Top seeds have advantage in NBA playoffs

by Michael Baldwin Published: March 29, 2009
The chase for home-court advantage could come down to the final day of the season.

How important is home-court advantage?

Extremely important.

If you’re not seeded No. 1 or No. 2, history suggests you won’t reach the NBA Finals, much less win the title.

Of the past 20 champions, 18 have been seeded No. 1 or No. 2 in their respective conferences.

The two exceptions were the 2007 Spurs and 1995 Rockets, veteran teams that had won before. Every other champion since the 1988-89 season was seeded No. 1 or No. 2 (see chart).

San Antonio was assisted by No. 8 seed Golden State’s upset of Dallas two years ago. The Spurs regained home-court advantage in the Western Conference finals after eliminating Phoenix in the semifinals.

Being the No. 1 or No. 2 seed also is critical just to reach the Finals. The past two decades, 90 percent of the teams in the Finals (36 of 40) were seeded No. 1 or No. 2.

The Knicks, a No. 8 seed in 1999, were an aberration because of the lockout year. The other exception was the 1990-91 Lakers, a No. 3 seed that benefited from No. 2 seed San Antonio losing in the first round.

Which brings us to the current season.

Races for the No. 1 seeds essentially are over. The Lakers (West) and Cavaliers (East) are locks to nail down the top spots.

But as history shows, the race for the No. 2 seed could be significant.

by Michael Baldwin
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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Seed report
Listed below are results of the NBA Finals and where each team was seeded in its conference the past 20 years.

2008: No. 1 Boston def. No. 1 LA Lakers

2007: No. 3 San Antonio def. No. 2 Cleveland

2006: No. 2 Miami def. No. 2 Dallas

2005: No. 2 San Antonio def. No. 2 Detroit

2004: No. 2 Detroit def. No. 2 LA Lakers

2003: No. 1 San Antonio def. No. 2 New Jersey

2002: No. 2 LA Lakers def. No. 1 New Jersey

2001: No. 2 LA Lakers def. No. 1 Philadelphia

2000: No. 1 LA Lakers def. No. 1 Indiana

1999: No. 1 San Antonio def. No. 8 New York

1998: No. 1 Chicago def. No. 1 Utah

1997: No. 1 Chicago def. No. 1 Utah

1996: No. 1 Chicago def. No. 1 Seattle

1995: No. 6 Houston def. No. 1 Orlando

1994: No. 2 Houston def. No. 2 New York

1993: No. 2 Chicago def. No. 1 Phoenix

1992: No. 1 Chicago def. No. 1 Portland

1991: No. 1 Chicago def. No. 3 LA Lakers

1990: No. 1 Detroit def. No. 2 Portland

1989: No. 1 Detroit def. No. 1 LA Lakers

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