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NBA Playoffs

Current NBA Playoff logo.

The NBA Playoffs is a best-of-seven elimination tournament between sixteen teams in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference (called Divisions, pre-1970) of the National Basketball Association (NBA), ultimately deciding the final four teams who will play in the NBA Conference Finals.

Contents

Format

Following the NBA regular season, eight teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs and are seeded one to eight.

The team that has the best record in each of the three divisions in each conference is declared division champion. The three champions, and the one other team in the conference with the best record are seeded one through four by their records. This guarantees that the division champions will be no lower than fourth seed, and also ensures that a conference's two best teams (by record) are ranked as the top two. Of the remaining eleven conference teams, the four with the best records are seeded fifth through eighth based on their records.

In the event that two teams end up tied for the same seed, the following tiebreakers are employed[1]:

  1. Head-to-head
  2. Division record (if the teams are in the same division)
  3. Conference record
  4. Record vs. Playoff teams, own conference
  5. Record vs. Playoff teams, other conference
  6. Net points, all games

These seedings are used to create a bracket that determines the match-ups throughout the playoffs (unlike other leagues, such as the NHL, in which each round's match-ups are based on the seeds of the remaining teams). The first round of the playoffs, or Conference Quarterfinals, consists of four match-ups in each conference based on the seedings (1-8, 2-7, 3-6, and 4-5). The four winners advance to the second round, or Conference Semifinals, with a match-up between the 1-8 and 4-5 winners and a match-up between the 2-7 and 3-6 winners.At the conclusion of the NBA Playoffs the winners of these series advance to the Conference Finals.

Each round is a best-of-seven series.Series are played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format, meaning the team with home-court advantage hosts games 1, 2, 5 and 7, while their opponent hosts games 3, 4, and 6, with games 5-7 being played if needed. The NBA Finals are played in a 2-3-2 format, meaning the team with home-court advantage hosts games 1, 2, 6 and 7, and their opponent hosts games 3, 4 and 5. The home-court advantage is determined in both rounds by record regardless of seed.

  First Round
Best-of-7 Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7                                                            

Criticism

On August 3, 2006, the NBA announced the current revised playoff seeding system. Some consider the current system to be flawed: If two teams who are not division winners have identical records, one can gain an inflated seeding by moving into the top four seeding based solely on tiebreakers.

An example of this criticism arose in the very first season with the new system. As of April 17, 2007 with one regular season game remaining, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers possessed identical 49-32 records, better than both the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat who had already clinched their respective divisions. Due to favorable tie-breakers, Chicago would have been seeded second, while Cleveland would have been seeded no higher than fifth.

Under the previous seeding system, the division winners (Detroit, Toronto and Miami) would have earned the top three seeds, while Chicago and Cleveland would have earned the fourth and fifth seeds respectively.

On April 18, Cleveland won and Chicago lost their final regular season games. As a result, Cleveland finished with one more win earning them the second seed, while Chicago only managed the fifth seed despite finishing with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

The contrasting argument to this critique is that the second seeding does not afford a team home-court advantage in all of the four playoff rounds. Additionally, the fifth seed would play the weakest division winner in Miami, while the second seed would play a weak seventh seed. Were the teams seeded fourth and fifth, they would have played each other - meaning a stronger opponent for both teams than the one faced under the new system, allowing the two stronger teams to both advance (which they both did) to the second round. The criticism raised in 2006 (see below) was successfully addressed by the new system, as top-seeded Detroit ultimately faced and were defeated by second seeded (with the second-best record in the East) Cleveland in the Conference Finals.

History

  • 1947: The playoffs were instituted with a three-stage tournament; the two best teams met in the best-of-7 semifinals while the teams ranked 2nd-3rd in their division met in the best-of-3 quarterfinals, meeting a team with the same rank from the other division, the winners in the quarterfinals play each other in the semifinals. The winners play in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) best of seven Finals series.
  Quarterfinals
Best-of-3 Semifinals
Best-of-3 BAA Finals
Best-of-7                               E3  New York2   W3  Cleveland1     E3  New York0       E2  Philadelphia2   W2  St. Louis1   E2  Philadelphia2       E2  Philadelphia4   W1  Chicago1                     W1  Chicago4     E1  Washington2         
  • 1949: The quarterfinals and the semifinals were renamed into Division Semifinals and Division Finals, respectively; the Division Semifinals now consist of the top 4 teams from each division and still played on a best-of-3 format.
  Division Semifinals
Best-of-3 Division Finals
Best-of-3 BAA Finals
Best-of-7                               E1  Washington0   E4  Philadelphia0              Eastern Division              E2  New York0   E3  Baltimore0                         W1  Rochester0   W4  St. Louis0          Western Division              W2  Minneapolis0   W3  Chicago0  
  • 1950: The BAA was renamed as the National Basketball Association (NBA). With a three-division setup; the top 4 teams from each division met in the best-of 3 Division Semifinals, then the winners meet in the best-of-3 Division Finals; the surviving team with the regular season record after the Division Finals go directly to the Finals while the two other teams met in a best-of-3 NBA Semifinals.
  • 1951: With the NBA reverting to a two-division setup; the Division Semifinals reverted to its original 1949 format. The Division Finals was extended to a best-of-5 format.
  Division Semifinals
Best-of-3 Division Finals
Best-of-5 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                               E1      E4                 Eastern Division              E2      E3                            W1      W4             Western Division              W2      W3     
  • 1954: The Division Semifinals was changed to a double round-robin format, with the top 3 teams from each division qualifying.
  • 1955: The Division Semifinals was changed into a best-of-3 series between the #2 and #3 seeds in each conference; the winner meets the #1 seed in the shortened best-of-5 Division Finals.
  Division Semifinals
Best-of-3 Division Finals
Best-of-5 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                        E1      Eastern Division     E3      E2      E3                                              W1    Western Division     W2      W2      W3     
  • 1958: The Division Finals was extended to a best-of-seven format.
  Division Semifinals
Best-of-3 Division Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                        E1      Eastern Division         E2      E3                                              W1    Western Division         W2      W3     
  • 1967: The Division Semifinals now includes the fourth best team in each conference; now the #1 and #4 teams play in the best-of 5 Division Semifinals.
  Division Semifinals
Best-of-5 Division Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                               E1      E4                 Eastern Division              E2      E3                            W1      W4             Western Division              W2      W3     
  • 1968: The Division Semifinals was extended to a best-of-seven format.
  Division Semifinals
Best-of-7 Division Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                               E1      E4                 Eastern Division              E2      E3                            W1      W4             Western Division              W2      W3     
  • 1970: With an increase in the number of teams, the divisions are now upgraded into conferences, which were then split into two divisions. The 2 division winners are guaranteed of at least a #2 seed. Hence, the Division Semifinals and Division Finals came to be known as Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals, respectively.
  Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 Conference Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                               E1*      E4                 Eastern Conference              E2*      E3                            W1*      W4             Western Conference              W2*      W3     
  • 1975: A first round was instituted to include the fifth best team in each conference; now the #4 and #5 teams play in the best-of 3 first round series.
  First Round
Best-of-3 Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 Conference Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                                  E2*          E4      E4    E5                 Eastern Conference                                E1*        E3                                                            W1*        W4      W4    W5               Western Conference                                W2*        W3            
  • 1977: The first round was expanded to include the sixth best team in each conference; now the #3 team plays in the first round.
  First Round
Best-of-3 Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 Conference Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                                  E1*             E4    E5                Eastern Conference            E3      E6       E2*                                                                 W1*           W4    W5               Western Conference            W3      W6        W2*                 
  • 1984: The top 2 seeds aren't given byes to the second anymore as a full 8-team tournament is instituted. The first round was extended to a best-of-five series.
  First Round
Best-of-5 Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 Conference Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                       E1*        E8                                E4      E5                   Eastern Conference            E2*        E7                              E3      E6                          W1*        W8                              W4      W5                 Western Conference            W2*        W7                              W3      W6       
  • 2003: The first round was extended to a best-of-seven series. This change arguably benefitted the higher seeds as it reduced the likelihood of an upset by a lower seed. It also meant that a team who swept their series 4-0 might have to wait up to 2 weeks to play their next series against a team who had won 4-3.
  First Round
Best-of-7 Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 Conference Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                       E1*        E8                                E4      E5                   Eastern Conference            E2*        E7                              E3      E6                          W1*        W8                              W4      W5                 Western Conference            W2*        W7                              W3      W6       
  • 2005: Each conference was realigned into 3 divisions; each division winner automatically gets a seeding no less than third, with all other teams ranked from 4th-8th.
  First Round
Best-of-7 Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 Conference Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                       E1*        E8                                E4      E5                   Eastern Conference            E2*        E7                              E3*      E6                          W1*        W8                              W4      W5                 Western Conference            W2*        W7                              W3*      W6       
  • 2007: To deal with the criticisms of having each division champion be in the top 3 seeds, now the division leaders are only guaranteed the top 4 seeds. One team with a higher record than a division leader now has a chance to be in the top 3 seeds.
    • Note: In the example below, the second-best teams are the East's #2 seed and the West's #4 seed.
  First Round
Best-of-7 Conference Semifinals
Best-of-7 Conference Finals
Best-of-7 NBA Finals
Best-of-7                                       E1*        E8                                E5      E4*                   Eastern Conference            E2        E7                              E3*      E6                          W1*        W8                              W5      W4                 Western Conference            W2*        W7                              W3*      W6       

History

From the first season, 1947, of the NBA (called the BAA until the merger with the NBL in 1949) the top three teams from the Eastern and Western divisions were invited to the playoffs. The two division champions played a Semifinal best-of-seven series for entry into the finals. The other four teams played two rounds of best-of-three playoffs to face the winner of the Semifinal match. That year, the Philadelphia Warriors defeated the Chicago Stags four games to one in the first ever BAA Championship.

In the 1949 playoffs, an additional team from each Division was added, eliminating the byes, and two rounds of best-of-three series were played, followed by a best-of-seven championship. In 1950 the Minneapolis Lakers became the first champions of the newly named NBA, knocking off the Syracuse Nationals in six games.

The 1951 through 1953 playoffs changed the Division Finals into a best-of-five playoff. In 1954, the year the Indianapolis Olympians folded, the NBA Playoffs used a Round Robin for the only time in its history. Then, from 1955 to 1966 year, the league returned to the original six-team format, expanding the Division Finals to a best-of-seven in 1958 and the Semifinals to a best-of-five in 1961.

In 1967 the field was again expanded to eight teams, filling out the three-round bracket. A year later, the Division Semifinals were changed to best-of-seven playoff. Then, in 1975 and 1977, respectively, a fifth and sixth team were added to each Division, necessitating an additional First Round of best-of-three series.

Finally in 1984, the tournament expanded to its present 16-team format and the now-complete First Round was changed to a best-of-five playoff. In 2003 the first round was changed to also be best-of-seven.

Beginning with the 2004 season, with the addition of the thirtieth NBA franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats, the NBA realigned its divisions. The result was that each conference would have three divisions of five teams each, and the winner of each division was guaranteed a top-three playoff seed. This would change slightly after the 2005-06 season; while division winners still receive automatic playoff berths, they are guaranteed a top-four seed, as described above.

2006 NBA Playoffs controversy

The previous playoff format, in place for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 NBA Playoffs, after the NBA was re-aligned into six divisions, created controversy during the 2005-06 season and playoffs, and would be changed prior to the 2006-07 NBA season.[2]

As in other major American professional sports leagues, NBA division winners were seeded higher than any other playoff participants, regardless of their record. Prior to 2004, when NBA was aligned into two conferences with two divisions each, the top two seeds in each conference were reserved for the division winners. This meant that top two teams in a conference (by record) would be seeded either first and second (if they were in opposite divisions) or first and third (if they were in the same division). Because of the NBA playoffs' preset matchups in the second round, this meant that the top two teams in a conference could never meet until the Conference Finals, assuming they both made it to that round.

After the NBA realigned its two conferences into three divisions each, the seeding rules remained largely unchanged. The top three seeds would now be reserved for division winners. This meant that if the top two teams (by record) in a conference were in the same division, they would be ranked first and fourth, and would face each other in the Conference Semifinals, instead of the Conference Finals, if both teams won their first round series.

In the second year of this format, the 2005-06 NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks of the Southwest Division did just that. This turn of events led to the playoff format being criticized by many, who claimed that the matchup was not only unfair to the team that would lose earlier in the playoffs than it deserved, but also created an unfair advantage for teams in the 2-7/3-6 half of the Western Conference playoff bracket, which could advance to the conference finals without playing either of the two best teams in the conference.[3]

The Phoenix Suns, winners of the Pacific Division and possessors of the third best record, were seeded second, and the Denver Nuggets, winners of the Northwest Division and tied for only the seventh-best record in the conference, were seeded third.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers met in the second-to-last game of the regular season, after the top four seeds had been clinched. The two teams were already determined to be the fifth and sixth seeds, and had only to determine which rank higher. The fifth seed would likely need to defeat the best two teams in the conference without home-court advantage to advance to the conference finals, as it would face fourth seeded Dallas, and likely face first-seeded San Antonio if it managed to defeat Dallas. The sixth seed would play Denver in the first round and would have home-court advantage, and only have to play, at most, one of Dallas or San Antonio - in the conference finals.

This led to speculation about whether the Grizzlies or the Clippers would have much commitment to winning their match-up in the second-to-last game of the season, since it was clearly most advantageous to lose the game in order to obtain the 6th seed. The Clippers eventually lost to Memphis without much evidence to refute the speculation that the Clippers had lost intentionally [4]. In the first round of the playoffs, the Clippers defeated the Nuggets in five games, and Memphis was swept by Dallas. Ultimately, Dallas and San Antonio did meet in the second round, with Dallas winning in seven games, and advancing all the way to the NBA Finals.


Trivia

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The article could be improved by integratingrelevant items and removing inappropriateones.
  • Only three 8th seeded teams have managed to win a series versus the number 1 seeded team: The Denver Nuggets eliminated the Seattle SuperSonics 3-2 in 1994, the New York Knicks eliminated the Miami Heat 3-2 in 1999 (which was a lockout shortened season), and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4-2 in the 2007 Western Conference First Round, becoming the first 8 seed to beat a 1 seed in the best of 7 format. The 1999 Knicks are currently the only 8th seeded team ever to reach the NBA Finals. In the Nuggets' and Warriors' cases, they both lost to the Utah Jazz in the second round.
  • The 1994-95 Houston Rockets were the lowest seeded team to win the NBA Finals. The defending champs were the sixth seed in a strong Western Conference that season. The Rockets beat the Utah Jazz (60-22 WL record) three games to two in the first round; the Phoenix Suns (59-23 WL record) in seven games in the conference semifinals; then beat the league's 1995 MVP David Robinson led San Antonio Spurs (62-20 WL record) in six games in the conference finals to reach the NBA Finals, becoming the first NBA team in history to beat four teams with 50 or more wins in the playoffs. In the NBA Finals, the Rockets swept the Orlando Magic (57-25 WL record) in four games. That season the Rockets were 5-0 in games when they faced playoff elimination, living up to their nickname "Clutch City." The 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who had the best playoff winning percentage of 15-1 (.938) also accomplished the feat by sweeping Portland, (50-32), 3-0, Sacramento (55-27),4-0, and San Antonio (58-24)4-0 , while defeating Philadelphia (56-26) 4-1, in the NBA Finals in 5 games. In the 2008 Playoffs, if the Los Angeles Lakers win the NBA Finals over the Boston Celtics (66-16), they will be added to this list.
  • The Boston Celtics possess the most overall NBA Finals series wins with an overall record of 16-3. The Los Angeles Lakers have played in the most NBA Finals series (28) with an overall record of 14-14.

See also

References

  1. ^ NBA.com: Playoff Seeding Primer
  2. ^ ESPN - NBA announces postseason seeding format change - NBA
  3. ^ What Bonanza!: No payoff in NBA playoffs
  4. ^ April 18, 2006 Memphis-LA Clippers game recap

External links

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