Zach LaVine has an Olympic gold medal. What he doesn’t have is NBA playoff experience.
Finally, this part is about to change.
No active NBA player has appeared in more regular season games without making a playoff debut than LaVine, who played 478 games for the Chicago Bulls. He is expected to play his first playoff game on Sunday night when the Bulls visit Milwaukee.
Once LaVine makes his playoff debut, the title no one wants — active player with most games and no playoff appearances — will go to Buddy Hield. He played 468 games with Sacramento, New Orleans and Indiana.
If Hield appears in at least 32 games next season, he will become the eighth player with at least 500 regular season appearances but no playoff contest. He will join Tom Van Arsdale (929), Otto Moore (682), Nate Williams (642), Omri Casspi (588), Sebastian Telfair (564), Popeye Jones (535) and Eddy Curry (527) at this club.
Curry has a ring from his time with the Miami Heat in the 2011-12 season, but did not play in a game during that playoff series.
EIGHT IS (USUALLY) ENOUGH
Phoenix has won eight more games than any other team this season. It usually means a championship.
Not always, however.
The last four teams to win at least eight more regular season wins than any other team have won a title. These clubs are the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, the Chicago Bulls in 1992 and 1996 and the Boston Celtics in 1984.
The 1971 Milwaukee Bucks, 1967 Philadelphia 76ers, and 1960 and 1965 Celtics also finished seasons with equally huge regular-season margins with championships. But the Celtics in 1958 and 1973 did not, nor did the Washington Capitols in 1947 – the inaugural season of the BAA, which was the forerunner of the NBA. The Capitols (49-11) won 10 more regular season games than anyone else in 1946-47, but the Philadelphia Warriors (35-25) won the championship that first season.
The NBA has pegged this season’s playoff pool at $17,317,334. The 16 playoff teams are guaranteed $258,449 just for making the field; most teams will win more, and deeper teams will make the playoffs, they will win a lot more.
Phoenix is already insured for at least $1,194,952. The Suns would claim $5,077,456 if they won the NBA title.
Miami has already secured $695,527. The Heat would get $4,578,031 if they won the championship.
Any team that makes the NBA Finals is guaranteed $3,106,286; any team other than the Suns or Heat that wins the championship would receive at least $4,140,953.
Phoenix had the best home record in the NBA and the best road record in the NBA this season – 32-9 in both cases.
Only four of the last nine teams to achieve this feat, including standings ties, have won the NBA title. These clubs were Golden State in 2015 and 2017, the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000 and the Chicago Bulls in 1996.
The most recent teams to be best at home, best on the road and still not winning a title: Houston in 2018, Dallas in 2007, Seattle in 1994, Portland in 1991 and the Lakers in 1990.
Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers is on the verge of becoming the fifth coach in NBA history to win 100 postseason games. The 76ers need just two wins in their first-round streak against Toronto to get Rivers to the milestone.
The other coaches with 100 wins: Phil Jackson (229), Pat Riley (171), Gregg Popovich (170) and Larry Brown (100).
Miami’s Erik Spoelstra can also earn 100 playoff wins this year — but the Heat would need to make it to the NBA Finals and then win three games in the title round to get it there. Spoelstra enters these playoffs with 85 playoff wins.
Among players, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant is three points away from tying Jerry West (4,457) for eighth place on the all-time playoff list. Durant needs 307 points to tie No. 7 Karl Malone (4,761) on this list, which means the Nets would likely have to make it to at least the second round for that to happen this year.
Utah has been favored in more games than any other team this season, chosen by bettors 73 times during the 82-game regular season. The Jazz were followed by Phoenix (70), Milwaukee (66), Golden State (62), Boston (61) and Miami (59) on the list of favorites.
The team that has covered a spread with the most consistency this season: Memphis, which has rewarded its backers 64.6% of the time. Utah was tied for second-to-last in that department, covering at a rate of 40.2%.
Oklahoma City has been favored the fewest times in the league, just three times. Portland was the worst at covering, doing so 37.8% of the time.
BACK TO BACK
If Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo wins his second straight NBA Finals MVP award — now named for Bill Russell — he will join a select company.
Only six players have won this award in consecutive years. Chicago’s Michael Jordan won it twice in a row, from 1991 to 1993 and then from 1996 to 1998. Shaquille O’Neal won three in a row for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 to 2002. Hakeem Olajuwon won for Houston in 1994 and 1995, Kobe Bryant did it for the Lakers in 2009 and 2010, LeBron James did it for Miami in 2012 and 2013, and Kevin Durant did it for Golden State in 2017 and 2018.
Jerry West was the first winner of the award in 1969. It has been named after Russell since 2009.
THE VICTORY OF THREE
As one might guess, it is difficult to compensate for a significant disparity in the 3 points achieved.
Teams that have been outscored by 15 or more points from 3-point range this season have won just 20.8% of the time – going 94-348 in those contests.
FAREWELL FROM IGUODALA
Golden State’s Andre Iguodala has said he will retire at the end of this season. He wanted to return to the Warriors for a farewell, and the Warriors welcomed him for many reasons – which he brings to this time of year among them.
No player in this year’s playoffs has played, counting only actual appearances, in more playoff wins than Iguodala. He has participated in 103 playoff wins, five more than Danny Green of Philadelphia, eight more than Kevin Durant of Brooklyn, 16 more than Udonis Haslem of Miami and 17 more than his Warriors teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green .
Tom Washington is making the NBA playoffs for the 24th time and Scott Foster was selected for the 22nd time in the post-season refereeing corps. These are the senior members of a group of 36 people who will work on the games of the first round.
There are three newcomers to the playoffs: Eric Dalen, Mitchell Ervin and Justin Van Duyne.
Foster worked 201 playoff games, while Washington worked 172. Other postseason veterans this year include Tony Brothers and James Capers (163 games each), Marc Davis (161), Ed Malloy (121), Bill Kennedy (120), Zach Zarba (117) and John Goble (100).
Other first round officials are: Brent Barnaky, Curtis Blair, Nick Buchert, Kevin Cutler, JB DeRosa, Kane Fitzgerald, Tyler Ford, Brian Forte, Pat Fraher, Jacyn Goble, David Guthrie, Courtney Kirkland, Karl Lane, Eric Lewis, Mark Lindsay, Tre Maddox, Rodney Mott, Gediminas Petraitis, Michael Smith, Ben Taylor, Josh Tiven, Scott Twardoski, James Williams and Sean Wright.
The NBA also selected eight replacements, including Lauren Holtkamp, the only woman on the roster this season. If picked for a match, Holtkamp would join Violet Palmer as the only female referee to enter a postseason contest.
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