As basketball fans and media members, we love to find patterns to make ourselves feel better about players and teams that we enjoy watching. It doesn’t matter what year it is; we all have biases in the basketball world. Whether it’s to prove a point you made throughout the season or just because you’re a super fan, you’ll hunt down every last iota of statistical information you can to make sure that you were right! It’s a bit annoying and heck, I’m usually one of those people scouring advanced stats for that kind of info.
The new narrative rolling around NBA Twitter, besides an incredibly loud MVP race conversation, is this idea of finishing a season “strong.” Apparently, to win the NBA title, you simply HAVE to close out a season in style. It’s never made sense to me either, so I decided to actually look and see if this is true.
Do you need to finish a season hot to win the NBA title? I’m keeping this strictly top-line, no pick-me advanced stats to fit a niche argument, no incredible deep dives into injuries, we’re keeping this in the win-loss column since apparently, that’s all that matters. All the records we’ll be looking at today are over the final 23 games or so from the All-Star break to the end of the season. Obviously, due to COVID and its effects on the schedule, we’ll have to be a bit flexible as we progress, but I think we all understand the context.
2018 Warriors: 14-10
2018 Cavaliers: 16-7
Let’s start with the last edition of the LeBron vs. Steph rivalry. The 2017-2018 Warriors were looked at as one of the best rosters ever assembled. Hell, their preseason championship odds were -187, an objectively hilarious thing to look at! They finished the season 14-10 and considering they finished the season 58-24, those 10 losses were a pretty massive chunk of their total season losses. They actually ended up finishing 2nd in the West despite having the best offense in the NBA averaging 113.5 PPG. (Side note, incredible that one of the best rosters ever averaged 113.5 PPG just 5 years ago and now the 2023 Celtics average 117.5 PPG and that is good for 4th! Basketball is fun.) The Dubs actually closed the season losing 3 of 4. I promised no DEEP dives on injuries, but yes, Steph Curry was injured to close the season. Good thing the Warriors still had…
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