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Beside The Points For Thursday, May 17, 2018

Some personal news first: I’m leaving FiveThirtyEight soon to start a forthcoming daily newsletter, Numlock News. If you’ve been a fan of Beside The Points, please subscribe!

Things That Caught My Eye

Lightning making a go of it

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s win Tuesday meant that their playoff series with the Washington Capitals won’t end in a sweep, but Washington has good reason to be excited about their chances up 2-1. Teams have a 21-0 series record when they win the first two road games in the final two rounds of the playoffs. Still, as all of my fatalist Caps friends repeatedly insist, if there’s any cursed sports city that could foul that up it’s Washington. The teams play tonight in D.C. [The Washington Post]

Vegas was secretly a sports town this whole time

The Vegas Golden Knights are 5-1 at home during the playoffs and have outscored the opposition 22-10, cementing the town as one of the toughest away games in the league. That’s extra-impressive because in the playoffs as a whole, road teams have actually been on a tear, with a record of 38-35. [USA Today]

Seattle ready for another franchise

A Seattle group testing the waters to become the 32nd franchise in the NHL received 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes of availability, with the final count ending up north of 33,000. Vegas’ immediate success sets a high bar for any new expansion franchise, but the rules that made Vegas’ squad so good — teams could protect either eight skaters and a goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender — mean that top-flight talent is instantly available to new organizations who raid teams with salary-cap issues. [The Los Angeles Times]

Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?

Cavs are off their game

The Cleveland Cavaliers are allowing 112.8 points per 100 possessions against the Boston Celtics, and this is an opponent that during the regular season averaged only 105.2 points per 100 possessions with star guard Kyrie Irving playing most of the year. (Irving was lost to injury right before the playoffs.) Another issue that the Cavs are having is that their three-point shooting touch is off, a factor that’s had a very strong correlation with this particular team’s efficiency. [FiveThirtyEight]

Basketball is faster

This past NBA regular season saw an average of 99.57 possessions per 48 minutes, which is almost 10 possessions faster than the pace in 1996-97 (89.78 possessions per 48). This quickening of the game has also proceeded into the playoffs, when the game usually slows down. Round two of the NBA playoffs had a pace of 99.94 possessions per 48 minutes, and round one had a pace of 97.52, some of the speediest ever. [FiveThirtyEight]

De-processing the NBA draft

There’s an enormously steep curve of future value when moving through the NBA Draft. Breaking down the production of an NBA draftee in his first five seasons, the average No. 1 pick in the draft is worth more than 35 wins over replacement player; once you get past the tenth pick, however, those players are generating only a fraction of the WORP. This has incentivized teams to tank like hell in order to get a better shot at the top pick, which makes for crummy basketball. But a new tweak set to go into effect next year will make that incentive considerably dicier. [FiveThirtyEight]

Big Number(s)

64 percent

The American League has beaten the National League in interleague play every single year since 2003. So far in 2018, though, the NL has won 64 percent of the time, leading the AL 32-18 in interleague games. Recently, the AL has had most of the talent — even this season, only one person in the top 10 of major league WAR is in the National League — and over the past decade it had a record of 1,503-1,257 against the NL, going into this season. Perhaps this is the year things will finally be different. [FiveThirtyEight]

Leaks from Slack:


Frost: Not all titles claimed by Tide legit, either

This dumb college football debate continues to be great



Oh, and don’t forget
How Shoddy Statistics Found A Home In Sports Research

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.