The Knicks, from T.K Marks

December 16, 2010 |

 That was some game.

Afterwards I looked up the following and was not entirely surprised, as years ago it had been pointed out to me that in basketball, defense in terms of points allowed is largely an illusion. The reason being is that it is less an indicator of dogged fundamentals on the part of the defenders as it is a function of how capable those same are of scoring when they have the ball.

For the overwhelming part of any basketball game if a team can score with alacrity, they generally do. And, unless it's in the waning seconds of a quarter other than the fourth, the game clock is an afterthought.

But if a team is saddled with poor shooters and otherwise less creative opportunity makers on offense, they tend to use most of the 24-second clock looking for somebody to get a lesser contested look at the basket.

That shortens the game.

The Knicks in their present form can score.

But by being nimble with the ball, they lengthen the game in that they give the opposition more possession and, thus, chances to score. Presently, out of the 30 NBA teams they rank a sterling first in points scored, but a lowly 28th in points allowed.

And notwithstanding their overperforming record so far this year, 16-10, it's illuminating to note they're doing all of this with a scoring differential of less than 2 points per game.

In the long run it might seem that they would be hoping that the vagaries of a coin flip suggested by that thin a margin would continue to smile on them.

Over the course of a long season, that's asking for a lot.

In the media accounts of this game it will be noted that the reason that Boston won was solely because Paul Pierce hit a money shot with but 4/10ths of a seconds left and A'mare Stoudemire's heroic answer to such came just an even smaller fraction of a second too late.

But I would maintain that's not why they won the game. They won the game because their earlier tenacious adherence to a fundamental put them in a position to win the game.

They were a perfect 21 of 21 in free throws.

That's why they won the game.

There are parallels to this in most every human endeavor. That is, putting oneself in a position to have the optimal chances of success.

A task much easier written than consistently done.

Victor Niederhoffer adds:

Shades of my friend Dr. Brett adds to the analysis of this game. The Knicks lost because of a personality disorder in that they gave up two technical fouls and lost possession and the 2 points. They keep high fiving themselves and showing off for their fans, and he coach allows them to explode their emotions on court. It is loathsome to see the coaches terrible strategy of helter skelter shooting holding back such a good team with the best player on the league on the team able to shoot from inside.

T.K Marks replies:

About the coach allowing them to explode their emotions on the court, check out the Jets in that regard. The coach there has allowed them to become the pariahs of pro football while the players on the other teams openly question what in the world are these guys basing their considerable conceit on. How can they theoretically be cocky when they haven't won a Super Bowl in over four decades. Haven't even come close. Now that is a textbook example of a collective personality disorder, a DSM code waiting to happen.

Presently the Knicks are an outside shooting team, attempting and making more 3s than anybody else in the league. As such, they will live and die by the hot hand.

That's unduly risky. A structurally flawed strategy, begs fate for an edge. Can only last for as long as fortune's fickle window remains open.

And by way of a market heuristic that might buttress the above point, over the educational years I've had mountains of my out-of-the-money calls expire worthless.

I love education.

Though I wish a little less of it would not be initially lost on me.

Brett Steenbarger writes in: 

The one thing I've learned being part of hiring processes at trading firms:

In life's racetrack, bet on the workhorses, not the show horses.

Distributions of returns, conditional probabilities of having a winning period after a losing one (and vice versa), performance under differing/changing market conditions: much of a speculator's psychology is revealed in their stats. Same for basketball players: assists to turnovers, number of times making it to the free throw line, offensive vs. defensive rebounds, etc help define the workhorses.





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