Go figure: Stat titles rarely lead to NBA titles
Apr. 18, 2015
It's already known that Oklahoma City won't win the NBA title, since the Thunder didn't make the playoffs.
And now it doesn't look good for the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans, either.
Reason? They have players who won stat titles this season.
Odd as it seems, excelling in the regular season doesn't guarantee anything in the postseason — a weird fact as the NBA gets set to open its playoffs on Saturday.
The last player to win an NBA championship in the same season that he took home one of the league's top stat crowns — points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocks per game — was Shaquille O'Neal, when he won the scoring race in 2000 and the Lakers won that season's Finals.
No rebounding champion has been on the title team since Dennis Rodman in 1998, no assist king since Magic Johnson in 1987, no steals leader since Michael Jordan in 1993 and no top blocker since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1980.
So now, this year's stat-race winners — DeAndre Jordan (rebounds) and Chris Paul (assists) from the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard (steals) from the Spurs and Anthony Davis (blocks) from the Pelicans — get a chance to buck that relatively odd trend.
Only four players in NBA history have 5,000 career playoff points — Michael Jordan (5,987), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762), Kobe Bryant (5,640) and Shaquille O'Neal (5,250).
The club could grow this season.
San Antonio's Tim Duncan (who became the league's all-time leader in postseason minutes during last year's NBA Finals) needs just 12 points to get to 5,000 for his postseason career.
And if Cleveland goes deep as many suspect, LeBron James could hit the milestone as well. James is 581 points away from the mark, and he averaged 584.5 over his last four postseasons — all Finals runs — with the Miami Heat.
The saying is that scoring slows down in the playoffs, and there's a certain amount of truth to that.
The times might be changing a little.
Last season's playoff games resulted in an average of 199.1 combined points, the most in the league since teams combined to score 206.5 per game in the 1992 playoffs.
In fact, last year the dip in scoring from the regular season to the playoffs was nominal. Regular-season games last season resulted in 202 combined points per game, just 2.9 more than the postseason pace.
This regular season saw teams combine for 200 points per contest.
BEWARE THE 5 SEEDS
Good news, Memphis and Washington.
Since the NBA went to the 16-team playoff format, No. 5 seeds fare better than No. 4 seeds.
In first-round matchups, No. 5 seeds have advanced 33 times, compared with 29 wins in those series by No. 4 seeds.
Upsets do happen in other series, though nowhere near as frequently. No. 1 seeds are 57-5 in the 16-team format against No. 8's. No. 2 seeds are also 57-5 against No. 7 teams, and No. 3 seeds are 45-17 against No. 6's.
The league went to the 16-team format before the start of the 1984 playoffs.
GAME 1 WINNERS
It doesn't take a genius to realize winning Game 1 is optimal for best-of-seven success: Teams ultimately prevail 77 percent of the time in a series after taking the opener.
But odds are, someone will lose a Game 1 in this first round and advance anyway.
Not since 2004 have all eight Game 1, Round 1 winners advanced to the conference semifinals. Since the 2005 playoffs, 21 Game 1 losers have recovered and won their first-round series.
Saturday, all Game 1s
Washington at Toronto; New Orleans at Golden State; Milwaukee at Chicago; Dallas at Houston.
Sunday, all Game 1s
Boston at Cleveland; Brooklyn at Atlanta; Portland at Memphis; San Antonio at Los Angeles Clippers.