It appears the Cleveland Cavs and Golden State Warriors are on a collision course to face each other for the third consecutive year in the NBA Finals. Through games of Friday, May 19, both teams hold a 2-0 lead in their respective conference finals, and both teams are undefeated (10-0) in the playoffs this year.
If both teams should sweep their conference finals and go 12-0 before the beginning of the 2017 finals, we could see a couple of records shattered in the process:
- The 2001 L.A. Lakers have the best playoff winning percentage in a season, .938. The Lakers that year went 15-1 on their way to the championship. Second on the list are the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers who went 12-1 in the playoffs that year, a .923 winning percentage. They are the only teams to have a winning percentage over .900 in an NBA playoff season. If the Cavs or Warriors should end the 2017 playoffs at 16-1, that would be a winning percentage of .941 for the playoffs, a new record.
- Four teams previously entered the NBA Finals undefeated (minimum of seven wins to qualify). The aforementioned 2001 Lakers were 11-0 before the start of the 2001 Finals. The 1982 Lakers were 8-0 prior to the ’82 Finals. Another Lakers team, this time the 1952 Minneapolis Lakers, went 7-0 in the first two rounds before the ’52 Finals; and, the 1989 Lakers entered their finals series that year against the Detroit Pistons 11-0. The ’89 Lakers, however, were swept by the Pistons that year.
The ’89 Lakers and the 2005 Miami Heat have the highest winning percentage in the playoffs without winning a title that year. The 1989 Lakers finished the playoffs that year 11-4, a .733 winning percentage. The 2005 Heat were also 11-4 in the ’05 playoffs.
Here’s a look at the eight teams that had a winning percentage of .700 in a playoff season yet did not win the title that year.
1989 L.A. Lakers, 11-4, .733: Went undefeated in the first three games (going 11-0) before they were swept by the Detroit Pistons in the finals.
2005 Miami Heat, 11-4, .733: Beat the Nets and Wizards 4-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but then lost 4-3 to the Detroit in the conference finals.
2009 Cleveland Cavs, 10-4, .714: Won their first two rounds of the playoffs that year by sweeping Detroit and Atlanta, but lost 4-2 to Orlando in the conference finals.
2010 Orland Magic, 10-4, .714: A pair of 4-0 sweeps over Atlanta and Charlotte preceded a 4-2 loss to Boston in the conference finals.
2010 San Antonio Spurs, 10-4, .714: Swept both Utah and the L.A. Clippers 4-0 and then lost to Oklahoma City 4-2 in the conference title series.
2013 San Antonio Spurs, 15-6, .714: Went 12-2 in the first three rounds of the playoffs before facing off with Miami in the finals. They lost to the Heat in seven games in the finals.
2003 New Jersey Nets, 14-6, .700: Lost to the Spurs 4-2 in the NBA Finals that year after going 12-2 in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
2015 Cleveland Cavs, 14-6, .700: They went 12-2 in the first three rounds of the playoffs before losing in six games to the Warriors in the finals.
The .733 winning percentage by the 1989 Lakers and 2005 Heat (highest winning percentage in the playoffs of a team that did not win the championship) could be broken if the Cavs and Warriors reach the finals. We’ll keep a watch on those numbers as the playoffs come to a conclusion.
The Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of this year’s NBA playoffs in a Game Seven. It was the first Game Seven in this year’s playoffs.
Last season, five of the 15 playoff series went to a Game Seven, including the finals series between the Cavs and Warriors.
Let’s take a look at a few stats you may not know about Game Sevens in the NBA playoffs over the past 25 seasons (from 1993-2017).
- The Miami Heat played in the most Game Sevens since 1993 with 10. They are followed by the Rockets with nine, and Boston and Indiana with eight.
- Since 1993, the Heat also had the most Game Seven wins with six. Houston and the L.A. Lakers have five Game Seven wins in the last 25 seasons.
- The Indiana Pacers have the most Game Seven losses in the last 25 years with five. They are followed by Miami, Houston and Boston with four each.
- The best win-loss percentage in Game Sevens over the past 25 years are the Timberwolves 1.000 (1-0), the Lakers .833 (5-1), Dallas and Detroit each 4-1 (.800) and Utah 3-1 (.750).
- The worst Game Seven win-loss percentage since 1993 are Sacramento and Memphis .000 (0-3), and Denver, Portland, New Orleans and Charlotte .000 (0-2).
- The New York Knicks have the longest drought since they played in a Game Seven. The last Game Seven they played in was 2000. Portland has not played in a Game Seven since 2003, the second longest drought in the league.
As the 2016-17 NBA season winds down, teams are starting to jockey for playoff spots. Those bound for the playoffs are trying to improve their position, while those sitting on the outside of the playoff picture at this time of the season are looking to make a final run to secure a post-season spot.
Is making the NBA playoffs important for teams? My guess is that most fans and team personnel would answer with a resounding, “Yes!”
But what if your team made the playoffs and was immediately eliminated in the first round? Does that matter? Would it have been better to not even make the playoffs if your team was going to get eliminated right away?
Maybe not real easy questions to answer. But let’s take a look at the first-round elimination in the NBA, especially since 2000. Specifically, let’s look at how often each team has been eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs since 2000.
The Denver Nuggets have made the playoffs 10 times since 2000. But they have been eliminated in the first round in nine of those seasons, most of any team this century. The only year they got past the first round was in 2009 when they made it to the Western Conference Finals. That nine out of ten times (90%) is the highest percentage of any team eliminated in the first round since 2000. The Milwaukee Bucks have made the playoffs eight times since 2000, but they have been eliminated in the first round in seven of those eight seasons, a 87.5% rate, second highest in the league.
Here’s a look at the number of times each team has been eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs since 2000. (The number listed in parenthesis is the number of season they made the playoffs since 2000.)
9: Denver (10)
8: Dallas (15)
7: Houston (9), Milwaukee (8), Portland (10)
6: Chicago (10), Indiana (12), Memphis (9), Orlando (9), Toronto (8)
5: Boston (12), New Orleans (6), Philadelphia (9), Utah (9)
4: Atlanta (9), Charlotte (6), Miami (13), Minnesota (5), New York Knicks (6), San Antonio (17)
3: Brooklyn (9), Detroit (10), L.A. Lakers (13), Oklahoma City (9), Phoenix (8), Sacramento (7), Washington (6)
2: L.A. Clippers (6)
1: Golden State (5)
0: Cleveland (7)
As you probably noticed from the numbers above, the San Antonio Spurs are the only team to make the playoffs every year this century followed by Dallas with 15 of the 17 seasons. At the other end are the Minnesota Timberwolves, and surprisingly, the Golden State Warriors, who have been in the NBA upper echelon over the past few seasons.
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The NBA playoffs begin this weekend. While most teams will depend on veteran players to lead them through the post-season, there are a few rookies who may have an impact on this year’s playoffs.
Of the 1o rookies who scored the most points in 2014-15, four will likely see action in the NBA playoffs: Nikola Mirotic (Chicago), Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn), Marcus Smart (Boston) and K.J. McDaniels (Houston). Mirotic scored 833 points in his first year in the league, second most among rookies (Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins led NBA rookies with 1,387 points). Bogdanovic scored 700, good enough for seventh most among rookies; Smart had 523 points, ninth among rookies, and McDaniels, who was traded mid-season to Houston, tallied 487 points, finishing 10th among first-year players.
An interesting side note is that Milwaukee’s prize rookie, Jabari Parker, injured after playing only 25 games in his rookie season, will not be in the Milwaukee line-up as they face the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. He scored 308 points in 25 games and probably would have reached the 1,000-point mark in his rookie season had he not been injured.
Over the past NBA seasons, there have been a few rookies who have made a significant impact in the playoffs. The most notable is probably Magic Johnson who helped lead the L.A. Lakers to the title in 1979-80 in his first year in the league. Here is a look at the NBA rookies who have scored the most points in the playoffs in their first season.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (352, Milwaukee, 1969-70)
Alvan Adams (341, Phoenix, 1975-76)
Elgin Baylor (331, Minneapolis Lakers, 1958-59)
George Mikan (303, Minneapolis Lakers, 1948-49)
Jack Sikma (301, Seattle, 1977-78)
Wilt Chamberlain (299, Philadelphia Warriors, 1959-60)
Magic Johnson (293, L.A. Lakers, 1979-80)
Jerry West (275, L.A. Lakers, 1960-61)
Jamaal Wilkes (255, Golden State Warriors, 1974-75)
Richard Dumas (251, Phoenix, 1992-93)
The following players scored between 200-249 points in the playoffs in their rookie season: Ricky Sobers David Robinson, Tom Meschery, Dwyane Wade, Dick Garrett, Tom Heinsohn, Manu Ginobili, Joe Fulks, Andrew Toney, Marques Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Anthony Roberts, Sam Cassell, Lou Hudson.
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Following are the teams that have had the longest time since missing the playoffs in two consecutive seasons.
Team, Last time they missed playoffs in two consecutive seasons
San Antonio Never
Los Angeles Lakers 1975-76
Note: The Detroit Pistons missed the playoffs last season, the first time they missed the NBA playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1994-95.