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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's not an advantage to be behind at the half.

You may have seen the “finding” in the press, including the NY Times, that there’s a 7% advantage to being behind by a point at halftime of a basketball game.  The notion that it’s better to be slightly behind generated a lot of attention.

 

Only one problem: it’s wrong.  Andrew Gelman decomposes this at http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2009/03/basketball_news.html#comments

 

A 1 point lead, 1 point deficit, and being tied are indistinguishable.

 

But if you reported that, it wouldn't be a surprising enough finding to make the NYT.

 

The conclusion in the NYT article will kick around as common wisdom for years, unfortunately.