Looking back at the 2017-18 NBA Finals

Last night the Golden State Warriors easily defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to pull off the NBA’s first Finals sweep in over a decade. It also gave the Warriors their third championship in four years, as they managed to once again overwhelm LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

What this means historically for the Warriors and Cavs

This win gives the Warriors their third championship in four years. This puts them in elite company in the history of the NBA in terms of teams who won three titles in four years or less. They are also only the third team to win back-to-back championships while only losing one game in the Finals.

*The early 1950s Lakers and 1960s Celtics ended up overlapping each other by definition.

Team Years (Span) Finals made in span Record in Finals
Minneapolis Lakers *Four Years (1949-52) 3 3-0
Minneapolis Lakers *Three Years (1952-54) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1957-60) 4 3-1
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1960-62) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1961-63) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1962-64) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1963-65) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Three Years (1964-66) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1965-68) 3 3-0
Boston Celtics *Four Years (1966-69) 3 3-0
Los Angeles Lakers Four Years (1985-88) 4 3-1
Chicago Bulls Three Years (1991-93) 3 3-0
Chicago Bulls Three Years (1996-98) 3 3-0
Los Angeles Lakers Three Years (2000-02) 3 3-0
Golden State Warriors Four Years (2015-18) 4 3-1
Team Span Finals Record
Detriot Pistons 1988-1990 8-1
Los Angeles Lakers 2000-2002 8-1
Golden State Warriors 2016-2018 8-1

In getting swept by the Warriors, the Cavaliers became only the ninth team to get swept in the NBA Finals. Ironically, the last team to get swept in the Finals was also the LeBron led Cavs back in 2007.

Team that got swept Opponent Year
Minneapolis Lakers Boston Celtics 1959
Baltimore Bullets Milwaukee Bucks 1971
Washington Bullets Golden State Warriors 1975
Los Angeles Lakers Philadelphia 76ers 1983
Los Angeles Lakers Detroit Pistons 1989
Orlando Magic Houston Rockets 1995
New Jersey Nets Los Angeles Lakers 2002
Cleveland Cavaliers San Antonio Spurs 2007
Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors 2018

The Cavaliers also joined the small list of NBA teams who lost three Finals in a four-year span or less.

*The 1960s Lakers spans all ended up overlapping with each other.

Team Span (Years) Finals Record
New York Knicks Three Years (1951-53) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1962-65) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1963-66) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1965-68) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Four Years (1966-69) 0-3
Los Angeles Lakers *Three Years (1968-70) 0-3
Cleveland Cavaliers Four Years (2015-18) 1-3

Jetpack

The Ying and Yang of Steph Curry

In their game two victory, Steph Curry set the NBA playoffs and Finals record by making nine three-pointers. Since the NBA added the three-point line in 1979-80, there have only been 13 occasions where a player has made at least seven three-pointers in a playoff game. Curry is now responsible for five of those after making seven in game four on top of his game two performance.

However, he followed that up with a disastrous performance in game three. Curry was 3-16 from the field, making it only the 79th playoff game (since 1963-64) in which a player took at least that many shots and made three or fewer.

He was also 1-10 from beyond the arc. This made him only the ninth person to take at least ten three-pointers in a playoff game and make one or fewer. This game is also what likely cost him the Finals MVP.

With the Warriors third championship, Steph Curry joins a small group of eight players in the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) to win at least two MVPs and three championships in a four-year span.

*All of Russell’s years overlap with each other by definition of this, as does Gretzky’s 1987 season.

Players Sport Span MVPs Championships
Joe DiMaggio MLB 1938-41 2 3
Yogi Berra MLB 1951-54 2 3
Gordie Howe NHL 1952-55 2 3
Bill Russell NBA *1958-61 2 3
Bill Russell NBA *1961-64 3 4
Bill Russell NBA *1962-65 3 4
Bill Russell NBA *1963-66 2 4
Guy Lafleur NHL 1977-80 2 3
Wayne Gretzky NHL *1984-87 4 3
Wayne Gretzky NHL *1987-90 2 3
Michael Jordan NBA 1990-93 2 3
Michael Jordan NBA 1995-98 2 3
Steph Curry NBA 2015-18 2 3

*While this has never happened in the NFL and never took place in the AFL, it did happen in the AAFC (merged with NFL in 1949). In four years (1946-49), Otto Graham won 2 MVPs and 4 championships.

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Durant and LeBron’s historic performances

In game three of the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant dropped 43 points to give the Warriors an insurmountable 3-0 led over the Cavaliers. This game was the catalyst to him earning his second Finals MVP and a playoff career high for him.

His 43 points were the most by a Warriors player in the playoffs since Curry’s 44 point performance against the San Antonio Spurs in 2013. It was the most by a Warriors player in the Finals since 1967, when Rick Barry scored 44 in game six.

In game one of the NBA Finals, LeBron James dropped 51 points. This made LeBron only the 12th player (20th occurrence) since 1963-64 to score at 50 points in a playoff game. However, the Cavaliers lost the game in heartbreaking fashion due to some slight time mismanagement at the end of regulation before losing in overtime.

*Bob Pettit’s game log on Basketball-Reference has no assists tally for that game

Players Year (Game, Result) Series Result Points Rebounds Assists FG%
Elgin Baylor 1962 (Game 5, Win) Lost 4-3 61 22 1 47.80%
Michael Jordan 1993 (Game 4, Win) Won 4-2 55 8 4 56.80%
Rick Barry 1967 (Game 3, Win) Lost 4-2 55 12 5 45.80%
Jerry West 1969 (Game 1, Win) Lost 4-3 53 3 10 51.20%
LeBron James 2018 (Game 1, OT Loss) Lost 4-0 51 8 8 59.40%
Bob Pettit 1958 (Game 6, Win) Won 4-2 50 19 N/A* 55.90%

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Sources and Info: (All sources not listed here linked/mentioned in the article)

Featured Image: ‚Äú2014 NBA Finals logo‚ÄĚ by¬†Michael Tipton¬†is licensed under¬†CC BY-SA 2.0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NBA_champions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_Most_Valuable_Player_Award

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hart_Memorial_Trophy

https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/mvp_cya.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-America_Football_Conference#Most_Valuable_Player

https://www.basketball-reference.com/ (Used to find the box score for players with over 50 points in NBA Finals)

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The rarity of Cavs-Warriors IV in sports

Game one of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors tips off tonight. With that in mind, let’s take a look into the historical rareness of the same two teams meeting for a fourth consecutive season to play each other for a championship.

NBA

This is the 14th time in NBA history that the same two teams have met in the Finals for at least two consecutive seasons. The Cavaliers and Warriors are the first to ever meet three (and four) times in a row for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Teams Years Result
Minneapolis Lakers v. New York Knicks (2) 1952-53 Lakers 2-0
Boston Celtics v. St. Louis Hawks (2) 1957-58 Split 1-1
Boston Celtics v. St. Louis Hawks (2) 1960-61 Celtics 2-0
Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers (2) 1962-63 Celtics 2-0
Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers (2) 1965-66 Celtics 2-0
Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers (2) 1968-69 Celtics 2-0
Los Angeles Lakers v. New York Knicks (2) 1972-73 Split 1-1
Seattle Supersonics v. Washington Bullets (2) 1978-79 Split 1-1
Los Angeles Lakers v. Philadelphia 76ers (2) 1982-83 Split 1-1
Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers (2) 1984-85 Split 1-1
Detroit Pistons v. Los Angeles Lakers (2) 1988-89 Split 1-1
Chicago Bulls v. Utah Jazz (2) 1997-98 Bulls 2-0
Miami Heat v. San Antonio Spurs (2) 2013-14 Split 1-1
Cleveland Cavaliers v. Golden State Warriors (4) 2015-18 Warriors 2-1

NFL

In the NFL, there have only been eight times where the same two teams met in the Championship Game consecutive times. Since the Super Bowl era started in 1967, it has only happened once.

Teams Years Result
Chicago Bears v. New York Giants (2) 1933-34 Split 1-1
Green Bay Packers v. New York Giants (2) 1938-39 Split 1-1
Chicago Bears v. Washington Redskins (2) 1942-43 Split 1-1
Cleveland Browns v. Los Angeles Rams (2) 1950-51 Split 1-1
Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions (3) 1952-54 Lions 2-1
Baltimore Colts v. New York Giants (2) 1958-59 Colts 2-0
Green Bay Packers v. New York Giants (2) 1961-62 Packers 2-0
Buffalo Bills v. Dallas Cowboys (2) 1993-94 Cowboys 2-0

MLB

There have been nine times in baseball history that two teams played each other consecutive years in the World Series. However, it has only happened only since 1960 and last took place four decades ago.

Teams Years Result
Chicago Cubs v. Detroit Tigers (2) 1907-08 Cubs 2-0
New York Giants v. New York Yankees (3) 1921-23 Giants 2-1
Philadelphia Athletics v. St. Louis Cardinals (2) 1930-31 Split 1-1
New York Giants v. New York Yankees (2) 1936-37 Yankees 2-0
New York Yankees v. St. Louis Cardinals (2) 1942-43 Split 1-1
Brooklyn Dodgers v. New York Yankees (2) 1952-53 Yankees 2-0
Brooklyn Dodgers v. New York Yankees (2) 1955-56 Split 1-1
Milwaukee Braves v. New York Yankees (2) 1957-58 Split 1-1
Los Angeles Dodgers v. New York Yankees (2) 1977-78 Yankees 2-0

NHL

The NHL has seen eight teams meet at least back-to-back times to play for the Stanley Cup. However, it has only happened once in the last four decades.

Teams Years Result
New York Rangers v. Toronto Maple Leafs (2) 1932-33 Split 1-1
Detroit Red Wings v. Toronto Maple Leafs (2) 1948-49 Leafs 2-0
Detroit Red Wings v. Montreal Canadiens (3) 1954-56 Red Wings 2-1
Montreal Canadiens v. Toronto Maple Leafs (2) 1959-60 Canadiens 2-0
Detroit Red Wings v. Toronto Maple Leafs (2) 1963-64 Leafs 2-0
Montreal Canadiens v. St. Louis Blues (2) 1968-69 Canadiens 2-0
Boston Bruins v. Montreal Canadiens (2) 1977-78 Canadiens 2-0
Detroit Red Wings v. Pittsburgh Penguins (2) 2008-09 Split 1-1

Jetpack

Three-peat matchups in the big four

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors meeting for a fourth straight time is truly historical among the combined histories of the four major North American sports.

It is not a surprise that the NBA was the first league to do so. Since 1980 there have been six times in the NBA two teams played each other back-to-back years for the championship. In the MLB, NFL and NHL combined it has happened twice in that same span.

Teams Sport Years Result
New York Giants v. New York Yankees MLB (3) 1921-23 Giants 2-1
Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions NFL (3) 1952-54 Lions 2-1
Detroit Red Wings v. Montreal Canadiens NHL (3) 1954-56 Red Wings 2-1
Cleveland Cavaliers v. Golden State Warriors NBA (4) 2015-18 Warriors 2-1

Four-peat matchups in other sports

While the Cavaliers and Warriors meeting for a four straight time is historical among the four major North American sports, how often has it happened in sports in general? I took a look at championship matchups in various other professional, Olympic and college sports to see if anything like this had occurred before.

Players/Teams Sport/Event Event Year/Span Result
USA v. Canada Hockey World Championships Met in 4 straight gold medal games 1931-34 Championships* 3-1 Canada
USA v. Soviet Union Olympic Men’s Basketball Met in 4 straight gold medal games 1952, 56, 60 and 64 Olympics 4-0 USA
S.Williams v. V.Williams Women’s Singles Tennis Met in 4 straight majors 2002 French Open to 2003 Aus Open 4-0 S. Williams
Mount Union v. Wisconsin-Whitewater Division III College Football Met in 7 straight championship games 2005-2011 4-3 Wisconsin
Djokovic v. Nadal Men’s Singles Tennis Met in 4 straight majors 2011 Wimbledon to 2012 French Open 3-1 Djokovic
Cavaliers v. Warriors NBA Met in 4 straight NBA Finals 2014-15 to 2017-18 2-1 Warriors

*The 1932 Winter Olympic’s Ice Hockey Tournament also counted as the World Championship

List of all sports/leagues checked:

Soccer: MLS, World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League

Basketball: NBL, ABA, G-League, WNBA, EuroLeague, EuroLeague Women, FIBA World Championship

Baseball: Japan Championship Series, Baseball World Cup, World Baseball Classic

Hockey: WHA, Memorial Cup Champions (CHL), KHL (Gagarin Cup), World Championships

Football: AAFC, AFL, CFL, Arena League

Tennis: Men & Women’s Singles in majors

Lacrosse: National Lacrosse League

Cricket: ICC Champions Trophy

Darts: World Professional Darts Championship

Summer Olympics: Men & Women’s Singles Tennis, Men & Women’s Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Men and Women’s Soccer

Winter Olympics: Men & Women’s Hockey, Men & Women’s Curling

College Sports (Division I): Football (BCS) (Playoff) (FCS), Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Men’s Hockey, Women’s Hockey, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer

College Sports (D II): Football, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Men’s Hockey,¬†Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer

College Sports (D III): Football, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Men’s Hockey, Women’s Hockey,¬†Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer

College Sports (NAIA): Football, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Men’s Hockey,¬†Men’s Soccer
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Sources and Info:

Featured Image: ‚ÄúSD attends NBA Finals‚ÄĚ by¬†James N. Mattis¬†is licensed under¬†CC BY-2.0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NBA_champions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NFL_champions_(1920%E2%80%931969)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_Bowl_champions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Series_champions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Stanley_Cup_champions

Taking a look at the historic rookie playoff performances put on by Mitchell, Simmons, and Tatum

The NBA Finals are set, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors meeting for a fourth consecutive year. However, these NBA playoffs have been notable for the stellar performances that rookies Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, and Jayson Tatum put on.

*All stats below are from Basketball-Reference and do not include anything before the 1964 playoffs unless stated otherwise.  

Total Points 

Donovan Mitchell (10) and Jayson Tatum (2) both finished this postseason in the top 10 among total points scored in the NBA playoffs by a rookie player. I also induced Ben Simmons below, with his ranking in parentheses. Players whose names are bolded are in the Hall of Fame.

*Information in the table below starts with 1947 playoffs.

Player Year Age Games Played Total Points PPG
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1970 22 10 352 35.2
Jayson Tatum 2018 19 19 351 18.5
Alvan Adams 1976 21 19 341 17.9
Elgin Baylor 1959 24 13 331 25.5
George Mikan 1949 24 10 303 30.3
Jack Sikma 1978 22 22 301 13.7
Wilt Chamberlian 1960 23 9 299 33.2
Magic Johnson 1980 20 16 293 18.3
Jerry West 1961 22 12 275 22.9
Donovan Mitchell 2018 21 11 268 24.4
Ben Simmons (46) 2018 21 10 163 15.9

Mitchell and Tatum became the first rookies to score this many points during the playoffs since Magic Johnson in 1980.

Total Assists, Rebounds, Steals, and Blocks

I then looked to see where these three stellar players ranked among rebound, assist, steal and block totals among past rookies in the playoffs.

*Information in tables below starts with 1947 playoffs for rebound and assists. Steals and blocks were not recorded until the 1974 playoffs.

Total Rebounds Rank for Total Rebounds Rebounds per game
Tatum 83  47 4.4
Mitchell 65 73 5.9
Simmons 94 30 9.4
Total Assists Rank for Total Assists Assists per game
Tatum 52 22 2.7
Mitchell 46 26 4.2
Simmons 77 7 7.7
Total Steals Rank for Total Steals Steals per game
Tatum 23 10 1.2
Mitchell 16 27 1.4
Simmons 17 24 1.7
Total Blocks Rank for Total Blocks Blocks per game
Tatum 10 46 0.5
Mitchell 4 140 0.4
Simmons 8 68 0.8

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20+ point games and Double-Doubles

20+ point games Double-Doubles Triple-Doubles
Tatum 10 1 0
Mitchell *9 3 0
Simmons 1 4 1

*Had two games scoring over 30 points.

Jayson Tatum’s 28 points in the Celtics game one win over the 76ers in the second-round were the third most scored by a rookie in franchise history.¬†He is also the youngest rookie to score that many points in a playoff game.

Donovan Mitchell’s 38 points in game six of the first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder were tied for the¬†fourth most scored by a rookie.¬†He also had four of the top five games in Jazz playoff history in terms of points scored by a rookie.

Player Year Points
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1970 46
Magic Johnson 1980 42
Chuck Person 1987 40
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1970 38
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1970 38
Donovan Mitchell 2018 38
Lou Hudson 1967 36
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1970 36
Derrick Rose 2009 36

Ben Simmons became only the fourth different rookie (8th instance) to record a triple-double in the playoffs. His 24 points in game two of the 76ers first-round loss to the Miami Heat was tied for the fifth most scored by a rookie for the franchise. He also joined a small group of rookies to record at least four double-doubles in the playoffs.

Player Year # of double-doubles
Magic Johnson 1980 9
Charles Barkley 1985 8
Alvan Adams 1976 7
David Robinson 1990 7
Tom Burleson 1975 6
Robert Parish 1977 6
Tim Duncan 1998 6
Nate Thurmond 1964 5
Hakeem Olajuwon 1985 5
Alonzo Mourning 1993 5
Drew Gooden 2003 5
Jerry Lucas 1964 4
Luke Jackson 1965 4
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1970 4
Larry Bird 1980 4
Ben Simmons 2018 4

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Sources and Info:  (*Any sources not listed here are linked in article above)

Featured Image: ‚ÄúJayson Tatum‚ÄĚ by¬†Keith Allison¬†is licensed under¬†CC BY-SA 2.0

https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/t/tatumja01/gamelog/2018

https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/simmobe01/gamelog/2018

https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/mitchdo01/gamelog/2018

All table made using Google Spreadsheets

A look back at the NBA Playoffs heading into the Finals

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors both overcame 3-2 series deficits to advance to the NBA Finals. This will mark the fourth consecutive season these two teams will have played for the¬†Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Never before in the history of the four major North American sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) have the same two teams played each other in four straight championships.

Teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

Golden State and Cleveland now join a small group of 17 other teams across the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL to make 4 consecutive championship appearances. This is the sixth time that an NBA team has made it to the Finals four years in a row.

Besides the Cavaliers and Warriors, the only other of these spans to overlap within a sport were the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers during the 1984 and 1985 NBA playoffs.

Team (Sport) Years (Span) Champ. Record
Giants (MLB) 4 (1921-24) 2-2
Yankees (MLB) 4 (1936-39) 4-0
Bears (NFL) 4 (1940-43) 3-1
Yankees (MLB) 5 (1949-53) 5-0
Browns (NFL) 6 (1950-55) 3-3
Canadiens (NHL) 10 (1951-60) 6-4
Yankees (MLB) 4 (1955-58) 2-2
Celtics (NBA) 10 (1957-66) 9-1
Yankees (MLB) 5 (1960-64) 2-3
Canadiens (NHL) 5 (1965-69) 4-1
Canadiens (NHL) 4 (1976-79) 4-0
Islanders (NHL) 5 (1980-84) 4-1
Lakers (NBA) 4 (1982-85) 2-2
Celtics (NBA) 4 (1984-87) 2-2
Bills (NFL) 4 (1990-93) 0-4
Yankees (MLB) 4 (1998-01) 3-1
Heat (NBA) 4 (2011-14) 2-2
Cavs (NBA) 4 (2015-18) 1-2
Warriors (NBA) 4 (2015-18) 2-1

2018 seeding vs historical context

The No. 6 seeded New Orleans Pelicans swept the No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers in the first-round. This made then only the 18th No. 6 seed to win their first-round series since the NBA switched to its current playoff format of 16 teams for the 1984 playoffs.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers having marched to the NBA Finals as the No. 4 seed they have also bucked historical trends. Starting with the 1984 playoffs, Cleveland became only the sixth No. 4 seed to win a second-round series and the third to win in the conference championship round.

With both No. 1 seeds being eliminated this will be the seventh NBA Finals (2004, 05, 06, 07, 11, 12) since the NBA expanded to the 16 team playoff format to not feature a top-seeded team.

Teams seeded No. 4 or lower to reach NBA Finals

The Cavaliers are only the fifth team to be seeded No. 4 or lower to reach the NBA Finals since it expanded to 16 teams in the 1983-84 season.

Team (Seed) Year Finals result
Rockets (6) 1994-95 Won 4-0
Knicks (8) 1998-99 Lost 4-1
Mavericks (4) 2005-06 Lost 4-2
Celtics (4) 2009-10 Lost 4-3
Cavaliers (4) 2017-18 TBD

Jetpack

Point differential after each game for Cavs and Warriors during their path to the Finals

The Cavaliers point differential was at its lowest following their game six loss to the Pacers (-45) and is currently at its highest going into the Finals (+21).

Cavs PD

The Warriors point differential was at its lowest following their first game against the Spurs (+21) and is currently at its highest going into the Finals (+150).

War PD.png

LeBron and the Cavs

While LeBron James won the Eastern Conference for the eighth year in a row, this season provided the toughest road to the Finals in that span.

Playoff Rec. # of game 7s # of sweeps
LeBron vs East (2011-17) 84-21 (80%) 2 in 21 series (9.52%) 8 in 21 series (38.09%)
LeBron vs East (2018) 12-6 (66.66%) 2 in 3 series (66.66%) 1 in 3 series (33.33%)

Following the Cavaliers first-round series win over the Indiana Pacers, I wrote about LeBron James’ historic performance in that series. After three series he is still on pace to have the sixth occurrence of a player averaging 30, 9 and 7 in the playoffs.

Player Year Games MP Points TRB AST FG% 2P% 3P%
Oscar Robertson 1962-63 12 47.5 31.8 13 9 47.00% 47.00% N/A
LeBron James 2008-09 14 41.4 35.3 9.1 7.3 51.00% 57.10% 33.30%
LeBron James 2014-15 20 42.2 30.1 11.6 8.5 41.70% 46.50% 22.70%
Russell Westbrook 2016-17 5 38.8 37.4 11.3 10.8 38.80% 44.70% 26.50%
LeBron James 2016-17 18 41.3 32.9 9.1 7.8 56.50% 62.50% 41.10%
LeBron James 2017-18 18 41.3 34 9.2 8.8 54.20% 60.1% 34.40%

LeBron is also on pace to have his fourth occurrence of having a usage percentage of at least 34% in the playoffs (minimum 7 playoff games). Only 15 different players (33 total times) have had a usage percentage that high in the playoffs.

Michael Jordan (8 times) is that only player with more than LeBron. Jordan is also the only player who was older than Lebron with a higher usage percentage (Age 34 in 1997-98, 36.6 USG%).

Year (LeBron age) LeBron usage % Rank among 33
2014-15 (30) 37.6 3
2008-09 (24) 36.4 10
2017-18 (33) 35.9 12
2007-08 (23) 34.7 27

Lastly, let’s take a look at how LeBron and the rest of the Cavs compare to each other these playoffs playing at home (8-1 record) compared to on the road (4-5 record).

I found LeBron’s¬†home/road splits¬†for these playoffs using NBA.com. Then I found the Cavs splits as a team for these playoffs at home and on the road. I subtracted LeBron splits from the Cavs team ones to get the numbers for the rest of the players on the Cavs.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers FG% 3P% FT%
Lebron stats (at home) 38.1 8.3 8.2 2.2 0.8 3.8 58.70% 40.50% 76.40%
LeBron stats (on road) 29.9 10.1 9.3 0.6 1.3 4.4 49.80% 30.50% 66.20%
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers FG% 3P% FT%
Rest of Cavs (at home) 67.7 32.4 10.8 5.1 3.9 10.2 42.88% 36.09% 79.85%
Rest of Cavs (on road) 66.7 29.7 9.4 3.8 3 7.3 42.26% 31.51% 75.57%

Interestingly enough, the rest of the Cavaliers have been remarkably similar playing at home and on the road. The only notable difference is they average almost three most turnovers at home while shooting about 5% worse on three-pointers and free throws on the road.

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Three-point shooting costs Celtics, Rockets in game 7

The Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets both had their chances to win in game 7 but ended up shooting themselves out of it by putting on two of the worst three-point shooting performances in playoff history.

*Minimum 30 three-pointers taken, five worst games listed below.

Date Team Opponent 3’s (PCT) Result
5-25-15 Hawks Cavaliers 5-32 (.156) Loss 118-88
5-28-18 Rockets Warriors 7-44 (.159) Loss 101-92
4-25-17 Rockets Thunder 6-37 (.162) Won 105-99
5-27-18 Celtics Cavaliers 7-39 (.179) Loss 87-79
4-27-16 Rockets Warriors 6-32 (.188) Loss 114-81

Not only was the team performance bad, but Terry Rozier and Trevor Ariza managed to have two of the worst three-point shooting playoff games in NBA history.

Player Date 3’s taken Total FGs Points Result
John Starks 6-22-94 0-11 2-18 8 Loss 90-84
James Harden 5-24-18 0-11 5-21 19 Won 98-94
Terry Rozier 5-27-18 0-10 2-14 4 Loss 87-79
Trevor Ariza 5-28-18 0-9 0-12 0 Loss 101-92
Joe Johnson 4-29-12 0-9 3-15 11 Won 83-74
Rashard Lewis 4-22-08 0-9 7-21 18 Won 104-103
Derrick Rose 4-16-11 0-9 10-23 39 Won 104-91

Other notable stats from the 2018 NBA Playoffs

It was the first time Boston lost a series after going up 2-0 in franchise history.

Game 6 of the Rockets-Warriors series saw the largest second-half point differential in an NBA playoff game.

Trevor Ariza joined Nate Robinson and Marvin Williams as the only players to take at least 10 shots in a playoff game and score zero points.

The Rockets also recorded the largest point deficit of any Conference Finals series that went to seven games.

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Sources and Info: (*Any sources not listed here are linked in article above)

Featured Image: ‚ÄúLeBron James‚ÄĚ by¬†Erik Drost¬†is licensed under¬†CC BY-2.0

NFL teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

NBA teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

NHL teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

MLB teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearancesMLB teams to make 4 consecutive championship appearances

https://www.basketball-reference.com/playoffs/NBA_2018.html (Used scores on here to calculate point differential per game for Cavs and Warriors)

All tables and graphs make using Google Spreadsheet

Are the Raptors the worst No. 1 seed to ever be swept in NBA history?

The Toronto Raptors were swept out of the 2018 NBA playoffs with a whimper last night, as they were crushed by the Cleveland Cavaliers 128-93. This made it the third consecutive season the LeBron-led Cavs knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs, including back-to-back sweeps in the Eastern Conference Semis.

However, this season was supposed to be different for the Raptors. Finishing off their best season in franchise history with 59 wins, they were the second-best team in the NBA.

With home-court advantage against a Cavs team that had just been pushed to seven games, it seemed like this year was Toronto’s best chance to finally defeat LeBron. Instead, Toronto may have just become the worst No. 1 seed in NBA history.

No. 1 seeds to be swept in the NBA playoffs

Starting with the league’s first season back in 1948, back when it was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA), there have been 142 No. 1 seeded teams. Only 13 (9.15%) of these No. 1 seeds have ever been swept in the playoffs.

The Raptors are only the third No. 1 seed (first since the 1969 Washington Bullets) to be swept without reaching at least the Conference Finals. The other No. 1 seed to do this was the 1951 Philadelphia Warriors, who played best-of-three back then.

Team Playoff Year Round swept in Defeated by (seed) Point Diff. Defeated in # of OT games
Rochester 1949 W. Conf Finals Lakers (2) -13 2-0 0
Warriors 1951 E. Conf Semis Syracuse (4) -14 2-0 1
Bullets 1969 E. Conf Semis New York (3) -38 4-0 0
Hawks 1970 W. Conf Finals Lakers (2) -35 4-0 1
Lakers 1977 W. Conf Finals Trail Blazers (3) -23 4-0 0
Lakers 1983 NBA Finals 76ers (1) -40 4-0 0
Lakers 1989 NBA Finals Pistons (1) -27 4-0 0
Magic 1995 NBA Finals Rockets (6) -28 4-0 1
Spurs 2001 W. Conf Finals Lakers (2) -89 4-0 0
Nets 2002 NBA Finals Lakers (3) -37 4-0 0
Pistons 2003 E. Conf Finals Nets (2) -36 4-0 0
Hawks 2015 E. Conf Finals Cavaliers (2) -53 4-0 1
Raptors 2018 E. Conf Semis Cavaliers (4) -56 4-0 1

*The NBA did not have a first-round for the playoffs until the 1974-75 season and did not expand to 16 teams in the playoffs until 1983-84.

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Toronto also lost to a Cavaliers team that was only a four seed, joining the aforementioned ’51 Warriors as the only team to do so. In both cases, the ’51 Syracuse Nationals and 2018 Cavaliers had both lost in the NBA Finals the previous year.

Only the 1995 Orlando Magic lost to a lower seed team, as the Houston Rockets were the six seed that year. Of course, that Rockets team were at least the defending champions from the previous season.

Then there is the fact that the Raptors have the second-worst point differential (-56) among any No. 1 seed to be swept, despite the fact that one of their games went into overtime. Only the ’01 Spurs have a worse point-differential (-89), as they just got crushed by the Shaq-Kobe Lakers in games three and four.

Conclusions

While the Toronto Raptors are not the worst No. 1 seed to be swept in any category, their combination of factors makes them arguably the worst. Being the first No. 1 seed to get swept outside the Conference Finals in 49 years is never a good look.

Add on to that the fact that they were swept by a four seed. Even though it was a LeBron James led-team, the Cavs defense had been awful the entire season and they revamped most of their team during the trade deadline. The only team to be swept by a lower-seeded team had it happen to them from a Rockets team that won back-to-back NBA Championships.

While the ’01 Spurs point differential is much worse then the Raptors, they were playing a team that was in the middle of what would be a three-peat. While Cleveland has made the Finals three-straight years, they have only one once.

Also, that Lakers team had two prime Hall of Fames in Shaq and Kobe to deal with. Before this series against the Raptors, the Cavs looked like they were relying solely on LeBron for the most part to win games against the Indiana Pacers.

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Sources and Info:

Featured Image: ‚ÄúDeMar DeRozan‚ÄĚ by¬†Keith Allison¬†is licensed under¬†CC BY-SA 2.0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_BAA_playoffs (went forward until present day noting which No. 1 seed was swept and by who)

https://www.basketball-reference.com/playoffs/ (searched for each of the swept series and took note of the overall point differential)

Used Google Spreadsheets to make all the table in this article

The Raptors, LeBron, and the Eastern Conference

The 4-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers have swept the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors. Despite LeBron James’ past success against Toronto, I do not think anyone saw a sweep taking place.

The Cavs had just been pushed to seven games against the Indiana Pacers, winning the series despite a -40 point differential. Meanwhile, the Raptors finished the season with 59 wins, making them the second-best team in the NBA record-wise. Despite this, they were swept with LeBron personally supplying a buzzer-beater to win game three.

Raptors playoffs struggles continue

Over the last five seasons, the Raptors have put together their five best individual seasons in franchise history behind All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. However, this has not resulted in playoff success as they have been swept three times in the last five seasons, twice to lower-seeded teams.

Toronto has now been swept in two of their last four playoff series. Prior to this, they had only been swept twice in their first 11 playoff series. One of those series was their first ever playoff appearance back in the 1999-00 season when the first-round was only best-of-five.

Year Reg. Record Playoff Seed Playoff Rec. Round Eliminated by (seed) Swept?
2013-14 48-34 (.585) 3 3-4 1st Nets (6) No
2014-15 49-33 (.598) 4 0-4 1st Wizards (5) Yes
2015-16 56-26 (.683) 2 10-10 Conf. Finals Cavs (1) No
2016-17 51-31 (.622) 3 4-6 Conf. Semis Cavs (2) Yes
2017-18 59-23 (.720) 1 4-6 Conf. Semis Cavs (4) Yes
Totals 263-147 (.643) Avg. seed: 2.6 21-30 (41.48%) Avg. seed: 3.6 3/5 (60%)

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LeBron dominates the Raptors (and the rest of the East)

Since LeBron made his decision to take his talents to South Beach for the 2010-11 season, his teams have utterly dominated the rest of the Eastern Conference. Having been to seven straight NBA Finals during this period it is no¬†surprise that LeBron’s teams have won nearly 80% of their playoff games against the East.

Year Team Playoff Rec. Playoff Seed # of game 7s # of sweeps
2010-11 Heat 12-3 2 0 0
2011-12 Heat 12-6 2 1 0
2012-13 Heat 12-4 1 1 1
2013-14 Heat 12-3 2 0 1
2014-15 Cavs 12-2 2 0 2
2015-16 Cavs 12-2 1 0 2
2016-17 Cavs 12-1 2 0 2
2017-18 Cavs 8-3 4 1 1
Totals 92-24 (79.31%) Avg. Seed: 2 3-23 (11.53%) 9/23 (28.12%)

LeBron has played 11 of the 16 teams in the East the over the last eight years in the playoffs. Ironically enough, he never played the Cavaliers when in Miami and has yet to play the Heat in Cleveland.

Teams # of series Playoff record Game 7s forced Times swept
Pacers 5 10-21 2 1
Celtics 4 5-16 1 1
Bulls 3 4-12 0 0
Raptors 3 2-12 0 2
Hawks 2 0-8 0 2
76ers 1 1-4 0 0
Knicks 1 1-4 0 0
Nets 1 1-4 0 0
Bucks 1 0-4 0 1
*Hornets 1 0-4 0 1
Pistons 1 0-4 0 1

*The Hornets were called the Bobcats when LeBron played them in the playoffs.

Can the Celtics break the cycle?

The Boston Celtics are up 3-1 over the Philadelphia 76ers and seem destined to play the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, barring them becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 lead in the playoffs.

Despite missing stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, as well as backup big-man Daniel Theis, Boston has exceeded expectations during the playoffs. This is in no small part due to the coaching genius of Brad Stevens, the veteran presence of Al Horford and they way the young trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have stepped up.

The last time a LeBron team lost in the Eastern Conference playoffs was back in the 2009-10 season in the Conference Semifinals to the Boston Celtics. This completely different Celtics team will face a tall task in trying to beat LeBron and the Cavs to end his run of winning the East.

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Sources and info:

Featured Image: “LeBron James” by¬†Keith Allison¬†is licensed under¬†CC BY-SA 2.0

https://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/TOR/

https://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/MIA/

https://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/CLE/

All tables and graphs made using Google Spreadsheets

Looking at LeBron James’ historic first-round in the playoffs and beyond

The Cleveland Cavaliers survived their first-round matchup against the Indiana¬†Pacers almost entirely because of the stellar play of LeBron James. Cleveland will need more of the same starting tonight as they take on the top-seeded Toronto Raptors. Before the playoffs move on, let’s take a look at how historical LeBron has been and may continue to be.

LeBron’s first-round marks

By defeating the Pacers in seven games, LeBron is now 13-0 in first-round playoff series. This gives him the second-best first round mark since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in the 1983-84 season, only behind Derek Fisher and Robert Horry (16-0). However, he did have his record for most consecutive first-round wins (21) get snapped by Indiana.

LeBron had three 40+ point games in the first round against Indiana. This moved him past Jerry West (20) for second place all-time. He now has 22 and is only behind Michael Jordan (38). His buzzer-beater to win game five was the fourth of his career in the playoffs. Since LeBron entered the league, Paul Pierce is the only other player with at least two.

LeBron has now had at least 11 playoff games with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. The players who have the second most (Michael Jordan, Shaquille¬†O’Neal, and Russell Westbrook) have only four such games in the playoffs.¬†According to Pro Basketball Reference, only 24 players have ever had one such game in the playoffs.

At halftime of game seven, LeBron had 26 points. This made him the first player to have at least that many points in the first half of a game seven since Pierce in 2008. LeBron finished that game with 45 points, the second most ever in a game seven win only behind Sam Jones (47) in 1963.

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LeBron’s historic averages not so historic for him

Through the seven games in his first-round series, LeBron averaged 34.4 points, 10 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1 block. According to Pro Basketball Reference, LeBron is on pace to have only the sixth occurrence (fourth for him) of a player averaging at least 30, 9, and 7 in the playoffs.

Player Year Games MP Points TRB AST FG% 2P% 3P%
Oscar Robertson 1962-63 12 47.5 31.8 13.0 9.0 47.0% 47.0% N/A
LeBron James 2008-09 14 41.4 35.3 9.1 7.3 51.0% 57.1% 33.3%
LeBron James 2014-15 20 42.2 30.1 11.6 8.5 41.7% 46.5% 22.7%
Russell Westbrook 2016-17 5 38.8 37.4 11.3 10.8 38.8% 44.7% 26.5%
LeBron James 2016-17 18 41.3 32.9 9.1 7.8 56.5% 62.5% 41.1%
LeBron James 2017-18 7 41.1 34.4 10.0 7.7 55.3% 61.2% 35.3%

LeBron still has anywhere between 4 to 21 possible games to play this postseason to keep up these averages. However, it seems likely that he will considering how much he has to do in order for the Cavaliers to perform well and win thus far in the playoffs.

According to Pro Basketball Reference, there have been only 32 times in NBA history a player played at least 7 playoff games (averaging at least 30 min per game) with a usage percentage of at least 34. While LeBron’s usage percentage (34.6) is currently 27th among those, he is up there in age at 33 years old.

Only four players have been this age or older with a usage percentage as high in the playoffs. Michael Jordan in the 1997 playoffs (35.5 USG% in 19 games) and Kobe Bryant in the 2012 playoffs (35.8 USG% in 12 games) were both also 33.

Then you have Karl Malone (34.1 USG% in 20 games) and Jordan again (36.6 USG% in 21 games) who both did it in the 1998 playoffs. Give LeBron’s natural physical ability and conditioning, it seems very likely that he can keep up his current usage rate if he has to despite his age.

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Info and Notes:

Featured Image: “LeBron James” by¬†Keith Allison¬†is licensed under¬†CC BY-SA 2.0

LeBron’s playoff stats for 2018 from Pro Basketball Reference

ESPN Stats and Info Twitter for LeBron stats 

Pro Basketball Reference for 40, 10, 5 playoff games 

Pro Basketball Reference for LeBron’s historical averages¬†

Pro Basketball Reference for LeBron’s usage rate

Table made using Google Spreadsheets