least they were gonna go out as Champs. Manu was just disappointing, nothing else to say. Still, props to the Heat for a great series and to LeBron for not choking in the final minutes. He certainly proved he was the best in the world, and thankfully, his legacy won’t be tarnished. Because in all honesty, after already losing two Finals series, losing here would have made LBJ 1-3 in 4 Finals series. Not exactly what anyone would like.

    • Marco29 says:

      Well said. It is disappointing for the Spurs who have not been as solid in the final minutes of games 6 and 7 as they had been in Game 1 and in the series before (20T win against GSW and 2 games with 10T agiainst MEM) while the Heat on the other hand finished strong. Congrats to the Heat and LBJ who has been cluch in both games. Spurs did not have the same kind of player to seal the deal: Parker seemed exhausted, Duncan missed the chance and Ginobili was dreadfull with his 3 turnovers in the final minutes. But I am proud of the Spurs who made it the greatest seriesI have ever seen. I think they have earned the respect and silenced those who said they should not have been in the Finals. Let’s hope they will have aonther chance in the coming years.

  23. JSM01 says:

    Bosh had a lot of impact plays last night! Why don´t you mention some?

  24. spawn says:

    nice one miami…

  25. Lbj fan says:

    Wow, how did Tim miss that?!? They must have payed him!! / probably Spurs’ fans logic /

  26. DEAL WITH THE TRUTH says:

    Where are the haters? what are they going to come up with? lol…. hope they run out of excuses