The two lowest seeds left in the NBA playoffs, a No. 7 in the Los Angeles Lakers and a No. 8 in the Miami Heat, are the teams in the driver’s seats right now.
There are two teams with 3-1 leads in the NBA conference semifinals, and few probably expected them to even still be playing right now. The Lakers have a 3-1 lead on defending champion and sixth-seeded Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals, while the Heat have a 3-1 lead on fifth-seeded New York in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Looking ahead — looking way ahead — there has never been a No. 7 seed in the NBA Finals, and only one No. 8 seed to play for the title.
In this playoff format, the only No. 7 seed to make the conference finals was Seattle in 1987 (losing to the Lakers) and the only No. 8 seed to get there was New York in 1999 (beating Indiana before falling to San Antonio in the finals).
There are two Game 5s on Tuesday: Phoenix at Denver and Philadelphia at Boston. Those series both tied at 2-2.
The schedules keep alternating over the next few days: Wednesday has Game 5s of New York-Miami and Lakers-Golden State, with the Knicks and Warriors needing a win at home to extend their seasons. On Thursday, it’s Game 6s for Suns-Nuggets and 76ers-Celtics.
If the Knicks-Heat and Lakers-Warriors series need a Game 6, it’ll be on Friday.
HOW TO WATCH
— The Tuesday and Wednesday doubleheaders are on TNT.
— Thursday’s doubleheader is on ESPN.
— Team broadcasters will no longer air games. Everything after the first round is exclusive to national windows and not available for local telecasts.
— The NBA Finals on ABC begin June 1.
Since the NBA went to this playoff format in 1984, there have now been — with the Heat and Lakers included — 203 teams have taken 3-1 leads in a best-of-seven series.
The first 201 went 192-9 in those matchups.
LeBron James’ teams are 17-0 in this situation, never even needing a Game 7 to win the series. And the Heat are 14-0 all-time when holding a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven.
Nobody has erased a 3-1 lead since 2020 when Denver did it twice in the bubble. Nobody has done it in a non-bubble world since James and Cleveland did it against Golden State in the 2016 NBA Finals; the Warriors did it earlier that season as well, rallying from 3-1 down to Oklahoma City in the West finals.
The Lakers blew a 3-1 lead against Phoenix in Round 1 of the 2006 playoffs. There’s even been a 3-1 comeback in Heat-Knicks history, with Miami pulling off a rally in the 1997 East semifinals.
The All-Rookie Team — led by unanimous pick Paolo Banchero — was announced Monday afternoon and the All-Defensive Team gets announced Tuesday afternoon.
TNT will unveil the All-NBA Team on Wednesday night, and on Thursday at noon, the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year will be revealed.
Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was announced as this season’s MVP, and here’s a list of the other major award-winners this season:
— Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. won Defensive Player of the Year.
— De’Aaron Fox of Sacramento won the inaugural Clutch Player award.
— Sacramento’s Mike Brown became the first unanimous Coach of the Year.
— Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon won Sixth Man of the Year.
— Utah’s Lauri Markkanen was the easy winner of Most Improved Player.
— Orlando’s Paolo Banchero was a near-unanimous Rookie of the Year.
“Maybe they want it more. I don’t know.” — Knicks forward Julius Randle, after his team lost Game 4 to Miami to fall into a 3-1 hole in that East series.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, second from left, passes the ball as New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23), Quentin Grimes (6) and Julius Randle (30) look on during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference playoff semifinal, Monday, May 8, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Cover Photo: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the first half in Game 4 of an NBA basketball Western Conference semifinal Monday, May 8, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)