Utah Jazz And The History Of The Top Seed
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz find themselves in unfamiliar territory, owning the top seed outright entering the NBA playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The top seed guarantees the Jazz will open each playoff series in Utah, something they’ve done only twice since 2001, regardless of how deep they make it into the playoffs.
But while the Jazz are guaranteed home-court advantage throughout the postseason, history says little else is a lock for the league’s top team. This is a look back at how top seeds have fared each season since the Jazz last owned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
History Of The Number One Seed
1998: Top Seed – Jazz – Champion: Bulls
The Jazz last knew they’d open every playoff series at home in 1998 when they tied the 62-20 Chicago Bulls for the best record in the NBA. The Jazz swept Chicago during the regular season, leading to home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
While the Jazz opened the playoffs losing just three games in the first three rounds, they lost to the Bulls in the Finals in six games for the second consecutive season.
1999: Top Seed – Spurs – Champion: Spurs
In 1999, the San Antonio Spurs casually rode the top seed in the lockout-shortened season to the NBA Finals.
The Jazz and Spurs tied for the league’s top record at 37-13, but the Spurs owned the tie-breaker, and thus home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
San Antonio lost just two games in the playoffs in their dominant run to the championship.
2000: Top Seed – Lakers – Champion: Lakers
For the second straight season, the Los Angeles Lakers proved the value of having home-court advantage in the postseason.
LA went 67-15 in the regular season and beat the Indiana Pacers in six games to win the championship, after losing just two home games during their playoff run.
2001: Top Seed – Spurs – Champion: Lakers
Though the Spurs earned the top record in the NBA at 58-24, it didn’t do them much good in 2001.
The Spurs were swept by the eventual champion Lakers despite owning home-court advantage in the Western Conference Finals.
The Laker won the championship having lost just one playoff game during their postseason run.
2002: Top Seed – Kings – Champion: Lakers
Completing their three-peat, the Lakers dethroned the Sacramento Kings who earned the best record in the NBA winning 61 games.
However, the Kings were beaten by the Lakers in seven games in the Western Conference Finals before LA swept the New Jersey Nets in the Finals.
2003: Top Seed – Spurs – Champion: Spurs
The Spurs got back to their championship ways after earning the best record in the NBA with 60 wins.
San Antonio eventually beat the Nets for their second championship but went just 8-4 at home in their Finals run.
2004: Top Seed -Pacers – Champion: Pistons
The Pacers topped the NBA regular season with a record of 61-21 but were eliminated from the playoffs by the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Pistons won the championship starting each of their final two playoff series on the road.
2005: Top Seed – Suns – Champion: Spurs
The Phoenix Suns earned the top record in the league in 2005, winning a total of 62 games with Steven Nash at the helm.
However, Phoenix was thoroughly handled by the eventual champion Spurs in the Western Conference Finals losing four games to one.
2006: Top Seed – Pistons – Champion: Heat
The Pistons cruised to the top record in the NBA winning 64 and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
However, the Miami Heat eliminated Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games, ending their championship hopes.
2007: Top Seed – Mavericks – Champion: Spurs
The Dallas Mavericks won the best record in the league with an impressive 67 victories, but it wasn’t enough to earn a title.
The Mavericks were shocked in the opening round of the playoffs, losing to the Golden State Warriors in just six games.
2008: Top Seed – Celtics – Champion: Celtics
For the first time in five seasons, the Boston Celtics carried home-court advantage throughout the playoffs to a championship.
The Celtics lost just one home game in their run to the Finals.
2009: Top Seed – Cavaliers – Champion: Lakers
The Cleveland Cavaliers earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs by winning 66 regular-season games, however, it wasn’t enough.
The Cavs were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Orlando Magic, who eventually lost to the Lakers in the Finals.
2010: Top Seed – Cavaliers – Champion: Lakers
For the second straight season, the Cavaliers earned the top seed in the playoffs, only to fall short of the Finals.
The Cavaliers were eliminated by the Celtics in six games in the Conference Semi-Finals who lost to the Lakers two rounds later.
2011: Top Seed – Bulls – Champion: Mavericks
The Chicago Bulls earned home-court advantage throughout the postseason but it wasn’t enough to win the East.
The Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals in five games, who went on to lose to the Dallas Mavericks in the championship round.
2012: Top Seed – Bulls – Champion: Heat
Once again, the Bulls earned the best record in the lockout-shortened season, winning 50 games and home-court advantage in the playoffs.
However, the Bulls were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
2013: Top Seed – Heat – Champion: Heat
The Heat rode a 66 win regular season to a championship, becoming the first team in five seasons to win the league’s best record to a Finals win.
Miami beat the Spurs in seven games to win the title.
2014: Top Seed – Spurs – Champion: Spurs
The Spurs followed the Heat’s lead, earning the best record in the NBA with 62 wins, en route a championship run.
San Antonio lost just two home games in the playoffs in their run to the title.
2015: Top Seed – Warriors – Champion: Warriors
For the third straight season, the team with the best record in the NBA, the Warriors, won the championship.
Golden State beat the Cavaliers in six games, losing just two home games along the way.
2016: Top Seed – Warriors – Champion: Cavaliers
The Warriors broke the three-season streak of the league’s top seed winning the title.
Despite winning a historic 73 games, the Warriors were beaten in the Finals by the Cavaliers in seven games.
2017: Top Seed – Warriors – Champion: Warriors
After falling in 2016, the Warriors righted the ship and won the championship after earning the league’s top seed.
Golden State lost just one game in the postseason en route to their title.
2018: Top Seed – Rockets – Champion: Warriors
Though the Warriors didn’t earn the top seed, they did continue their championship run.
The Houston Rockets won the top seed but were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by the eventual champs.
2019: Top Seed – Bucks – Champion: Raptors
The Milwaukee Bucks earned the top seed in 2019, but couldn’t carry it to a championship run.
The Bucks were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in six games.
2020: Top Seed – Bucks – Champion: Lakers
The Bucks run to the top seed once again came up fruitless last season.
Milwaukee won a league-best 56 games but lost in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to the Miami Heat.
What Should Jazz Expect With The Top Seed?
With 23 years of data since the Jazz last earned the top seed in the NBA, what should the team expect?
First, eight of those 23 teams that entered the playoffs with home-court advantage throughout the playoffs went on to win the title. that just under 35 percent of the teams.
Surprisingly, only two of the 15 teams that did not win the title made it as far as the Finals before being eliminated, bringing the total number of teams that made it to the championship round to 10.
Of the 13 remaining teams that fell short of a Finals run, nine made it to the Conference Finals before their playoff run ended.
Of the four that failed to reach the Conference Finals, two teams made the Conference Semi-Finals, and two were eliminated in the opening round.
How Did The Top Record Fare?
Won The Title: 8 out of 23 – 34.7 percent
Lost In The Finals: 2 out of 23 – 8.6 percent
Lost In The Conference Finals: 9 our of 23 – 39.1 percent
Lost In The Conference Semi-Finals: 2 out of 23 – 8.6 percent
Lost The First Round: 2 out of 23: 8.6 percent
By the numbers, the Jazz are just as likely to lose in the first round of the playoffs, as the Dallas Mavericks did in 2007 and the Chicago Bulls did in 2012, as they are to lose in the Finals, as they did themselves in their trip to the 1998 Finals, and the Warriors did in 2016.
However, an overwhelming 82.6 percent of teams who earned the top record in the NBA entering the playoffs made it at least as far as the Conference Finals, with 52.6 percent of those teams advancing to the Finals.
Though earning the top seed entering the playoffs doesn’t guarantee the Jazz a championship, it bodes well for a deep run in the postseason.
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