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Henry Liao

NBA Playoffs: Is Perfection Possible?

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Since it opened shop in 1946-47 under the Basketball Association of America, the National Basketball Association (which became as such in 1949-50) has yet to witness perfection in the playoffs where one team breezes through one postseason without a single loss.
Chances are it will never ever happen.

To register a perfect record in the playoffs, a team must go 16 and 0.

That?s a four-game sweep in each of the four best-of-seven series. Since 2003, every series throughout the postseason has been a race-to-four-wins duel.

The closest to NBA playoff perfection came in 2001. That year, the Los Angeles Lakers, who were powered by the Batman-and-Robin tandem of Shaquille O?Neal and recently-retired Kobe Bryant, compiled a 15-1 record in securing the second of their three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002.

Through the first three rounds of the 2001 playoffs, the fabulous Lakers squad won 11 straight games against the Portland Trail Blazers (3-0 ? the first round was still a best-of-five affair at the time), Sacramento Kings (4-0) and San Antonio Spurs (4-0).

However, El-Ay subsequently lost in its 12th assignment, which was the opener of the NBA Finals against then-NBA regular-season Most Valuable Player Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. The gallant troops of Lakers bench boss Phil Jackson, who is the winningest head coach in league annals with 11 rings and is currently the New York Knicks president, dropped a 107-101 overtime decision to the 76ers in Game One of the Finals at the Staples Center.

Thereafter, the Lakers racked up four consecutive victories, including the last three on the 76ers? home floor, to secure the title series in five games.

Note that O?Neal and Iverson were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts last September. And Tyronn Lue, now the Cleveland head coach who owns a third championship ring as an NBA rookie coach with the Cavaliers a year ago, was a pesky guard with the Lakers' 2000 and 2001 title units.

Another instance of near-perfection was the astonishing playoff run of the now-deceased Moses Malone, Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983.

That year, the Sixers won their first seven outings before winding up with a 12-1 record, including a 4-0 spanking of the LA Lakers in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

Along the way, Philly whipped New York, 4-0, and Milwaukee, 4-1, to march into the Finals against the then-reigning NBA titlist Lakers.
Unlike now, the division winners at the time ? including Philadelphia (Atlanta Division) ? received best-of-three first-round byes.

Moreover, starting this season, the division winners do not automatically gain a playoff ticket unless they rank among the top eight teams (in terms of win-loss records) in their respective conferences. A division race is only important in cases where the winner owns an identical record with a team from the same or another division within their conference. In that instance, the division leader will have the advantage over the others in the playoff seedings.

(Such a thing happened in the ongoing NBA playoffs where Miami, the Southeast Division champion, was seeded higher (No. 3) than division rivals Atlanta (No. 4) and Charlotte (No. 6) and Atlantic Division second-placer Boston (No. 5) even though all four teams owned identical 48-34 ledgers.)

Outside of the 2001 Lakers and 1983 76ers, no other club in NBA history has gone through one playoff campaign without tasting at least two losses.
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