The Real Culprit: The Houston Rockets

As Miami Heat fans turn on the team in a manner which would make Tolai tribesmen recoil with indigestion, let us not lose sight of the real culprits for the Heat’s first round demise. The Houston Rockets.

As a Miami Heat fan who was very sure of a Dwyane Wade vs. Lebron James 2nd round matchup, I wish I had not looked up the numbers with respect to how the 4th seed [Atlanta] typically does against the 5th seed [Miami] in the playoffs. First a little NBA history.

After a particularly close 2002 NBA Playoffs, one in which half of the eight first round serieses went to a deciding 5th game, the NBA expanded the playoffs so that the first round serieses also went to seven games the following year. Ironically, the 4/5 matchup that year was the only seeding matchup which did not go the full five games in either conference, although there were no upsets.

Since 2003, the 4th vs 5th seed matchup has seen only 4 of the 14 first round series [in the 7 years] be won by the 5th seed. I find the 5th seed’s 29% winning percentage surprisingly low, but perhaps it is a testament to how significant the home court advantage is. But here’s the real surprising part. The 5th seed has only defeated the 4th seed in odd number playoff years, and only one of the 5th seeds get to do it in that year.

Here are the Fab Fifth Seeds who have triumphed:

  • 2009 Houston def Portland
  • 2007 Chicago def Miami
  • 2005 Washington def Chicago
  • 2003 LA [Lakers] def Minnesota

While it’s no consolation for us Heat fans, none of the 5th seed winners have made it past the next round, the Conference Semifinals.

Why Home Court Matters

There was an article from the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA reporter, Mike Baldwin which took a close look at the advantage higher seeds have.

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

Article referenced is copied in full at end of post.

Top seeds have advantage in NBA playoffs – NBA playoffs: No. 1 or 2 seed helps in getting to Finals

By Mike Baldwin, NBA reporter – 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.

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. The Celtics and Magic split their regular-season series. It could boil down to the tiebreaker — best conference record. Boston currently owns a slight edge.

The West has six contenders for the No. 2 seed.

San Antonio, shooting for its fourth title in seven years, has the inside track but plays six of its last 10 games on the road, although New Orleans (today) and Cleveland are the only two road games against playoff teams.

Houston has made a strong run without Tracy McGrady, but the Rockets face a challenging final eight games.

Denver has the easiest schedule in the West, but the Nuggets have been a .500 team in March.

New Orleans has been hot and cold and plays a brutal schedule down the stretch.

Utah might be the team best equipped to push the Lakers. But six tough road games could prevent the Jazz from moving into one of the top four slots.

A young Portland squad could use home-court advantage, but it’s doubtful the Trail Blazers can climb higher than fifth.

Dallas is trying to assure it gets in by holding off Phoenix.

The playoffs don’t start until mid-April. But if history holds true, the first two weeks in April could be important to which two teams are still playing in June.

Contact Mike –Email:

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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