Category Archives: Basketball

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

Today’s Sportstat: June 3, 2019

Can Toronto become first NBA team to win their NBA Finals debut since 2006?

The Toronto Raptors are the fifth NBA team since 2000 to make their NBA Finals debut; the Indiana Pacers played in the NBA Finals for the first time in 2000, the New Jersey Nets were a first-time NBA Finals team in 2002, the Miami Heat made their NBA Finals debut in 2006 and the Cleveland Cavs made their first appearance in the NBA Finals in 2007.

Of the four teams that made their debuts in the NBA Finals since 2000, only the Miami Heat in 2006 won the title that year.

Going back to the NBA first championship in 1947, there have been 26 teams that have played in the NBA Finals. Of those 26, only 10 won the title in their debut in the Finals. Of those 26, three of those franchises eventually folded: the Chicago Stags, Baltimore Bullets and Washington Capitals. Of the 30 current NBA franchises, 24 franchises (including this year’s first-timer Toronto) have played in the NBA Finals. The six franchises that have not played in the NBA Finals are: the L.A. Clippers, Charlotte, Denver, Minnesota, New Orleans and Memphis.

Following are the 10 NBA franchises that won the championship in their NBA Finals debut… will Toronto become the 11th to do so?

Philadelphia Warriors-1947 (Currently the Golden State Warriors)
Baltimore Bullets-1948 (franchise no longer in existence)
Minneapolis Lakers-1949 (currently the L.A. Lakers)
Rochester Royals-1951 (currently the Sacramento Kings)
Boston-1957
Milwaukee-1971
Portland-1977
Chicago-1991
San Antonio-1999
Miami-2006

 

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Today’s Sportstat: May 23, 2019

Does sweeping an NBA conference final equal an NBA title?

While the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors will determine the Eastern Conference champs by playing at least a six-game series (and maybe a seven-game series), the Golden State Warriors will have 10 days of rest before their first game in the NBA Finals because they swept the Portland Trailblazers in four games in the Western Conference Finals.

One benefit for the Warriors, as mentioned above, is a full 10 days rest before Game One of the NBA Finals. That will help Golden State as they hope that extended period will allow Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins to get healthy and be able to play in the title series. But with their four-game sweep in the conference finals, the obvious questions is… historically speaking, is sweeping a conference finals series a good omen for the finals?

First, the Warriors became the 18th team in NBA history to sweep a conference finals series 4-0 since the format was changed to a best-of-seven series in 1958. Of the previous 17 times when a team won a conference series 4-0, they went on to win the NBA Finals nine times (and lost in the NBA Finals eight times). Of the 18 times that a team has swept an opponent in the conference finals, 13 times it happened in the Western Conference, five times in the Eastern Conference Finals.

It’s interesting to note that of the 17 times that a team advanced to the NBA Finals after a four-game sweep in the conference finals, not once has that team also swept their opponent in four games straight in the NBA Finals. In 1989, however, the Los Angeles Lakers won the Western Conference Finals in a four-game sweep of Phoenix and then were the victims of a sweep in four games by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

Here’s a quick look at the nine teams that won an NBA championship after a four-game sweep in the conference finals, and the eight teams that after a four-game sweep in the conference finals then lost the next series in the NBA Finals.

Won NBA title after a four-game sweep in the conference finals: 1977-Portland, 1982-L.A. Lakers, 1986-Boston, 1987-L.A. Lakers, 1991-Chicago, 1996-Chicago, 1999-San Antonio, 2001-L.A. Lakers, 2017-Golden State.

Lost in the NBA Finals after a four-game sweep in the conference finals: 1968-L.A. Lakers, 1970-L.A. Lakers, 1974-L.A. Lakers, 1989-L.A. Lakers, 1998-Utah, 2003-N.J. Nets, 2013-San Antonio, 2015-Cleveland.

Will the 2019 Golden State Warriors repeat what they did in 2017 with an NBA Finals series win after sweeping in the conference finals? Could they become the first team to win an NBA title by sweeping their opponents in the conference finals and the NBA Finals?

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

Today’s Sportstat: May 16, 2019

Home Court Advantage is working in this year’s NBA playoffs

With wins in Game 1 of their respective conference finals, the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks, both #1 seeds, took advantage of the home court to start with a 1-0 lead in their series against conference opponents the Portland Trailblazers and Toronto Raptors.

It’s pretty common to hear broadcasters and analysts discuss Home Court Advantage (HCA) in the playoffs. So let’s ask the question: How important is the Home Court Advantage in the NBA playoffs?

Consider this: Of the 12 playoff series that have been held so far, 11 of the 12 (91.7%) were won by the team that had the HCA in the series. (As a matter of reference, the team with the HCA won 10 of the 15 playoff series in 2018… 66.7%).

The only team without the HCA to win a playoff series this year were the 3rd seeded Portland Trailblazers when they defeated the #2 seeded Denver Nuggets. (By the way, if the HCA continues to be a factor in the conference finals series, that’s good news for the Warriors and the Bucks advancing to the NBA Finals this year.)

But that’s this year. Let’s expand the search and see how the HCA numbers have played out in the past 10 NBA playoffs. From 2009-18, there were 150 playoff series in the NBA. The team with the HCA won 110 of those series (73.3%). Let’s break it down by each round of the playoffs…

  • Teams with the HCA in the first round of the NBA playoffs from 2009-18 won the series in 60 of the 80 series (75%).
  • Teams with the HCA in the second round (Conference Semi-finals) of the NBA playoffs from 2009-18 won the series in 32 of the 40 series (80%).
  • Teams with the HCA in the third round (Eastern Conference and Western Conference finals) from 2009-18 won the series in 11 of the 20 series (55%).
  • Teams with the HCA in the NBA Finals from 2009-18 won the series seven of the 10 series (70%).

Based on the above stats from the past 10 years, the HCA numbers were definitely higher this year in 2019 than the cumulative stats from the last 10 years. It also should give cause for keeping a close eye on the conference finals this season since about half of the conference finals in the last 10 years has seen a team with the HCA lose in the conference finals. If that is the case, will it be the Bucks or the Warriors?

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

Today’s Sportstat: May 2, 2019

The Bucks take their playoff show against the Celtics on the road

With two games in Milwaukee resulting in a split for the Bucks and Boston Celtics, the two teams head to Boston for the next two games. The Bucks will need to do what the Celtics did in their two games in Milwaukee… take a least one of the two games on the road, to regain home court advantage.

Winning on the road is not always an easy path to navigate. From the start of the NBA in 1946-47 through the first two games of this year’s second round playoff contests, road teams are a combined 1,368-2,615, a winning percentage of .343, meaning road teams have won about one-third of the playoff games in league history.

Here are some interesting stats concerning playoff road games and how well the Bucks have performed on the road in the post-season and against the Celtics in Boston.

  • Over the past 19 playoff seasons (2000-18), road teams are 550-1009, a .353 winning percentage, just a tad higher than the career .343 winning percentage of road teams in the playoffs noted above.
  • Since 2000, the Cleveland Cavs have the best road playoff winning percentage at .526. They are followed by the Golden State Warriors at .519. Only five other teams have a winning percentage of .400 or better in road playoff games since 2000: San Antonio, the Lakers, Brooklyn, Miami and Phoenix. The Bucks rank 23rd on the list with a road playoff record of 9-28 (.243) since 2000.
  • The Bucks all-time road playoff record is 43-81 (.347).
  • Since 2015, the Bucks are 4-8 in road playoff games; that includes the two road playoff wins against the Detroit Pistons this season.
  • Milwaukee is only 5-15 (.250) in their last 20 road playoff games.
  • The longest road playoff winning streak for the Bucks is six games… the Bucks accomplished that in 1971-72.
  • The Bucks have lost 12 of the last 13 road games in Boston against the Celtics.
  • The last road playoff win for the Bucks versus the Celtics was on May 13, 1987, a 129-124 victory in the Boston Garden.
  • Milwaukee is 5-13 all-time versus the Celtics in playoff games played in Boston.
  • The Bucks won one road playoff game against the Celts in 1987, two in 1983 and two in 1974.
  • The Bucks have won eight of the last 20 regular season games against the Celtics in Boston. Since the start of the 2012-13 season, the Bucks are 7-6 versus the Celtics in away games played in Boston.

What does all this mean? If the series goes to seven games, the Bucks will have to win at least one game of the three remaining in Boston and win both remaining games in Milwaukee to win the series. A win for the Bucks in Boston in either game Three or Game Four is crucial. A pair of losses in Boston would force the Bucks to win the final three games of the series, a formidable task.

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp