Could Some Trends Be Upended in 2015 NBA Playoffs?

The current 16-team National Basketball Association playoff format that began Saturday has been in existence since the start of the 1984 playoffs, according to an article by The Associated Press that appeared in newspapers all over the country Sunday.

The eight teams with the best records in both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference qualified for the playoffs, with the top team in each conference hosting the No. 8 team with the worst record in each conference. No. 2 plays No. 7, No. 3 entertains No. 6 and No. 4 is at home against No. 5.

The teams winning four games in this best-of-seven format will move on to the conference semifinal round and the losers go home.

Most of the higher-seeded teams historically move on to the conference semifinals EXCEPT for the No. 4 seeds. Since 1984, No. 5 seeds have advanced 33 times compared with 29 wins for the No. 4 seeds in the past 31 years.

That already proved true this weekend when the No. 5 Washington Wizards upset Toronto Saturday 93-86 in overtime.

According to the AP story, No. 1 seeds are 57-5 against eight seeds, No. 2 seeds also are 57-5 against No. 7’s and No. 3 seeds are 45-17 against No. 6’s.

After last weekend’s opening round games, only one home team—the Toronto Raptors—didn’t emerge victorious. The other seven home teams won their first game of the playoffs.

Teams ultimately prevail 77 per cent of the time in a series after winning the opener. But the odds are that some teams will advance anyhow, despite losing Game 1 Saturday.

The Associated Press article revealed “not since 2004 have all Game 1, Round 1 winners advanced to the conference semifinals. Since the 2005 playoffs, 21 Game 1 losers have recovered and won their first-round series.”

Two of the three Texas franchises suffered setbacks last weekend with only the Houston Rockets coming out victorious, 118-108 over the Dallas Mavericks. The defending world champion San Antonio Spurs ran into a buzz-saw Sunday night as the Los Angeles Clippers won handily 107-92.

Monday’s game Twos of Round 1 featured Milwaukee at the Chicago Bulls and Golden State entertaining New Orleans, while the Houston Rockets host Dallas, Boston is at Cleveland and Washington visits Toronto on Tuesday. Today’s (Wed.) games include Brooklyn at Atlanta, Portland at Memphis and San Antonio at the LA Clippers.

Sunday’s Associated Press article also pointed out “the last person to win an NBA championship in the same season that he took home one of the league’s top statistic crown—points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocks per game—was Shaquille O’Neal, when he won the scoring race in 2000 and the Lakers won that season’s Finals.

“No rebounding champion has been on the title team since Dennis Rodman in 1998, no assist king since Magic Johnson in 1987, no steals leader since Michael Jordan in 1993 and no top blocker since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1980.

“So now, this year’s stat-race winners—DeAndre Jordan (rebounds) and Chris Paul (assists) from the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard (steals) from the Spurs and Anthony Davis (blocks) from the New Orleans Pelicans get a chance to buck that relatively odd trend,” the article concluded.

There have been only four players in NBA history score 5,000 career playoff points—Jordan (5,987), Jabbar (5,762), Kobe Bryant (5,640) and O’Neal (5,250) who were joined Sunday night by San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, who needed only 12 to reach the 5,000-point plateau.

I look for the Houston Rockets to move on to the conference semifinals along with the San Antonio Spurs if they can win on the road.

KWICKIES…Former Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz is leading the major leagues with eight home runs through Sunday’s action, has driven in 14 runs and is batting .354 for the Seattle Mariners.

A tip of the Korner Kap to the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Lady Bears golf team for finishing second in the Regional golf tournament last week. Congrats also to Lauren Cox of the Lady Bears for winning the medalist title and for Bridge City’s Skylar Petroski, who finished third individually for the Cards. They all earned their way to compete in the upcoming state golf championship tournament.

Jim Furyk started 100 PGA tournaments without a tour victory and broke the streak in uncharacteristic fashion Sunday to win the RBC Heritage over Kevin Kisner on the second playoff hole at Hilton Head, S.C. Furyk finished his round and led by a stroke until Kisner birdied the 72nd hole and forced the playoff. The two matched birdies on the first extra hole, but Furyk rolled in a 12-foot birdie on the next extra hole to break his long and frustrating streak. Furyk, who was 0-for-9 when leading tournaments after three rounds, began Sunday’s final round four shots off the lead but fashioned a 63 while Kisner shot 64. The victory earned Furyk a nifty check for $1.062 million.

Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson led the NFL for the second straight year in the sale of his licensed merchandise.

And while on the subject of quarterbacks—or perhaps a washed up one—Tim Tebow signed a one-year contract Monday with the Philadelphia Eagles. Tebow hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2012 season with the New York Jets. He joins quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley on the Eagles’ roster.

The Lamar Cardinals baseball team finished a suspended game Sunday morning followed by a doubleheader and came out of the ordeal with only a 5-0 victory in the nightcap. The Cards now stand at 7-11 in Southland Conference play and need to catch fire to be eligible for the upcoming post-season playoffs. The Redbirds stand at 18-21 for the season. Lamar played a non-conference game Tuesday against Baylor in Waco and will swing back into SLC play with a three-game weekend series against Incarnate Word at Vincent-Beck Field starting on Friday.

Hall of Famer wannabe Pete Rose has been hired by Fox Sports as a guest baseball analyst. Rose will not be in stadium broadcast booths because he is still banned from major league ballparks by Major League Baseball. The 74-year old career hits leader agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball 26 years ago after a MLB investigation concluded he bet on the Cincinnati Reds while managing the team.

JUST BETWEEN US…I know it probably will be very short-lived, but our anemically-hitting but pitching-rich Houston Astros slipped into first place in the American League West Division after Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. There record is a mediocre 6-6, but .500 is like a Godsend after so many seasons of losing records. The Astros are second-to-last in the American League in hitting with a team average of .204, but the pitching is right near the top of the league with the starters boasting a 2.81 Earned Run Average, giving up 34 earned runs through 109 innings. Only second baseman Jose Altuve (.320) and centerfielder Jake Marisnick (.323) are batting over .300. Houston has embarked on a 10-day, nine-game road trip to the left coast where they will play at Seattle, Oakland and San Diego and hopefully will return still atop the AL West standings.