The NBA Finals
The NBA Finals is the big dance of the NBA 82 games season where the winner of the Eastern and Western Conferences do battle in a best-of-seven series to decide the winner of the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Finals contender with the better regular season record gets home-court advantage, which gives them the advantage of having first two games of the series on home court, and the last game (Game 7) if necessary.
The NBA Finals is usually scheduled to begin in early June and continues through the month, with players having one or two days rest between each of the seven games. The player voted best in the series is awarded the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award, voted for by members of the media and NBA industry.
NBA Finals History
Prior to the 1949-50 season, the Finals was named the BAA (Basketball Association of America) Finals, before being re-named following the merger between the a (BAA) and the National Basketball League (NBL), creating the modern NBA format. The competition saw further name changes to NBA World Championship Series from 1950 to 1982, as well as a stint as the ‘Showdown’, before settling on the current NBA Finals in 1986.
The NBA Finals was originally set to a 2–3–2 series format until 2013, where the first two and last two games of the series were played at the home court of the team who earned the better record during the regular season. This was then changed, as teams with the home-court advantage went on ta a 21–8 record in Finals appearances during this time.
The Finals is now structured under a 2–2–1–1–1 format, with the first two games being played on the home court of the higher-seeded team, and the next two games at the home court of the lower-seeded team. The following three games are played on a rotating home court advantage until the series ends.
A total of 19 teams have won the NBA Finals, with the Celtics holding the record , being crowned the Champions 17 times, including eight times from 1959 to 1966. The Los Angeles Lakers are next in line with 16 Championships. The Eastern Conference has provided the most NBA Champions, with 38 wins from ten teams, while the Western Conference have 32, from nine teams.
Jordan wins in 1998 with “The Last Shot”
10 Interesting NBA Finals Facts in recent years
- While the NBA MVP can come from either team, the last person to win the award from a losing side was Jerry West in 1969, when the heavy favourite Lakers lost to the Celtics over seven games, with West scoring 38 ppg.
- In 2015, LeBron James led both teams in points, rebounds and assists and still didn’t win the MVP Award as his undermanned Caviliers lost the series in six games to the Golden State Warriors.
- The Chicago Bulls have appeared in six NBA Finals series, all in the 1990’s. They won all six titles led by the player generally accepted as the greatest player in NBA history, Michael Jordan.
- The Utah Jazz have reached the NBA Finals just twice, losing in 1997 and 1998 to the Chicago Bulls.
- Michael Jordan won the MVP in all six title wins (91,92,93 & 96, 97, 98) and has twice as many awards as the next group of players on the list. Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James have won the award three times each.
- Lebron James has made the Finals in the last seven seasons straight and eight times in total, however has only taken home the trophy on three of those occasions.
- In Game 5 of the 2016-17 Finals, a Finals deciding loss against the Warriors, Lebron became the first player in NBA Finals history to average a triple double (33.6 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 10.0 aspg).
- In season 2016-17, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers became the first teams in history to meet in three straight NBA Finals. Golden State won, giving them a 2-1 edge in NBA Finals matchups (we all remember the Warrior’s collapse from 3-1 up in 2015/16)
- The San Antonio Spurs were the last side to sweep the Finals, completing this task against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007 (cue Lebron taking his talents to South Beach soon after).
- In 1999 the New York Knicks made the Finals after sneaking into the playoffs from eighth (and last spot) in the Eastern Conference. They defeated the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round, and then swept the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers before losing to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs.
NBA Finals Betting
There are a number of NBA Finals betting markets available, with the most common being a simple head to head bet for each game. With the possibility of a series going four, five, six or seven games you are able to bet on the winning side and the number of games.
Perhaps the most popular series bet for the casual punter is the winner of the NBA Finals MVP Award. Given it has been 48-years since a player of the losing side won, you can practically halve this field (if you’re confident of a series winner), enables a smart punter to find where the value is, easier. The NBA Championship market is open from the moment the previous season finishes; the Golden State Warriors are odds-on favourites to repeat as champions in 2017/18.
Past 5 NBA Finals Champions
2016/2017 – Golden State Warriors defeated Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1: Golden State won their second title in three years against the Cavaliers. In the 1016 off-season a “super team” was created with the acquisition of Kevin Durant from the OKC Thunder, arguably the second best player in the league. Now having created the most talented team in NBA history, the Warriors lost only once in the playoffs. In that one losing game, Game 4, the Cavaliers had to break the all-time NBA record for most points in a quarter and a half. The message was clear – a team must play flawless basketball to beat the Warriors, and even Lebron couldn’t keep pace.
2016 – Cleveland Cavaliers defeated Golden State Warriors 4-3: Cleveland became the first team in NBA Finals history to win the championship from a 3-1 deficit, winning Game 7 on the road in the hostile Oracle Arena. The Cavaliers needed to produce perfect basketball in the final three games of the series, and they did, behind brilliant offensive performances from Kyrie Irving and Lebron James. James tallied a triple-double in Game 7, with Irving hitting the go ahead three pointer with less than a minute left. This was Cleveland’s first ever NBA title, breaking a 52 year title drought across all professional sports for the city of Cleveland.
2015 – Golden State Warriors defeated Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2: Golden State broke a 40-year title drought as they won a tough, tight series and sealed the title in Game 6 on Cleveland’s home court. The series didn’t start well for the Cavs, losing Kevin Love earlier in the playoffs and Kyrie Irving in Game 1 of this series, but Golden State had too much of a handful offensively through NBA MVP Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. The first two games of the series went to overtime, the first time ever this had happened in Finals history.
2014 – San Antonio Spurs defeated Miami Heat 4-1: San Antonio dominated this series, setting the all-time record for points differential (also called +/-, the average points difference between two sides), winning all four games by 15+ points. The Spurs depth and structure proved to be the difference, including five players’ average double-figures in scoring and another just falling short. The Heat were heavily reliant on Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Kahwi Leonard negated James and dominated the series defensively on his way to the NBA Finals MVP.
2013 – Miami Heat defeated San Antonio Spurs 4-3: this series was San Antonio’s first ever defeat in the NBA Finals, having won their previous four Finals series. The Heat fell behind 3-2 and were trailing late in Game 6 before Ray Allen made a clutch three-pointer to send the game to overtime, after which time the Heat broke away. Game 7 was a close affair but LeBon was the difference, scoring 37 points and pulling down 12 rebounds to curtail outstanding performances by Leonard and Duncan.
Past 5 NBA Finals MVPs
2017 – Kevin Durant (Golden State) – Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steals per game while shooting almost 56% from the field.
2016 – LeBron James (Cleveland) – James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks while averaging 42 minutes per game.
2015 – Andre Iguodala (Golden State) – Iguodala averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. His statistics were not outstanding and the basis for his award was said to be his defence on James, which was unusual given James’ statistical domination of the series.
2014 – Kahwi Leonard (San Antonio) – Leonard averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks, playing strong defence and shooting 61% from the field.
2013 – LeBron James (Miami) – James averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Most NBA Championships
The Boston Celtics have won 17 titles from 21 NBA Finals appearances, one championship ahead of the Los Angeles/Minneapolis Lakers who have won 16 titles from 31 attempts. The Lakers and Celtics dominated the 1980’s, winning eight titles between them during the decade and facing each in five Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers (formerly the Minneapolis Lakers) have won 31 ABA/NBA Championships. The Bulls have won the third most titles with six, all during the 90’s Jordan era, while Sn Antonio have won five rings from six appearances. Seven current NBA franchises have yet to make the Finals, including – the Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies.