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May 27, 2011
Finals
How This Year's Matchup Stacks Up

by Dan Feldman

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With 12-3 playoff records, the Heat and Mavericks are rolling into this year's Finals. Since the NBA playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984, they're tied for the 13th-best record entering the Finals.

The 1989 Lakers and 2001 Lakers both went 11-0. The 1989 Lakers swept the Trail Blazers, SuperSonics and Suns before the Pistons swept them in the Finals. The 2001 Lakers won the title in five over the 76ers after sweeping the Trail Blazers, Kings and Spurs.

Here's the win percentage of every conference champion entering the Finals since 1984. NBA champions are blue. Runner-ups are orange.

This year's Finals also feature the seventh-best combined playoff record of the teams entering the series.

The above chart might be a little misleading if you're looking for two teams entering the Finals on hot streaks, because one team with an elite record could pull up a so-so team. So, if you judged each Finals by the team with the worse record entering them, 2011 would rank second. In 1989, the Pistons swept the Celtics and Bucks and beat the Bulls in six before sweeping the aforementioned and previously unbeaten Lakers.

Here's the win percentage of the conference champion with the worse record entering the Finals since 1984. (If both conference champions in a given year had the same record, like this year, only one appears on the chart.) NBA champions are blue. Runner-ups are orange.

Pythagorean wins

If you prefer Pythagorean wins to actual wins, the Heat and Mavericks, who've both won several close games, don't stack up quite as well.

Since the NBA expanded the first round to a best-of-seven series in 2003, Dallas ranks second behind the who-would've-guessed 2003 Nets, who were 12-2 entering the Finals. Miami ranks 11th.

In terms of combined Pythagorean win percentage, this year's Finals ranks third since 2003.

Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.

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