Predicting the outcome of any NBA game isn’t an exact science. There are lots of previews to each game that incorporate statistical analysis, the talent levels of each roster, injuries, how well the two teams have been playing coming into the game, etc. These are usually written by experts who often times get it wrong which is why the game is both played and watched. Perhaps the most famous method of predicting the winner of any game is “Lawler’s Law”. It’s a simple method – created by former Philadelphia 76ers trainer Al Domenico and popularized by L.A. Clippers play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler – which says that the first team to score 100 points wins.
Of course, using Lawler’s Law as a tool to predict who’s going to win between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers requires that you watch the game and hold off on declaring a winner until one of them reaches that golden number sometime in the fourth quarter. I have my own, less precise method of declaring a winner in the middle of a game. It’s a method that comes after watching thousands(???) of games played over the years, one that any basketball junkie can use and one that many probably use without realizing they use it.
My method (it’s really more of a feeling) is somewhat tough to put into writing. Yes it incorporates the talent level of the two teams or anything else you might find a game preview. In addition to those things I factor in that ever elusive Ms. Momentum, the number of careless mistakes the teams are making, which team is controlling the game tempo, who’s making the proper and more impactful plays, etc. I take all of these things into consideration and simply watch the game. In each game there’s usually about a 3 minute stretch of play that occurs where I can declare with a reasonable amount of confidence who’s going to win. That 3 minute stretch can happen at anytime during the game, but it typically happens for me after about 18 minutes of game play. Like I mentioned above, this isn’t an exact science so sometimes it doesn’t occur at all.
Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers is the perfect example of my method (I should give it a name). In the first half neither team could get any separation from each other. Miami held a 1 point edge after the first 24 minutes so basically the game was tied when the 3rd quarter started. That was when the Pacers made the first real attempt by either team to seize momentum by going on a 9-2 run which forced Miami to call timeout at the 8:49 mark.
Coming out of the timeout the Heat needed to respond and one would expect that’s exactly what they do. It was here that the 3 minute stretch happened for me. Lebron James missed a 3 on Miami’s first possession followed by consecutive turnovers by both teams, some missed shots, a Roy Hibbert layup off an offensive rebound and a free throw by Hibbert. The Heat have to take another timeout.
In the middle of those plays I turned towards my brother and said, “Game 7.” I said this despite the fact that it was only an 11 point lead. At that point it was the biggest lead of the game. It was also the first time either team had grabbed control of the game. Not only did the Pacers take control, but the Heat failed to make plays to take it back.
For anyone who was also watching the game, you know Indiana held a double-digit lead heading into the 4th quarter and that Miami cut the lead to 4 points. You’ll also recall a play where James was called for a questionable offensive foul down the stretch that lead to the Pacers pushing the lead back to 13 points. I’m guessing this is where most people finally thought the game was out of reach for the Heat. For me, this where I knew my 3rd quarter prediction was about to come true.