FanPost

There Is Still Water in the Glass!


A brief Review of the History of the NBA Finals

More Specifically What teams get to the Finals

 

With the way the Spurs are playing, everyone seems to be concerned about the seeding in the playoffs.  As a person who strongly believes that you can learn a lot from history, I did a little research yesterday prior to going to the Warrior game.  I was looking for the answer to the following questions:

  • What type of regular season record, does a team need to reach the Finals?
  • What is the lowest seed to reach the Finals?
  • Does the best record always win the Finals?
  • What was the worst regular season record to win a Final?

In my research, I found out a lot of interesting little tidbits which I am now sharing with you. All of this information is from the NBA.com website under history. I just pulled it together to make it easier for me to understand. The chart of pure data and answers to the above questions are after the jump. Please note any errors in the chart are mine and I apologize for any math errors.

WARNING: This is 63 years worth of data.

I have inserted the chart below so that you can reach your own conclusions. I am going to review some of the statistics that I found interesting.

One tidbit that I had not realized is that the NBA has had a 82 game regular season since the 1967-68 season. Prior to that they had 1 year at 81 games, 5 years at 80, 1 year at 79 and 75 games each, 6 years at 72 games, 1 year at 70, 3 years at 66, and 2 years at 60. They also had 1 year in between the two sixty game seasons were they only had 48 scheduled regularly games. According to NBA.com the cut was done to try to ease travel expenses.  They however immediately went back to the higher number the next year.

Most people know that the Boston Celtics have won the most NBA Championships with 17 wins out of 20 visits. But I feel that more  props should go to the Los Angeles Lakerswho including their time as the Minneapolis   Lakers have been to the Finals 30 times. They won 15 of the games.  The Lakers have been in the Finals 30 out of  63 times. That is statistically significant any way you slice it. After the Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers is next with 9 trips, then New York Knicks with 8, Detroit/Fort Wayne Pistons with 7, the Chicago Bulls with 6 and the San Antonio Spurs with 4. Of course the Bulls and the Spurs are the only multi-trip undefeateds.

Now lets look at specific records. I am sure nearly everyone knows that the best record in NBA history was the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls 72-10 (0.878). The team to win the Finals with the lowest regular season record was the 1977-78 Washington Bullets 44-38 (0.537). The team with the lowest regular season record to ever make it to the finals was the 1980-81 Houston Rockets 40-42 (0.489). Below is the chart of the breakdown of the regular season percentage of Finals winners. One reason I do not like statistics is that you will notice it is just as likely for a team to have won 80% of their games as to have only won 50% of their games.

Record

82 game season

%

Not 82 games

%

Total

%

80%

8

9.6

1

5

9

14.3

70%

19

44.2

9

45

28

44.4

60%

10

23.5

7

35

17

26.9

50%

5

11.6

4

20

9

14.3

Of note is the  1974-75 Finals match up where the 48-34 Golden State warriors swept the 60-22 Washington Bullets.

 

Looking at seeding is hard due to the many changes through the years. Even though the NBA has been playing 82 regular season games for a lot of years, they have not had the same number of times participating. What this means is that a 6-8th seed now would be equivalent to a 3-4 seed in some previous years. Because of not being able to do a direct comparison of the lower records, I just looked at #1 versus not #1.  On my chart below I  only wrote the rank of the record not the actually seed for the playoffs(way to complicated). The T preceding the rank mains there was a tie. Looking at purely the regular season record, 20 of the 63 winners did not have the best record in their conference/division. 24 of the 63 losers did not have the top records. In short 44(35%) of Finals participants did not have the best regular season record.  

 

YEAR

CHAMPION

 Reg season 

Conference

Rank

/record

%

OPPONENT

Reg season

Conf Rank/

record

%

RESULT

2008-09

Los Angeles Lakers

1/65-17

0.793

Orlando Magic

3//59-23

0.720

4-1

2007-08

Boston Celtics

1/66-16

0.805

Los Angeles Lakers

1/57-25

0.695

4-2

2006-07

San Antonio Spurs

3/58-24

0.707

Cleveland Cavaliers

2/50-32

0.610

4-0

2005-06

Miami Heat

2/52-30

0.634

Dallas Mavericks

2/60-22

0.732

4-2

2004-05

San Antonio Spurs

2/59-23

0.720

Detroit Pistons

2/54-28

0.659

4-3

2003-04

Detroit Pistons

2/54-28

0.659

Los Angeles Lakers

3/56-26

0.683

4-1

2002-03

San Antonio Spurs

T1/60-22

0.732

New Jersey Nets

2/49-33

0.598

4-2

2001-02

Los Angeles Lakers

T2/58-24

0.707

New Jersey Nets

1/52-30

0.634

4-0

2000-01

Los Angeles Lakers

2/56-26

0.683

Philadelphia 76ers

1/56-26

0.683

4-1

1999-00

Los Angeles Lakers

1/67-15

0.817

Indiana Pacers

1/56-26

0.683

4-2

1998-99

San Antonio Spurs

T1/37-13

0.740

New York Knicks

8/27-23

0.540

4-1

1997-98

Chicago Bulls

1/62-20

0.756

Utah Jazz

1/62-20

0.756

4-2

1996-97

Chicago Bulls

1/69-13

0.841

Utah Jazz

1/64-18

0.780

4-2

1995-96

Chicago Bulls

1/72-10

0.878

Seattle SuperSonics

1/64-18

0.780

4-2

1994-95

Houston Rockets

6/47-35

0.573

Orlando Magic

1/57-25

0.695

4-0

1993-94

Houston Rockets

2/58-241

0.707

New York Knicks

T1/57-25

0.695

4-3

1992-93

Chicago Bulls

2/57-25

0.695

Phoenix Suns

1/62-20

0.756

4-2

1991-92

Chicago Bulls

1/67-15

0.817

Portland Trail Blazers

1/57-25

0.695

4-2

1990-91

Chicago Bulls

1/61/21

0.744

Los Angeles Lakers

2/58-24

0.707

4-1

1989-90

Detroit Pistons

1/59-23

0.720

Portland Trail Blazers

2/59-23

0.720

4-1

1988-89

Detroit Pistons

1/63-19

0.768

Los Angeles Lakers

1/52-25

0.634

4-0

1987-88

Los Angeles Lakers

1/62-20

0.756

Detroit Pistons

2/54-28

0.659

4-3

1986-87

Los Angeles Lakers

1/65-17

0.793

Boston Celtics

1/59-23

0.720

4-2

1985-86

Boston Celtics

1/67-15

0.817

Houston Rockets

2/51-31

0.622

4-2

1984-85

Los Angeles Lakers

1/62-20

0.756

Boston Celtics

1/63-19

0.768

4-2

1983-84

Boston Celtics

1/62-20

0.756

Los Angeles Lakers

1/54-28

0.659

4-3

1982-83

Philadelphia 76ers

1/65-17

0.793

Los Angeles Lakers

1/58-24

0.707

4-0

1981-82

Los Angeles Lakers

1/57-25

0.695

Philadelphia 76ers

2/58-24

0.707

4-2

1980-81

Boston Celtics

T12/62-20

0.756

Houston Rockets

6/40-42

0.489

4-2

1979-80

Los Angeles Lakers

1/60-22

0.732

Philadelphia 76ers

2/59-23

0.720

4-2

1978-79

Seattle SuperSonics

1/52-30

0.634

Washington Bullets

1/54-28

0.659

4-1

1977-78

Washington Bullets

3/44-38

0.537

Seattle SuperSonics

4/47-35

0.573

4-3

1976-77

Portland Trail Blazers

3/49-33

0.598

Philadelphia 76ers

1/50-32

0.609

4-2

1975-76

Boston Celtics

1/54-28

0.659

Phoenix Suns

3/42-40

0.525

4-2

1974-75

Golden State Warriors

1/48-34

0.585

Washington Bullets

T1/60-22

0.732

4-0

1973-74

Boston Celtics

1/56-26

0.683

Milwaukee Bucks

1/59-23

0.720

4-3

1972-73

New York Knicks

2/57-25

0.695

Los Angeles Lakers

T1/60-22

0.732

4-1

1971-72

Los Angeles Lakers

1/69-13

0.841

New York Knicks

2/48-34

0.585

4-1

1970-71

Milwaukee Bucks

1/66-16

0.805

Baltimore Bullets

4/42-40

0.525

4-0

1969-70

New York Knicks

1/60-22

0.732

Los Angeles Lakers

2/46-36

0.561

4-3

1968-69

Boston Celtics

4/48-34

0.585

Los Angeles Lakers

1/55-27

0.670

4-3

1967-68

Boston Celtics

2/54-28

0.659

Los Angeles Lakers

2/52-30

0.634

4-2

1966-67

Philadelphia 76ers

1/68-13

0.839

San Francisco Warriors

1/44-37

0.543

4-2

1965-66

Boston Celtics

2/54-26

0.675

Los Angeles Lakers

1/45-35

0.563

4-3

1964-65

Boston Celtics

1/62-18

0.775

Los Angeles Lakers

1/49-31

0.613

4-1

1963-64

Boston Celtics

1/59-21

0.738

San Francisco Warriors

1/41-32

0.600

4-1

1962-63

Boston Celtics

1/58-22

0.725

Los Angeles Lakers

1/53-27

0.663

4-2

1961-62

Boston Celtics

1/60-20

0.750

Los Angeles Lakers

1/54-26

0.675

4-3

1960-61

Boston Celtics

1/57-22

0.722

St. Louis Hawks

1/51-28

0.646

4-1

1959-60

Boston Celtics

1/59-16

0.787

St. Louis Hawks

1/46-29

0.613

4-3

1958-59

Boston Celtics

1/52-20

0.722

Minneapolis Lakers

2/33-39

0.458

4-0

1957-58

St. Louis Hawks

1/41-31

0.569

Boston Celtics

1/49-23

0.681

4-2

1956-57

Boston Celtics

1/44-28

0.611

St. Louis Hawks

T1/34-38

0.472

4-3

1955-56

Philadelphia Warriors

1/45-27

0.625

Fort Wayne Pistons

1/37-35

0.514

4-1

1954-55

Syracuse Nationals

1/43-29

0.597

Fort Wayne Pistons

1/43-29

0.597

4-3

1953-54

Minneapolis Lakers

1/46-26

0.639

Syracuse Nationals

2/42-30

0.583

4-3

1952-53

Minneapolis Lakers

1/48-22

0.686

New York Knicks

1/47-23

0.671

4-1

1951-52

Minneapolis Lakers

2/40-26

0.606

New York Knicks

3/37-29

0.561

4-3

1950-51

Rochester Royals

2/41-27

0.603

New York Knicks

3/36-30

0.545

4-3

1949-50

Minneapolis Lakers

T1/51-17

0.750

Syracuse Nationals

1/51-13

0.797

4-2

1948-49

Minneapolis Lakers

2/44-16

0.733

Washington Capitols

1/38-22

0.633

4-2

1947-48

Baltimore Bullets

2/28-20

0.583

Philadelphia Warriors

1/27-21

0.563

4-2

1946-47

Philadelphia Warriors

2/35-25

0.583

Chicago Stags

1/39-22

0.639

4-1

 

Now lets get to why I started searching for this information. My question for myself was, if the Spurs made it into the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed do they honestly have a chance of making the Finals?

 

My Conclusion is YES!. The Spurs would statistically still have a chance to win the Championship if they make the playoffs.

 

The bigger worry is making the playoffs. The 4 teams currently behind us in the standings all have easier schedules and are playing more consistently. Because of that it would be hard for me to say that the glass is half full, but as an Optimist I can say that "There is still water in the glass!"

Go Spurs Go!

 

 

 

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