Cinderella doesn’t always get invited to NBA Finals
One of the endearing aspects of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is that almost every year a Cinderella team or two finds its way into the later rounds. We love it when a low seed makes a run at the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, or beyond.
Cinderella, however, doesn’t seem to make many appearances in the NBA Finals. Now that the first round of this year’s NBA playoffs are complete, we see that all of the higher seeds defeated their lower seed opponents in the first round. Despite the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs taking the Denver Nuggets to a deciding Game Seven, the #1, #2, #3 and #4 seeds in each conference won their first round series against the #5, #6, #7 and 8 seeds.
With two rounds to go before the NBA Finals, the question becomes: Which seeds will we likely see in the NBA Finals?
To answer that, let’s take a look at the last 20 years of the NBA Finals (1999-2018). Last season the Western Conference #2 seed Golden State Warriors defeated the Eastern Conference #4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals. It was the first year since 2012 that a #1 seed was not in the NBA Finals.
Here’s a few interesting stats concerning the seeds in the NBA Finals over the past 20 seasons:
- Sixteen of the last 40 teams (40%) in the NBA Finals were a #1 seed. Fifteen were a #2 seed; five were a #3 seed; three were a #4 seed, and there was one #8 seed (the New York Knicks in 1999).
- Ten of the last 20 Western Conference teams in the NBA Finals were a #1 seed (six of the Eastern Conference teams in the NBA Finals were a #1 seed).
- Thirty-six of the last 40 teams in the NBA Finals (90%) were either a #1, #2 or #3 seed.
- In the last seven NBA Finals, there has been only one team lower than a #2 seed in the finals… that was the Cavs last season as a #4 seed.
- In the last 20 NBA Finals, only three times was there a matchup of two #1 seeds… in 2016, 2008 and 2000.
- There were no #1 seeds in the finals in seven seasons since 1999… 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2018.
- Thirty-one of the last 40 NBA Finals teams (77.5%) were either a #1 or #2 seed
So what does all this mean? Well, there’s a good chance that the #1 or #2 seeds this year (#1 seeds Milwaukee and Golden State, and #2 seeds Toronto and Denver) could find their way into the NBA Finals this season. Only three #4 seeds have been in the NBA Finals in the last 20 years, but this year’s #4 seeds, Boston and Houston, are particularly strong #4’s this season and could easily crash the NBA Finals party this season.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp
The next round of the 2018 NBA playoffs are set with the Boston Celtics taking on the Cleveland Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals and Golden State Warriors facing the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.
The home court advantage will likely be a factor in both series. The Celtics will have the advantage in the East, while the Rockets will host four of the potential seven games in the West.
Of the 64 games played so far in the NBA playoffs this season, home teams are 46-18, a .719 winning percentage. In fact, the four teams remaining in the playoffs are 23-2 at home in this post season (a staggering .920 winning percentage) while these same four teams are only 9-9 (.500 winning percentage) as the away team in this year’s playoffs.
Here’s a look at each of the remaining four teams’ records in home and away playoff contests this year:
Boston: 7-0 at home; 1-4 on the road
Cleveland: 5-1 at home; 3-2 on the road
Golden State: 6-0 at home; 2-2 on the road
Houston: 5-1 at home; 3-1 on the road
Let’s take a look back to 2010. The Celtics, Cavs, Warriors and Rockets have been regulars in the post season in the last nine seasons, although the Rockets have not played as many post-season games as the other three since 2010. Following are the home and away records in the post season of the four teams since 2010.
Team, Home record/Away Record
Boston, 35-16 (.686)/17-31 (.354)
Cleveland, 31-9 (.775)/26-15 (.634)
Golden State, 41-8 (.837/23-19 (.548)
Houston, 19-10 (.655)/9-17 (.346)
The Cavs and Golden State are the only two teams of the 30 NBA squads to have a winning percentage over .500 in road playoff games since 2010.
One final stat:
Home teams are 59-30 in conference finals since 2010, a .663 winning percentage.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp
The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers each won Game One in their NBA playoff series. Should they continue and win their first-round series (Boston over Milwaukee and Philadelphia over Miami) the Celtics and 76ers would meet in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. What makes that potential matchup noteworthy is that Boston-Philadelphia matchups in the NBA playoffs are the most frequent NBA playoff matchups in NBA history.
Since the league began, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers franchises have met 20 times in the NBA playoffs, most of any matchup in league history in the post-season. The two teams have played 100 playoff games and the Celtics have won 12 of the 20 series. The two teams, however, have not met in the post-season since 2012.
Here’s a look at the NBA playoff series matchups that have happened 10 or more times in league history.
Number of times franchises have faced each other in NBA playoffs (franchises are listed below by current city)
20: Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers
15: Boston Celtics-New York Knicks
12: Atlanta Hawks-Boston Celtics
12: Boston-Los Angeles Lakers
12: Detroit Pistons-Los Angeles Lakers
12: Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns
12: Los Angeles Lakers-San Antonio Spurs
11: Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings
11: Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trailblazers
10: Atlanta Hawks-Los Angeles Lakers
10: Golden State Warriors-Philadelphia 76ers
10: New York Knicks-Philadelphia 76ers
10: Phoenix Suns-San Antonio Spurs
Of the current eight first-round playoff series, the Boston-Milwaukee matchup has been the most frequent; these two franchises are playing in the post-season for the sixth time in league history. At the other end, the New Orleans-Portland series is the first time these franchises have ever faced each other in the playoffs.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp
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.