But the NBA playoffs are still a best-of-seven series. A team has to win four of those series to be crowned NBA champion. That format means the best teams usually come out on top.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the past 10 years of NBA playoffs (2010 to 2019).
In the first round, the team that had a better record during the regular season won the opening series more than 77 percent of the time. During those same 10 years, the teams that made it to the NBA Finals finished either first or second place in their conference 85 percent of the time.
The truth is there are very few surprise winners, or “Cinderella teams,” in the NBA playoffs. A team may win a game or two against a stronger team. But winning four games is tough. And winning several best-of-seven series is super tough.
This history means that even during this crazy coronavirus year, chances are the teams that make it to the NBA Finals will be among the top two teams in the Eastern and Western conferences. That is the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in the East and the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the West.
The Bucks had the best regular season record at 56-17 (56 wins and 17 losses) and were the highest-scoring team in the NBA (118.7 points per game). One reason the Bucks are so good is Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 6-foot-11-inch power forward is almost unstoppable around the hoop.
The Raptors (53-19) are the defending NBA champs and seem to be on a mission to prove they can win it all without superstar Kawhi Leonard, who left Toronto for the Los Angeles Clippers after the 2019 championship.
The Lakers (52-19) have LeBron James, and that means they have to be a threat to make it to the finals. James has appeared in nine NBA Finals during his 17-year career and won three titles.
The Clippers (49-23) look like the most likely of these four teams to be upset. Still, the team has star forwards Paul George and Leonard, so don’t count them out.
This year has been different, but don’t expect the NBA playoffs to be that different.