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NBA Playoffs: Higher seed a big advantage in playoffs

John Rohde breaks down the numbers behind the NBA Playoffs — the advantages of having a Game 7 at home and how many teams with each seed have won an NBA or conference title.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: April 9, 2012

As you might expect, the best place to be when the NBA playoffs start is near the top. The higher you're seeded, the better your chances of advancing.

There have been 28 championships decided under the current 16-team playoff format, which began in 1984. The No. 1 or No. 2 seed has won all but four conference titles in the East and all but seven conference titles in the West.

In the NBA Finals, No. 1 seeds have claimed 18 championships, No. 2 seeds have won five, and No. 3 seed have won four.

This year's playoffs could bring more of the same because the best teams are traveling in pairs.

San Antonio and Oklahoma City are battling for the top spot in the Western Conference while Chicago and Miami are battling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

All of which could mean the No. 1 and No. 2s would continue to dominate.

And if it comes down to a Game 7, numerous charts in this Main Event will show it behooves a team to be at home.

Nothing is a given, of course. There have been the occasional upsets. Under the current format, four No. 8 seeds have eliminated the No. 1 seeds.

Memphis did it to San Antonio last season, and with room to spare by a 4-2 count. Golden State stunned No. 1 Dallas in 2007, also by a 4-2 count.

The other 8 vs. 1 upsets came when the opening round was an abbreviated best-of-five — Denver over Seattle 3-2 in 1994; New York over Miami 3-2 during the 50-game lockout season in 1999.

The lowest-seeded world champion was the 1995 Houston Rockets, a No. 6 seed who blanked top-seeded Orlando 4-0 for their second straight crown.


Conference finals have required a Game 7 on 12 occasions in the 16-team playoff format. Only three times have those showdowns been between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, with the No. 1s winning twice.

The higher-seeded teams in conference finals had won 10 straight Game 7s, but currently ride a two-game losing streak.

Game 7 conference finals

(16-team playoff)

1987 — at 1-Boston 117, 3-Detroit 114

1988 — at 1-LA Lakers 117, 3-Dallas 102

1990 — at 1-Detroit 93, 3-Chicago 74

1993 — at 1-Phoenix 123, 3-Seattle 110

1994 — at 2-New York 94, 5-Indiana 90

1995 — at 1-Orlando 105, 2-Indiana 81

1996 — at 1-Seattle 90, 3-Utah 86

1998 — at 1-Chicago 88, 3-Indiana 83

2000 — at 1-LA Lakers 89, 3-Portland 84

2001 — at 1-Philadelphia 108, 2-Milwaukee 91

2002 — 3-LA Lakers 112, at 1-Sacramento 106 (OT)

2005 — 2-Detroit 88, at 1-Miami 82

Totals — Home 10, Visitors 2 (.833)


If this year's NBA Final comes down to a Game 7, history tells us there's an 82.3 percent chance the home team will win the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

All-time Game 7 Results


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