The Cavaliers came back from down 3-1 and pulled off the greatest upset of NBA finals history, defeating a team with 16 more regular season wins in the finals. This is an NBA finals record (Which no one seemed to mention- I’m looking at you ESPN and Nate Silver).
The Warriors set an NBA record with 73 wins this season, while the Cavs won the east with a still impressive 57 wins. This is a 16 game difference in terms of regular season wins for the two NBA finals teams is the biggest difference for the underdog in NBA history. Check out the graph below:
The plot above shows the difference in regular season wins for the winner and loser of the NBA finals since 1950. The red dots above are all the finals that went to game 7. The Cavs total is marked with a diamond instead of a circle to point out their historic feat.
So what’s the dot in the middle of the 1970s? It’s the 1975 Warriors, who swept the Washington Bullets despite having won 12 less regular season games than the Bullets.
So Ironically, with the Cavs’ win yesterday against the Warriors, they broke the record set by the Warriors in 1975 (featuring HOF Rick Barry). The championship team with the third largest negative differential in wins was the 1995 Houston Rockets, who swept the Orlando Magic despite having 10 less regular season wins.
Looking at the graph above too, you see that most of the time the team with a better regular season record wins in the finals, and they have won all but 3 game 7’s.
Last night, the Cavaliers became the 4th team to win a game 7 with a negative win differential and broke the record that the 1975 Warriors set ( Cavaliers had 16 less wins than the Warriors this year).
-Andrew G. Chapple
Update: They did it! The Cavs pulled off the greatest upset in NBA history!! Cavs won 16 games less than the Warriors and broke an NBA record in the finals in terms of overcoming that margin. Lebron won his third M.V.P. trophy too, joining rare company on the N.B.A. mount Rushmore.