The value of the first seed – just how important it is to finish the regular season on top of your conference? Two apparent benefits emanate from it: easier schedule and home-court advantage. But does it automatically portray success? Looking back on the last 20 years, it sure doesn’t.
Over the last two decades, only three times did the two number one seeds meet in the Finals. Such information makes you wonder – is locking the first seed worth chasing? Well, let’s check out three instances where it was. Let’s see when having a home-court advantage and facing an easier schedule did play a part.
’00 Lakers vs. Pacers
Let me take you back to the ’00 season when we’ve witnessed two number one seeds clashing in the Finals. Led by the league’s MVP in Shaq, the Los Angeles Lakers finished the season with a 67-15 record, topping the Western Conference. On the opposite coast, the Indiana Pacers piled up 56 wins – enough for the first seed in the East.
Two no.1 seeds met in the Finals, with the Lakers coming out on top after a tough six-game series. Shaq was also your NBA Finals MVP, as he put up a historic 38 points and 16.7 rebounds Finals performance. He was simply an equation the Pacers had no answer to.
’08 Celtics vs. Lakers
The second time the two first seeds met in the Finals was in ’08 – the continuation of an iconic Boston-LA rivalry. The Celtics finished the regular season with the record of 66-16, securing the home-court advantage in a potential cross-conference matchup. The Lakers also ended the season on top of their conference, accumulating 57 over their 07-08 campaign. Oh, and the MVP trophy once again went to a guy wearing purple and gold, only this time, it was Kobe Bryant.
But Kobe’s efforts weren’t enough when it was time to face Boston as the ultimate hurdle. The Celtics ended up lifting the Larry O’Brien, after their 38-point blow out in game 6 in the Garden. Paul Pierce was the Finals MVP, as the C’s became champs for the 17th time in franchise history.
’16 Cavaliers vs. Warriors
The last time two no.1 seeds met in the Finals was in the 15-16 NBA season. What is now known as the year of a historic comeback, is also the last time getting the home-court advantage actually mattered for both sides. The Cavs ran through the East, winning 57 out of 82 regular-season games. Now they had a good run, but the Warriors had a historic one of their own. They had a record-breaking 73-win season, beating the Bulls‘ 72-win season in ’96.
You all know how the rest of the story goes – both teams ran through their conferences and had one of the most epic 7-game Finals series in NBA’s history. Cleveland became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in NBA Finals, as LeBron James took home his third Finals MVP award after leading both teams in all five major statistical categories.