NBA Playoffs: The Round 1 Winners Least Likely To Go All The Way

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Photo Courtesy of RMTip21, licensed through Flickr via Creative Commons

Source: RMTip21, licensed through Flickr via Creative Commons

A quick history lesson — in 2003, the NBA toyed with the first round of the playoffs, extending all the series from a best of five to a best of seven. Since then, there have been a whole host of Game Sevens played in the first round (although this year marked a high point), and there are some interesting things to be drawn from the shift. For example, only one team since the switch that’s been pushed to seven games, the 2008 Boston Celtics, has gone on to win the championship. You can check out a neat little visualization of that here, courtesy of the always-awesome Dubly.com, home to sports visualizer Andy Bergmann.

In case you’re allergic to hyperlinks, here’s how it breaks down: The Celtics won their first round matchup, against the Atlanta Hawks, 4-3. Four other champions, the ’03 Spurs, the ’06 Heat, the ’10 Lakers, and the ’11 Mavericks, have gone to Game Six in the first round, while the 2012 Miami Heat, who swept the Milwaukee Bucks, are the only championship team to close their first round without a loss — all the other championship teams won in five games. Is that it? Of course not!

According to Nate Silver of the ESPN-backed FiveThirtyEight, “teams that swept their first-round series won their second-round series 76 percent of the time. Teams that needed five games to beat their first-round opponent won the next series 60 percent of the time. But those teams that needed six games to win the first round won the second round only 34 percent of the time, and those that took the full seven games did just 36 percent of the time.”

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