Odds finally even out in Suns' favor

Phoenix's Game 4 victory was hardly surprising if you take the law of averages into account.

Updated: June 1, 2005, 1:44 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Don't blame Tim Duncan or Tony Parker for the Spurs' loss in Monday's Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Instead, blame the law of averages.

It's easy to lose perspective in the high-pressure world of the NBA postseason, but Phoenix's 111-106 victory was hardly surprising to those following the larger trends of the season. In the first three games of the series, both teams defied season-long patterns. But short-term trends are just that – short-term. Over time, players and teams invariably gravitate toward their long-term averages.

Game 4, then, was simply the odds catching up to both teams. Here are a few examples of how things evened out:

Tim Duncan's free throws: Tim Duncan shot 67 percent from the foul line on the season, 69 percent for his career and 72 percent in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Clearly, evidence suggests he's about a 70 percent foul shooter. But he wasn't in the first three games – especially in Game 3 when he made all 15 of his tries. The odds of a 70 percent free-throw shooter doing that is about one in 200, leaving us with two conclusions: Duncan's free-throw streak was a fortuitous fluke that was bound to end quickly, or Duncan had become a much better foul shooter in the two off days between the Seattle series and the Phoenix series. Amazingly, some observers chose No. 2.

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