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Best Records vs. Top-4 Seeds, 1984-2010

Posted by Neil Paine on December 17, 2010

This is sort of a random data dump/trivia post, but this old Doug Drinen post about NFL teams' records vs. fellow playoff participants inspired me to run a similar query for NBA top-4 seeds' records against other top-4 seeds (in either conference). Since the NBA expanded to 16 playoff teams in 1984, here are the top-4 seeds with the best records vs. their fellow top-4 seeds:

Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1986 BOS E 1 67 15 21 4 0.840
1996 CHI E 1 72 10 19 5 0.792
2000 LAL W 1 67 15 19 7 0.731
2002 LAL W 2 58 24 16 6 0.727
1992 CHI E 1 67 15 15 6 0.714
1999 SAS W 1 37 13 10 4 0.714
1999 UTA W 1 37 13 10 4 0.714
1984 LAL W 1 54 28 17 7 0.708
2001 MIL E 2 52 30 14 6 0.700
2004 MIN W 1 58 24 14 6 0.700
2006 DET E 1 64 18 14 6 0.700
2005 SAS W 2 59 23 13 6 0.684
2007 DAL W 1 67 15 13 6 0.684
2008 DET E 2 59 23 13 6 0.684
2009 ORL E 3 59 23 13 6 0.684
1988 LAL W 1 62 20 16 8 0.667
1989 DET E 1 63 19 16 8 0.667
1993 NYK E 1 60 22 14 7 0.667
1999 MIA E 1 33 17 8 4 0.667
1985 LAL W 1 62 20 15 8 0.652
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1986 LAL W 1 62 20 15 8 0.652
1997 UTA W 1 64 18 13 7 0.650
2003 SAS W 1 60 22 13 7 0.650
2003 SAC W 3 59 23 13 7 0.650
2004 IND E 1 61 21 12 7 0.632
2007 UTA W 4 51 31 12 7 0.632
2009 CLE E 1 66 16 12 7 0.632
2009 LAL W 1 65 17 12 7 0.632
1987 LAL W 1 65 17 15 9 0.625
1998 LAL W 2 61 21 15 9 0.625
1998 SEA W 2 61 21 15 9 0.625
1990 POR W 3 59 23 13 8 0.619
1994 SEA W 1 63 19 13 8 0.619
1995 PHO W 2 59 23 13 8 0.619
1984 BOS E 1 62 20 16 10 0.615
1984 PHI E 3 52 30 16 10 0.615
2000 POR W 3 59 23 16 10 0.615
2008 BOS E 1 66 16 11 7 0.611
1985 MIL E 2 59 23 15 10 0.600
1989 NYK E 2 52 30 12 8 0.600
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1991 SAS W 2 55 27 12 8 0.600
1997 CHI E 1 69 13 12 8 0.600
2003 DAL W 1 60 22 12 8 0.600
2004 SAC W 4 55 27 12 8 0.600
2006 SAS W 1 63 19 12 8 0.600
2006 DAL W 4 60 22 12 8 0.600
2008 NOH W 2 56 26 12 8 0.600
1993 SEA W 2 55 27 13 9 0.591
1996 SAS W 2 59 23 13 9 0.591
2001 PHI E 1 56 26 13 9 0.591
2002 SAC W 1 61 21 13 9 0.591
2002 DAL W 4 57 25 13 9 0.591
2010 CLE E 1 61 21 13 9 0.591
2010 ORL E 2 59 23 13 9 0.591
2005 PHO W 1 62 20 10 7 0.588
1998 UTA W 1 62 20 14 10 0.583
2005 DET E 2 54 28 11 8 0.579
2005 DAL W 4 58 24 11 8 0.579
2007 PHO W 2 61 21 11 8 0.579
1985 PHI E 3 58 24 15 11 0.577
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1987 ATL E 2 57 25 15 11 0.577
2000 IND E 1 56 26 15 11 0.577
2000 SAS W 4 53 29 15 11 0.577
1995 UTA W 3 60 22 12 9 0.571
1998 CHI E 1 62 20 12 9 0.571
2010 DEN W 4 53 29 13 10 0.565
1985 BOS E 1 63 19 14 11 0.560
1986 DEN W 3 47 35 14 11 0.560
1987 BOS E 1 59 23 14 11 0.560
1997 HOU W 2 57 25 11 9 0.550
1997 NYK E 3 57 25 11 9 0.550
2004 LAL W 2 56 26 11 9 0.550
2004 SAS W 3 57 25 11 9 0.550
2006 NJN E 3 49 33 11 9 0.550
2009 BOS E 2 62 20 11 9 0.550
1991 POR W 1 63 19 12 10 0.545
1991 LAL W 3 58 24 12 10 0.545
1996 SEA W 1 64 18 12 10 0.545
1998 CHH E 4 51 31 12 10 0.545
2001 NYK E 4 48 34 12 10 0.545
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
2002 SAS W 2 58 24 12 10 0.545
2010 ATL E 3 53 29 12 10 0.545
1988 DEN W 2 54 28 13 11 0.542
1998 PHO W 4 56 26 13 11 0.542
2001 SAS W 1 58 24 13 11 0.542
2001 LAL W 2 56 26 13 11 0.542
1988 BOS E 1 57 25 14 12 0.538
1988 DET E 2 54 28 14 12 0.538
2000 MIA E 2 52 30 14 12 0.538
2000 UTA W 2 55 27 14 12 0.538
2007 SAS W 3 58 24 10 9 0.526
1990 DET E 1 59 23 11 10 0.524
1990 LAL W 1 63 19 11 10 0.524
1990 PHI E 2 53 29 11 10 0.524
1990 UTA W 4 55 27 11 10 0.524
1992 BOS E 2 51 31 11 10 0.524
1993 CHI E 2 57 25 11 10 0.524
1994 ATL E 1 57 25 11 10 0.524
1994 NYK E 1 57 25 11 10 0.524
1994 HOU W 2 58 24 11 10 0.524
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1994 PHO W 3 56 26 11 10 0.524
1995 ORL E 1 57 25 11 10 0.524
1995 IND E 2 52 30 11 10 0.524
2010 DAL W 2 55 27 11 10 0.524
1996 ORL E 2 60 22 12 11 0.522
2002 BOS E 3 49 33 12 11 0.522
1984 DET E 4 49 33 13 12 0.520
1987 POR W 3 49 33 12 12 0.500
1988 POR W 3 53 29 12 12 0.500
1989 LAL W 1 57 25 12 12 0.500
1991 CHI E 1 61 21 11 11 0.500
1991 BOS E 2 56 26 10 10 0.500
1991 MIL E 4 48 34 11 11 0.500
1991 PHO W 4 55 27 11 11 0.500
1992 POR W 1 57 25 11 11 0.500
1992 UTA W 2 55 27 10 10 0.500
1992 PHO W 4 53 29 11 11 0.500
1993 PHO W 1 62 20 11 11 0.500
1999 ATL E 4 31 19 6 6 0.500
1999 LAL W 4 31 19 8 8 0.500
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
2000 NYK E 3 50 32 13 13 0.500
2002 NJN E 1 52 30 12 12 0.500
2006 PHO W 2 54 28 10 10 0.500
2007 DET E 1 53 29 9 9 0.500
2007 MIA E 4 44 38 9 9 0.500
2009 POR W 2 54 28 10 10 0.500
2010 LAL W 1 57 25 12 12 0.500
1989 PHO W 3 55 27 11 12 0.478
2010 PHO W 3 54 28 11 12 0.478
1990 SAS W 2 56 26 10 11 0.476
1992 CLE E 4 57 25 10 11 0.476
1994 CHI E 3 55 27 10 11 0.476
1995 SAS W 1 62 20 10 11 0.476
1995 CHH E 4 50 32 10 11 0.476
2008 ORL E 3 52 30 9 10 0.474
1985 DET E 4 46 36 12 14 0.462
1999 ORL E 1 33 17 6 7 0.462
1986 MIL E 2 57 25 11 13 0.458
1987 DAL W 2 55 27 11 13 0.458
1989 CLE E 3 57 25 11 13 0.458
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1989 ATL E 4 52 30 11 13 0.458
1996 IND E 3 52 30 11 13 0.458
2001 SAC W 3 55 27 11 13 0.458
2002 DET E 2 50 32 11 13 0.458
1992 GSW W 2 55 27 10 12 0.455
1993 POR W 4 51 31 10 12 0.455
1996 UTA W 3 55 27 10 12 0.455
1989 UTA W 2 51 31 9 11 0.450
1993 HOU W 2 55 27 9 11 0.450
1997 LAL W 4 56 26 9 11 0.450
2003 PHI E 3 48 34 9 11 0.450
2004 DET E 3 54 28 9 11 0.450
2006 CLE E 4 50 32 9 11 0.450
2008 LAL W 1 57 25 9 11 0.450
2008 PHO W 4 55 27 9 11 0.450
2005 MIA E 1 59 23 8 10 0.444
1985 DEN W 2 52 30 11 14 0.440
1985 HOU W 3 48 34 11 14 0.440
1986 HOU W 2 51 31 11 14 0.440
1986 ATL E 4 50 32 11 14 0.440
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1987 DET E 3 52 30 11 14 0.440
1988 CHI E 3 50 32 11 14 0.440
1990 BOS E 4 52 30 9 12 0.429
1993 CLE E 3 54 28 9 12 0.429
1994 SAS W 4 55 27 9 12 0.429
1995 SEA W 4 57 25 9 12 0.429
1987 MIL E 4 50 32 11 15 0.423
1997 MIA E 2 61 21 8 11 0.421
2003 DET E 1 50 32 8 11 0.421
2003 IND E 3 48 34 8 11 0.421
2005 SEA W 3 52 30 8 11 0.421
2009 DEN W 2 54 28 8 11 0.421
1984 UTA W 2 45 37 10 14 0.417
1984 DAL W 4 43 39 10 14 0.417
1987 UTA W 4 44 38 10 14 0.417
1988 DAL W 3 53 29 10 14 0.417
1996 NYK E 4 47 35 10 14 0.417
2001 DAL W 4 53 29 10 14 0.417
1997 SEA W 2 57 25 8 12 0.400
1999 POR W 3 35 15 6 9 0.400
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
2003 MIN W 4 51 31 8 12 0.400
2006 DEN W 3 44 38 8 12 0.400
2007 CLE E 2 50 32 8 12 0.400
2008 SAS W 2 56 26 8 12 0.400
1989 SEA W 4 47 35 9 14 0.391
2010 UTA W 4 53 29 9 14 0.391
2003 NJN E 2 49 33 7 11 0.389
1999 IND E 1 33 17 5 8 0.385
1990 CHI E 3 55 27 8 13 0.381
1993 BOS E 4 48 34 8 13 0.381
1994 ORL E 4 50 32 8 13 0.381
1995 NYK E 3 55 27 8 13 0.381
1998 SAS W 4 56 26 9 15 0.375
2001 UTA W 4 53 29 9 15 0.375
1997 ATL E 4 56 26 7 12 0.368
2005 BOS E 3 45 37 7 12 0.368
1996 LAL W 4 53 29 8 14 0.364
1998 IND E 3 58 24 8 14 0.364
2001 MIA E 3 50 32 8 14 0.364
1984 MIL E 2 50 32 9 16 0.360
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1988 ATL E 3 50 32 9 16 0.360
2005 CHI E 4 47 35 7 13 0.350
2008 CLE E 4 45 37 7 13 0.350
1996 CLE E 4 47 35 8 15 0.348
2000 CHH E 4 49 33 9 17 0.346
2000 PHO W 4 53 29 9 17 0.346
1984 POR W 3 48 34 8 16 0.333
1986 PHI E 3 54 28 8 16 0.333
1992 NYK E 2 51 31 7 14 0.333
2004 NJN E 2 47 35 7 14 0.333
2009 SAS W 2 54 28 6 12 0.333
1991 DET E 3 50 32 7 15 0.318
2010 BOS E 4 50 32 7 15 0.318
2002 CHH E 4 44 38 7 16 0.304
2002 ORL E 4 44 38 7 17 0.292
1985 DAL W 4 44 38 7 18 0.280
1986 DAL W 4 44 38 7 18 0.280
2009 ATL E 4 47 35 5 15 0.250
1998 MIA E 2 55 27 5 16 0.238
2000 PHI E 4 49 33 6 20 0.231
Year Team Conf Seed W L W_top4 L_top4 WPct_top4
1999 HOU W 4 31 19 3 12 0.200
2004 MIA E 4 42 40 4 16 0.200
2006 MIA E 2 52 30 4 16 0.200
2007 TOR E 3 47 35 3 15 0.167

I'm not sure what significance any of this has, though -- the correlation between WPct vs. top-4 seeds and playoff WPct was 0.40, while the correlation between WPct vs. non-top-4 seeds and playoff WPct was 0.42.

At best, I suppose it makes for an interesting bit of trivia.

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13 Responses to “Best Records vs. Top-4 Seeds, 1984-2010”

  1. Neil Paine Says:

    Check out the 2006 NBA champion Heat, tied for the 2nd-worst record since 1984 of any top-4 seed against fellow top-4 seeds. Also, the 2010 Celtics were 7-15 against top-4s.

  2. AHL Says:

    While there's some nice championship teams at the top, it was nice to see this list in contrast to your earlier Blowouts vs Bad Teams analysis.

  3. Anon x 2 Says:

    This includes games played in the playoffs versus those top 4 seeds, right?

    Would be interesting to see the same thing, only instead of W-L with PD.

    I think Miami played a bunch of top 4 seeds that year with Shaq hurt. Not sure, though. Boston simply went half throttle the 2nd part of the season last year.

  4. Ben Says:

    Good stuff, but I think you buried the lead. The correlation data is pretty interesting.

  5. Chuck Says:

    Look at that cluster of teams in the early '90s that went .500. Four in 1991, including the first Bulls championship team, and three in 1992. And interesting to note that the Suns had the same record vs. Top 4 teams in 1992, pre-Barkley trade, as they did in 1993, after they got Sir Charles.

  6. Neil Paine Says:

    Re: #3 - Actually, this doesn't include playoff games vs. the top-4 seeds; it's regular-season only.

  7. Sean Says:

    Wow. That 1986 Celtics crew continues to impress.

  8. Knick with the Knack Says:

    More evidence for my longstanding belief that the '93 Knicks were the best team in the league. @#$%^%$#& Charles Smith bull#&@! non-call....

  9. Greyberger Says:

    Is sonicscentral.com/apebears down?

  10. Neil Paine Says:

    You mean APBRmetrics? Yes, it looks like they're having a problem. Not sure if Kevin Pelton still runs the show there, but he used to be the guy to get in touch with when it went down.

    ("Apebears"? Classic. :)

  11. Jason J Says:

    That 2010 Celts team tanked the second half of the season though trying to rest Pierce and KG (in hindsight). Not surprised to see them so low on the list.

    Not surprised to see the 86 Celts, 96 Bulls, and 2000 Lakers on top either. Those were hugely talented teams with fantastic chemistry on both sides and very few weaknesses to exploit.

  12. Jay Says:

    That '86 Celtics team continues to show others why there are the best ever. The Celtics that year were 31-5 vs 50+ win teams (including postseason). Pretty damn impressive. They were also ranked #1 in defense & rebounding, they had a lethal front court with Parish/McHale/Bird/Walton & the backcourt was led by HOFer Dennis Johnson. And you know this team is scary when your fifth offensive option is averaging 15 PPG+ on 55% shooting in the postseason (Danny Ainge).

  13. Jason J Says:

    You know you're team is ridiculous when Michael Jordan drops 63 on you in the playoffs and you still win the game.