Desperation in Sport.

Abstract

In this project, we explore the psychological effect of the state of a playoff series on a sports team. The two leagues, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) were chosen for this analysis. The team's winning probability was considered as its strength and the effect of desperation was considered as its psychological effect in a particular game. Statistical models were developed and applied to the NBA and NHL data corresponding to the 2003 through 2011 playoffs to estimate the importance of the effect of desperation. The results indicate that primarily, the NHL teams' strength is less affected by the game situation than the NBA. Secondarily, for both NBA and NHL teams, the effect of desperation is high in situations where a team has won zero games in a series. In the NBA, the effect is large when a team is close to elimination in a series. The home team advantage effects desperation in both NBA and NHL sports.