The 2007 NBA Playoffs was the postseason to the National Basketball Association's 2006–2007 season.
There were four rounds of postseason action, all of them in a best-of-seven format, with teams seeded on a bracket. The team with the better record wasn't necessarily the basis of seeding teams in the playoffs. Nevertheless, the team with the better record in a match-up had home court advantage.
The 2007 NBA Champions were the San Antonio Spurs who won their fourth title in the last nine years. The team defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 in the 2007 NBA Finals with the Spurs' Tony Parker being named Finals MVP.
Consisting of 16 teams in two conferences, the playoffs involve nearly two months of play in a best-of-seven, bracket format, with no reseeding.
The playoffs are conducted in four rounds of best-of-seven series. The three division winners in each conference, along with the five best non-division winners in each conference, qualify for the playoffs. The division winners and top second-place team are seeded first through fourth based on record, with the remaining teams seeded fifth through eighth on record.
Up until 2006 year, the division winners earned the top three seeds in the conference; this was amended by the NBA on August 2, 2006 to rectify the problem highlighted by controversy in the 2006 playoffs. Under this new system, the teams with the two best records in the conference cannot meet until the conference finals, unlike the 2006 season, when the 63-win San Antonio Spurs and the 60-win Dallas Mavericks met in the conference semifinals.
In each series, the team with the better record (or which wins a tiebreaker, in the event that teams with identical records are matched) holds home court advantage, meaning that the seventh game, if played, is held in their home arena.
The first two games in each series are played in the home arena of the team with home court advantage. The third and fourth games are played in the other arena. The fifth, sixth, and seventh games alternate between the two arenas. However, in the NBA Finals, the team with home court advantage hosts Games 1, 2, 6 and 7, while the other team hosts Games 3, 4 and 5.
Teams receive funds to distribute among players and support staff from the league's playoff pool. For 2007 the distribution is based on the following schedule:
The following teams clinched a playoff berth in the East:
The following teams clinched a playoff berth in the West:
This is the outlook for the 2007 NBA playoffs. Teams in italics have home court advantage. Teams in bold advance to the next round. Numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's original playoffs seeding in their respective conferences. Numbers to the right of each team indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions possess an asterisk (*)
The Orlando Magic's first playoff trip in 4 seasons was short lived as the top ranked Detroit Pistons dispatched the upstart Magic in 4 games. The Pistons recorded their first series sweep since sweeping Indiana in the first round of the 1990 NBA Playoffs. The series was also the first time Orlando forward Grant Hill had appeared in the postseason since leaving Detroit after the 1999–2000 NBA season.
A rematch of the previous year's first round series was spoiled when Wizards star Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler were both forced out of the playoffs due to injuries received in the later parts of the regular season. Without Arenas and Butler, the Wizards found themselves unable to stop LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers from sweeping them out of the playoffs. It was Cleveland's first playoff sweep in franchise history.
The Nets won the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs in their sixth straight appearance in the NBA Playoffs. The series was the only one in the Eastern Conference first round not to result in a sweep.
The series was notable for pitting ex-Raptor Vince Carter, who was traded to the Nets in 2004 after an acromonious split, against his former team. So great was the Toronto crowd's disdain for Carter that he was booed every time he touched the ball. The Nets took home court advantage in Game 1, holding off a late Raptors rally in the fourth quarter. The Raptors pulled away in another tight game to even the series at one game apiece. When the series shifted to New Jersey, the Nets took charge of the series, winning games 3 and 4 in routs. New Jersey had a chance to win the series in game 5 in Toronto, but the Raptors took a 20-point lead after one quarter. Still, New Jersey managed to chip away, and had a chance to win the game, but Bostjan Nachbar's three-pointer missed at the buzzer. Needing to win in New Jersey to force a game 7, Toronto held a one-point lead with under a minute to play in game 6, but Richard Jefferson hit a layup with eight seconds left to play. Toronto attempted to try for the game-winning shot, but Jefferson intercepted a pass to seal the series for the Nets.
The Bulls won their first playoff series since the 1998 NBA Finals and the retirement of Michael Jordan. This was the Bulls first 4-game sweep, since sweeping the Orlando Magic back in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals. Meanwhile, Miami became the first defending champion in NBA history since 1957 to be swept in the First Round the following season.
In addition, Southeast Division champions Miami and other division qualifiers Washington and Orlando were swept (0–12) by Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit respectively, all from the Central division (12–0).
In a renewal of a rivalry from the late '80s and early '90s, the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons faced off against each other, pitting former Piston Ben Wallace against his old teammates. The series began fairly one-sided as the Pistons took Games 1 and 2 in Detroit in blowout fashion, followed by another convincing victory in Game 3 in Chicago. In all three games, the Bulls looked severely outmatched against the more experienced Pistons squad. Expectations were low for the Bulls since no NBA team has ever won a seven-game series after being down 3-0. (It has only happened three times total in sports history, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders, and the 2004 Boston Red Sox.)
Despite the huge obstacle, the Bulls rallied to take Game 4 in a romp, and then proceeded to shock everyone with a blow-out victory in Detroit in Game 5. Despite the renewed momentum, the Pistons' playoff experience ultimately won out as they closed out the Bulls in leading throughout in a 95-85 Game 6 win. The Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth straight year.
The Cavaliers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1992, while the Nets have lost in the Conference Semifinals in three out of the last four years.
New Jersey Nets point guard Jason Kidd averaged a triple double the entire playoffs, scoring 14.6 points, grabbing 10.9 rebounds and dishing out 10.9 assists per game.
In a rematch of the thrilling 2006 second-round series, the Pistons and the Cavaliers matched up in perhaps one of the most closely contested series in NBA history, with the first five games being decided by six points or less. The spotlight of the series fell on Cleveland's LeBron James. Despite gaining some momentum in the opening games of the series against the experienced Pistons, key last-second decisions by James led to Cleveland losses in Games 1 and 2 in Detroit, by identical scores, in which Cleveland led for most of the two games. They faced a 0–2 deficit for the second straight year but would easily remember from the year before that they could win three straight games to get back into the series.
With media circles on his back for his complacency in these games (James had a playoff career low 10 points in Game 1), James came back to will the Cavs to close victories in Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland, evening the series at 2. The series shifted back to Detroit for a Game 5 that proved to be one of the most memorable postseason games in recent NBA history. In a match that went into double overtime, the Cavaliers stunned the Pistons on their home court, thanks to LeBron James' playoff career-high 48-point performance. James scored the Cavaliers' final 25 points of the game, including all 18 points in overtime, making it two straight 2-point wins at the Palace in Game 5.
The heavily-favored Cavaliers took advantage of their home court in 2007 and exploded in Game 6 to close out the Pistons once and for all, and to clinch the franchise's first trip to the NBA Finals. Rookie Daniel Gibson scored his career high 31 points, including five three-pointers, to lift the Cavs in the second half behind a roaring home crowd.
The Warriors qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1994, the second longest such streak in league history. However, the Warriors were heavy underdogs against the Dallas Mavericks despite sweeping the regular season series between the teams, as Dallas had one of the best records in NBA regular season history. Expectations of a short series were immediately dashed by Golden State's Game 1 victory in Dallas, behind guard Baron Davis and his rather frantic style of play. The Mavericks came back to win Game 2 to tie the series at a game apiece.
But when the series shifted to Oakland for the next two games, a new X-factor emerged for the Warriors: their home crowd at the Oracle Arena. The electric crowd, which was the highest paid attendance crowd for an NBA game in the history of that arena, gave the Warriors a huge lift as they blew out Dallas in Game 3, and edged out a close victory in Game 4. As the series shifted back to Dallas, the top-ranked Mavericks found themselves one game from seeing their record breaking season end prematurely. The Mavericks gave their all and were able to stave off elimination in Game 5, but had nothing left in Game 6 in Oakland. The Warriors used a third-quarter 18–0 run, sparked by Stephen Jackson's 13 straight points en route to a franchise playoff record seven three-pointers, and an unexpected collapse from MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki (2–13 from the field with 8 points) to finish Dallas and become the first #8 seed to win a best-of-seven series in the first round, and just the third overall in NBA history, in one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history. The Warriors also won their first playoff series since 1991.
Both 2006 NBA Finalists (Dallas and Miami) were eliminated in the first round. This was the first time since 1956 that this had happened.
Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers went up against the high powered Phoenix Suns in a rematch of the previous year's first round series, which saw the Lakers take a 3–1 lead before the Suns took the series in 7. Unlike the previous series, the Suns had near complete control of the series, taking the series in 5 games. The Suns advanced to their third straight conference semifinals by eliminating the Lakers in the first round for the second straight year. In Game 4, Phoenix point guard Steve Nash made a run at the record for most assists in a playoff game, finishing one shy of the record 24 shared by Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz.
The Nuggets duo of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson got Denver off to a fast start, winning Game 1 and taking home-court advantage away from Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Despite the early letdown, the Spurs showed their championship mettle and bounced back for a 97-88 win in Game 2. In the pivotal Game 3, the Nuggets built an eight-point first-quarter lead before Manu Ginóbili's eight second-quarter points helped put San Antonio up 43-40 at halftime. A back-and-forth contest turned in the final 2:24 of the third quarter: Michael Finley hit two three-pointers, and Robert Horry later hit a three that gave the Spurs a 75-67 lead at the end of the quarter. They hung on for a 96-91 win.
Denver started strong again in Game 4 and led by eight at halftime. But San Antonio stormed back after Anthony went to the bench in the third quarter with his fourth foul. The Spurs held a one-point lead with 30 seconds left in the game when Horry, playing for his seventh championship ring, hit a three from the right corner to help seal a 96-89 win. The stunned Nuggets could not recover from the Game 4 letdown. Finley was the hero in Game 5, hitting a team-playoff-record eight threes for 26 points as San Antonio won 93-78 to end the series, marking the Nuggets' fourth straight season where they lost in the first round in five games. This is the second time in three seasons that the Nuggets lost the first-round series to the Spurs, after taking Game 1 in San Antonio (the first also happened in five games).
The resurgent Utah Jazz, fresh off one of their best seasons since the Stockton/Malone years, faced Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets, who were seeking their first playoff series victory in 10 years. Home court advantage proved to be the key as the series progressed, as both the Rockets and the Jazz won closely contested matches in front of their home crowds.
As a result, the series had to go to a seventh and deciding game, which was played in Houston since the Rockets had the better record and thereby earned home court advantage, despite the division-winning Jazz being the higher-seeded team. Nevertheless, Utah overcame the Houston crowd and stunned the Rockets for the win on the road. The Jazz became only the second road team in history to win Game 7 of a seven-game series in which the home team won each of the first six games. Houston's Tracy McGrady lost his sixth straight post-season series (out of 10 seasons) and has not been out of the first round in his entire career.
After losing the series, the Rockets failed to reach a new contract agreement with their head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who was subsequently fired.
The series shifted back to Oakland and the raucous Oracle Arena crowd, which lifted the Warriors to a resounding blowout in Game 3, a game which saw the Warriors hit a playoff record 11 threes in the first half, and saw guard Baron Davis delivering a series of spectacular plays. However, the Jazz were able to shrug off the crowd and handed the Warriors their only playoff home loss of the year in Game 4. The Warriors' magical playoff run ended as the Jazz finished them off in Game 5. The Jazz advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1998.
The highly anticipated match-up between the high-powered Phoenix Suns, led by two-time MVP Steve Nash, and the fundamentally sound San Antonio Spurs, led by three-time Finals MVP Tim Duncan, had high expectations before the series tip-off. The Suns were looking to make the conference finals for the third straight year, and also looking for their first Finals berth since 1993. The Spurs, on the other hand, were looking for their third trip in five years, and their fourth NBA title overall. The series received international interest with a playoff-record of 12 players originating outside the US. When the series ended, it had become one of the most hotly contested and controversial series in recent NBA history.
The Suns had their home court advantage quickly taken away as the Spurs took a tight Game 1, a game that saw Nash missing the final minutes for Phoenix due to a gash to his nose, which bled profusely. Nash and the Suns recovered to take Game 2 but after the game, Suns star forward Amare Stoudemire accused the Spurs, especially Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginóbili, of being a dirty team. Despite the added scrutiny by the media circles, the Spurs took Game 3 with Tim Donaghy, the shamed referee who fixed games, at the helm. The Suns, trying to overcome their recent failures against Texas teams in the playoffs (the Spurs and the Mavericks both defeated them in the Conference finals), willed themselves to a come-from-behind victory in Game 4 to tie the series at 2.
However, the celebration would be short-lived. In the closing minute of Game 4, with the Suns leading by 3 points, Nash brought up the ball and was shoved into the press table by Robert Horry, creating a momentary ruckus, wherein Raja Bell received a technical. As this took place, Stoudemire and Boris Diaw left the Suns bench. Although they were not involved in the altercation, they broke an established NBA rule that prohibits players from leaving their bench during an altercation. As a result, the NBA suspended Stoudemire and Diaw for one game, while Horry received a two-game suspension for the flagrant foul and ejection. Severely undermanned, the Suns came into Game 5 with the task of beating the Spurs without their star big man. The suspensions created a national outrage, as well as a frontcourt breach for San Antonio to exploit during Game 5.
Although the Suns were able to control most of the game without the suspended players, even taking a 16-point lead on the Spurs at one point, the Spurs came back to win an incredibly close Game 5. Several NBA pundits feel the Suns would have likely won the series if the controversial suspensions had not been given to Stoudemire and Diaw. The two did return for the Suns in Game 6, though that didn't help the Suns to force a game 7 and the Spurs eliminated them to advance to the Western Conference finals with a 114-106 win.
For the first time since 1990, neither the #1 nor #2 seed participated in the Western Conference Finals. However, the series pitted youth against experience as the up-and-coming Utah Jazz faced off against the seasoned San Antonio Spurs. Coming into the series, the Jazz were not given much of a chance due to their inexperience. However, Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and the Jazz were able to hold their own against San Antonio for a good part of the series.
Unfortunately, it was not enough. The series' first two games - both San Antonio home victories - saw the Spurs blow big first-half leads and the Jazz mount last-gasp rallies that were ultimately thwarted by San Antonio's clutch shooting. When the Spurs' 19-point first-half advantage dwindled to 95-87 late in the fourth quarter of Game 1, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili came through with timely buckets down the stretch. When San Antonio's 22-point edge shrank to 83-76 late in Game 2, Bruce Bowen broke the Jazz's rhythm with a three from the left corner and another from the right to silence the threat.
The Jazz, who were undefeated at home in the postseason coming into the series, had their most cohesive effort in a 109-83 Game 3 rout. Utah pestered Duncan into early foul trouble and got baskets from players other than Williams and Boozer, who had combined for 57.7% of their team's points through the first two games. But Jazz fans' euphoria over the team's only series victory gave way to frustration in Game 4 - with most of it aimed at Ginóbili and his flair for drawing fouls. Eleven of his 16 fourth-quarter points came at the foul line in an ugly-but-effective overall team performance in which the Spurs made more free throws (30) than field goals (28). Contributing to that discrepancy were four technical fouls called against Utah in the fourth. The subsequent ejections of Utah headcoach Jerry Sloan and Jazz guard Derek Fisher had a charged-up EnergySolutions Arena crowd raining debris onto the court in protest.
The unflappable Spurs responded with yet another commanding start in Game 5. They outscored the Jazz by 19 in the first quarter and led by as many as 29. Not even another late-game arrival of Fisher (from New York again) could help the Jazz enough and the Spurs won a 109-84 series-clinching victory and an eventual date in the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers.
The Spurs swept the Cavaliers in the Finals after two blowout games at home and two close ones in Cleveland. San Antonio's Tony Parker was named Most Valuable Player of the Finals.
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