I hope everyone has gotten a nice warm welcome to the 2010 NBA Playoffs. We’re only three-ish games in, but some compelling storylines are already popping out: Kobe and LeBron’s teams have each lost a game already, the Celtics might actually hold off the Heat, and the Blazers won a game without Brandon Roy.
Here at How to Watch Sports we’re big on numbers, and we’ve assembled some of the most surprising stats that we’ve encountered surrounding these Playoffs. Enjoy…
50-32: Oklahoma City’s record this season—the best record ever for a #8 seed.
They’re tied with the 2008 Golden State Warriors as the best 8 seeds in the modern Playoffs era, at least in terms of record. 50 wins—that’s a lot of wins for an 8 seed. Need some context? The Oklahoma City Thunder had the same record as the Boston Celtics this year.
Take a minute to swallow that. And then don’t be terribly surprised that they just stole a game from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Just as an interesting tidbit, the team with the worst record to make the playoffs (since 1984, when the playoffs expanded to their current 16-team format) was the Chicago Bulls in 1986. They went an abysmal 30-52. It was a little easier to make the playoffs then, as the league only had 24 teams… but still. 30-52.
61: The lowest overall win total in the league since the 2004.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 61-win record was the best in the NBA. Compared to other years, though, it wasn’t that high—they nailed down 66 wins last year, with a team that many think wasn’t as talented as this year’s squad.
In 2004 it was the Indianapolis Pacers with a league-leading 61 wins.
In the end, it has a lot to do with what you’re playing for. The Cavs willingly dropped their last four games in the name of resting their starters. The fact that they had home-court advantage through the playoffs locked up at 61 wins speaks a bit to the parity in the league this year.
Since you’re wondering: The worst record to ever get a #1 seed in either the Eastern or Western Conference Playoffs (in the current playoff format) was the Detroit Pistons in 2003, at 50-32.
14-1: The Phoenix Suns’ record when they score 120 points or more.
These numbers might not be totally unexpected—we all know the Suns like to play up-tempo and score a lot of points—but I had no idea it was this cut and dry.
Here’s the Suns’ record when they don’t get to play their tempo:
Fewer than 100 points: 3-11
105 or fewer: 10-20
And here’s when they do:
105 or more points: 44-9
120 or more: 14-1
They may have slipped up in Game 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers, but they’ve gotten their heads back on straight since.
23.19: The average age of an Oklahoma City player this year.
The Thunder are young. Not only does their average age (which is calculated based on each player’s number of minutes played) make them the youngest team in the league this year, it also makes them the youngest team ever to make the playoffs. That’s out of 693 teams, going back to 1952.
Their leader is no exception, either. It’s easy to forget that Kevin Durant is a puerile 21 years old, and that he’s also the youngest scoring champion in league history. His 30.1 points per game beat out LeBron’s 29.7, and he still has a good ten years of relevancy ahead of him.
34.3: LeBron James’s average points per game in the playoffs so far.
This one’s interesting. LBJ’s lowest scoring average was actually when he led the Cavaliers to the finals in 2007 (25.1 points per game). And that’s the go-to for when you need an example of a single player carrying his entire team.
On the other end of the spectrum, LeBron’s highest playoff scoring average was last year, when he poured in 35.3 PPG. That’s when he should have had help, but still (likely out of necessity, but perhaps not) to the team on his back.
With his scoring being prolific so far in these three playoff games against the Chicago Bulls, it’s food for thought.
50-32: The San Antonio Spurs’ worst record since ’96-’97.
That’s the year that Gregg Popovich took over the reins as head coach, and the year they picked up Tim Duncan as the first pick in the draft. They had gone 20-62 the year before to merit that first pick, the year that David Robinson spent the season on the bench, injured.
It’s an amazing run. To not dip below 50 wins in thirteen years is wild, wild consistency. It’s popular to say that the Spurs are dead, and there’s something to that claim, but they still won fifty games—which would have been good enough for the 4 seed in the East.
And goodness knows that could come out of the woodwork at any time during the Playoffs.
27: The number of games that the Boston Celtics starters have missed this season.
That’s not very many! We’ve all bagged on the C’s for being a brittle, arthritic group of nursing home residents, but they held together pretty well this season.
You know who else missed 27 games? Jameer Nelson. So did Pau Gasol. And Andrew Bynum. On the Cavaliers’ roster, Shaquille O’Neal missed 29 games, and Mo Williams missed an additional 13.
Anybody’s knees can explode at any time, but the Celtics have done a remarkable job of staying healthy.
+2.7: The Dallas Mavericks’ average point differential this season; worst in the West.
The Dallas Mavericks have come into the Playoffs with some impressive momentum. They landed Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood midseason, and managed to score the #2 seed in the uber-competitive West.
But point differential has shown time and time again to be a strong predictor of playoff success. Orlando’s differential was the league’s best at 7.5, followed by Cleveland at 6.5, Utah at 5.3, and then San Antonio, Phoenix, LA, Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Oklahoma City, Portland, and THEN Dallas at 2.7. That’s 8th-best in the West, and 12th-best overall.
Granted, they didn’t play the full season with their newly-improved lineup. But in the West, where you don’t win unless you’re the very best, they’re not my pick to win it all.