Implications of the 2016 NBA Playoffs

The 2016 NBA playoffs will be of major interest to sports fans and statisticians for quite some time. Besides being Lebron James’s sixth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, it signaled the end of the so-called “Cleveland Curse”. But there were several other notable occurrences that also are worth mentioning.

Two 3-1 Deficits Overcome

Prior to this year only nine teams in the 70 year history of the NBA had come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. That translates to roughly once every eight years. In 2016, it happened twice: The Warriors rallied back to defeat the Thunder, and the Cavaliers did it to claim the championship. Perhaps this will cause some coaches to rethink how they approach these deficits, now that we’ve seen the this happen twice in two consecutive rounds.

Playoff Blowouts

In professional basketball, over half of the league qualifies for the postseason. By comparison, 37% qualify in the NFL, a third qualify in the MLB, and only the top quarter of teams make NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. But even though the NBA has a wider range of skill, playoff blowouts have historically been a rarity. But this year was different. The 2016 NBA postseason saw 10 games where the final score was decided by a 30-point margin (a 100% increase from last year), and 24 that were decided by over 20 points (also a 100% increase). SB Nation has provided some great analysis and theories as to why we’re seeing so many blowouts, like the role of homecourt advantage and an increasing reliance on the jump shot.

Back to back 40 Point Games

Lebron James added to his own legacy during the Finals by scoring over 40 points in two consecutive games. In doing so he became just the third player in the past 30 years to accomplish this feat, joining the ranks of Shaquille O’Neal (2000) and Michael Jordan in (1993).  Rick Barry (1967) and Jerry West (1965, 1969) are the only other two players to do it, too.

In the first of his 40-point performances (Game 5, at Golden State), James and Kyrie Irving scored 41 points each, marking the first time two teammates ever scored over 40 points in a Finals game. Their combined effort accounted for 82 of the Cavaliers’ 112 points.