Anatomy Of The "Magic Number"
It always pops up about this time of year. Talk of the magic number. You hear it on TV, see it on blogs and talk about it with friends. "Yeah, with the win last night the Trail Blazers' magic number is down to two." But what does that really mean?
Here it is. In the NBA, the magic number is the number of wins and/or 9th place team's losses a team needs to clinch a playoff berth.
Complicated, I know. Broken down into components it's a bit easier to understand.
- First, 83. That's the number of games in the NBA regular season +1 for a tiebreaker. This number is used because it's the cumulative number of chances a team has to get enough wins to clinch a playoff berth.
- Second, the number of wins your team has. This number is subtracted from 82 because those wins have already pushed you forward to your goal.
-Third, the number of losses the team in 9th place has. This number is deducted from 82 and your teams wins. It’s used because every time the 9th place team loses, the distance your team has to go to clinch a playoff berth lessens.
83 - your teams wins - 9th place team's losses = magic number
There's one extra complication, the season series winner addition. If your team holds the season series over the team in 9th place it's like winning another game, so add it to the number of wins your team has.
Here is the calculation for the Trail Blazers' current magic number.
83 - 44 (Portland wins) - 36 (Houston losses) - 1 (Portland's series win) = 2
The magic number of two is decreased by Portland wins AND Houston losses. That means that Portland could clinch a playoff spot TONIGHT with a win over Dallas and a Houston loss to Atlanta. Make sense?
There you have it. Now you're ready to calculate magic numbers for any team in the NBA, and more importantly, keep track of Portland's magic number.