The San Antonio Spurs are 48% likely, and the Miami Heat are 40% likely, to win the NBA championship. But, the Heat at (1-1) in the Eastern Conference finals are just 77% likely to make the NBA finals and the Spurts at (2-0) in the Western Conference finals are 92% likely to make it to the NBA finals. What does that mean if the two teams make it past the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma Thunder respectively? They will likely enter the finals with the Heat as the slightest of favorites.

The probability that the Heat win the NBA finals, should they make it, is derived by taking their likelihood of winning and dividing by their likelihood of making it. That makes them 51% likely to win the finals, conditional on making it. The same math makes the Spurs 52% likely to win the finals, conditional on making. But, there is an 8% chance the Heat face the Thunder and a 23% chance the Spurs face the Pacers.

The Pacers are extremely unlikely to win, should they make the finals, while the Thunder are slightly more likely than the Spurs to win, should they make the finals. Thus the Spurs 52% likelihood is inflated relative to the likelihood of them winning against the Heat and the Heat’s 51% is deflated relative to the likelihood of them winning against the Spurs.

The estimate from the current numbers is that the Heat will be the slightest of favorites if they play the Spurs in the NBA finals; this is true despite the Spurs having home court advantage. But, the NBA plays a 2 home-3 away-2 home schedule in the finals, which is not as favorable as the 2-2-1-1-1 played in the previous three rounds.

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