Daily Archives: June 13th, 2019

Today’s Sportstat: June 13, 2019

The first to four wins gets the crown

Let’s start with a quick quiz…

How many teams in NBA history have won the first game in an NBA Finals series, was the first team to win two games in that series, was the first team to win three games in that series, but failed to win the fourth game and thus lost in that NBA Finals? One, two, four or six? (Answer towards the end of this article.)

After the Golden State Warriors lost Game One to the Toronto Raptors in this year’s NBA Finals, Warriors guard Klay Thompson made the following statement answering those critics who thought the team was already in trouble after that first loss:

“It’s first team to four (wins), not the first to one (win).”

He’s absolutely right, but does being the team to win Game One in an NBA Finals series matter? Does being the first team to get that second win in an NBA Finals a good thing? Does being the first team to three victories in an NBA Finals the “golden ticket” to a championship?

Let’s try to answer these questions based on the 72-year history of the NBA Finals…

  • Teams that won Game One in an NBA Finals series went on to win that series 51 of 72 times (70.8%).
  • Teams that were the first to win two games in an NBA Finals series went on to win that series 61 of 72 times (84.7%). For the record, in four of the last eight NBA Finals, the team that was the first to win two games in an NBA Finals did not win the title (Miami in 2011, San Antonio in 2013, Cleveland in 2015 and Golden State in 2016).
  • Teams that were the first to win three games in an NBA Finals series went on to win that series 63 of the 72 times (87.5%). Here are the nine times in the NBA Finals when a team was the first to win three games in that series but could not win that fourth game and the championship:

1955: Fort Wayne (first to win three games), Syracuse won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1962: L.A. Lakers (first to win three games), Boston won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1969: L.A. Lakers (first to win three games), Boston won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1978: Seattle (first team to win three games), Washington won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1988: Detroit (first team to win three games), L.A. Lakers won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1994: New York Knicks (first team to win three games), Houston won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

2010: Boston (first team to win three games), L.A. Lakers won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

2013: San Antonio (first team to win three games), Miami won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

2016: Golden State (first team to win three games), Cleveland won Games 5, 6 and 7 and the title.

All of the above stats are good news for the Toronto Raptors; they won Game One of this series, they were the first team to win two games and the first team to win three games in their NBA Finals series against Golden State.

There is, however, a precedence that bodes well for the Warriors if they win Game 6. There have been four times in NBA Finals history where a team lost Game One of the NBA Finals series, and their opponent in that series was the first to get two wins and the first to get three wins in the series, but those four teams won the title. The four times this has happened: L.A. Lakers in 1969, Washington in 1978, Miami in 2013 and Cleveland in 2016.

So, the answer to the above trivia question is four teams… the 1969 Lakers, 1978 Sonics, 2013 Spurs and 2016 Warriors each lost the NBA Finals that year after winning Game One, and being the first team in the series to win two games and three games; they, however, could not get that fourth win in that NBA Finals series to capture the championship.

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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