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Top seeds have advantage in NBA playoffs

By Mike Baldwin Published: March 29, 2009
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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.

Orlando’s win over Boston last week was huge.


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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