The myth of playoff momentum

Despite their "decline" in the second half, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade don't look too worried. David Richard/US Presswire

Momentum is a fickle thing.

Just look at the Miami Heat. Following their loss to the Bulls last Thursday, the outlook in Miami looked grim. After rolling into the All-Star break with a sterling 27-7 record, the mighty Miami crew looked anything but mighty. The Heat lost to the Bulls in overtime, bringing their post-All-Star break record down to a mediocre 13-10.

The Heat appeared to be doomed. In a microwave society that obsessively rushes to judgment after every ebb and flow of daily life, the Heat looked irrecoverably flawed, and the conviction was strong.
Champions don't stumble into the playoffs! They have to get rolling before the postseason or else their cooked! Their great start was a fluke!

That kind of rhetoric sounds well and good, but history tells us a different story: momentum is mostly a load of nonsense.

Much of the analysis we hear leading up to the playoffs tends to have postseason implications. Conventional wisdom suggests that a team must get "playoff-ready" in the final weeks of the season and play its best ball heading into the playoffs. Therefore, the Heat's recent slide revealed more about their title qualifications than anything months ago.