Only eleven times in NBA history has a fourth-seeded team made the conference finals. Only five of those times has one of those teams made it to the NBA finals. The tough task of rewriting history has been given to the Houston Rockets. They come into the second-round as the fourth-seeded team against arguably the best team ever assembled, the Golden State Warriors. This is the same team the Rockets have lost to in the playoffs for three of the last four seasons. Using these facts, history certainly seems like it is not on the Rockets’ side. Do these facts really tell the full story of this star-studded series? Deeper analysis into NBA history says otherwise.
Is History on the Houston Rockets’ Side?
The History of the 4th Seed
There are two great sayings in the sports world, one being, “History is meant to be rewritten,” and the other being, “History will repeat itself once again.” Both of these sayings can be the case for the Rockets in this years’ playoffs as the fourth-seed has had its ups-and-downs throughout the course of NBA history. As stated earlier, only five times has a fourth-seeded team been able to make the NBA Finals. The last team to accomplish this tough task was the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers. After making the finals, the Cavaliers went on to get swept by none other than the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Losing in the Finals has been a common theme for fourth-seeded teams as only one-out-of-five of them were actually able to win the NBA championship. The one team to actually win the NBA finals as the fourth-seed was the Boston Celtics, and this was 50 years ago. According to these statistics, if the Rockets are able to make it to the Finals, they would only have a 20% chance of actually winning the championship. Not one of these statistics and facts has supported the Rockets in any way, and the truth is that the history of the fourth-seed really doesn’t favor the Rockets at all. Though history hasn’t been favorable to the Houston Rockets, there is some different historical evidence that directly points to the support of this hard-working team.
The Magical past of Home Court Disadvantage in the Playoffs
The Rockets Beating the Odds
The Rockets have faced tougher odds in the past, and have been able to overcome them through great perseverance. On only ten different occasions has a team lower than the fourth-seed reached the conference finals. The Rockets are one of the only two teams to ever do it twice. Only on three of those rare occasions has that same team went on to make the NBA finals. The Rockets account for two of those three different occasions, and on both instances, they came in ranked sixth. Going further, only one team has ever been able to win an NBA championship ranked lower than fourth. That one team just happens to be the Houston Rockets.
Is History on the Rockets Side?
Statistically, the Rockets have beaten worse odds than they currently face, though it has been 24 years since these odds have been beaten. Many doubt that it can ever happen again, but historically speaking, these odds favor the Rockets the most. Judging from previous evidence, no team has overcome bigger odds than the Rockets. They have shown to be able to negate the odds stacked against them before. Though all this history can be used as evidence, nobody has seen a team assembled like the Warriors. History can’t prove that the Rockets can overcome a juggernaut-like team such as the Warriors.
If anything, the history of the NBA can be deceiving. All of these historical statistics can be great, but they don’t tell the full story. They don’t specify the difficulty of the opponents, and they can’t measure the grit of teams. It all comes down to what the team can do now. The past doesn’t matter when you’re trying to win in the present. The Rockets know that they’ve faced some terrible odds. They know that they have beat those odds. All they need to do now is use that as motivation. The Rockets need to be able to use that past and implement it in the present and future. They need to carry a positive and focused mindset. They need to let everybody know that if any team can defeat the odds of winning the Finals as the fourth-seeded team, it’s them.
Game one of the Rockets vs. Warriors series will be on Sunday, April 27th, 2019. Tune in to witness the start of history!
James Harden and Klay Thompson. (Photo by Mark Downey Lucid Images/Corbis via Getty Images)