NBA Playoffs: Strange trend shows winners must lose more than you think

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The 2016 NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday night and, as 16 teams across the league plot their path to the Finals in June, their main focus will be on finding a way to the all important 16 win mark. Reach that, and they will have successfully navigated all four rounds of the postseason.

But what about the L column? Well, according to some research into the history of the postseason as we know it, taking on board a moderate number of defeats over the next few weeks en route to the Larry O'Brien Trophy might actually be the secret to success.

The Theory

Looking at the cold hard facts, an NBA franchise has to lose an average of almost seven games over the course of the playoffs to win the title. This, I fully understand, sounds wildly counterintuitive, but let me explain...

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You see, since the NBA introduced a best-of-seven format in the first round of the playoffs back in 2003, 13 teams have recorded 16 wins. The eagle eyed amongst you will be aware that, by the very nature of the postseason set up, that was an inevitability.

In that same time period, however, the team who have won the title has finished their playoff run with a 16-7 record on eight occasions. Whether it be the '04 Pistons, the back-to-back Lakers titles in '09 and 2010 or the Heat repeat of '12 and '13, each of these franchises gave up seven defeats to playoff opponents.

Even taking into account the Warriors' 16-5 overall record in last year's competition, the mean average comes out at 6.769 defeats.

What's more, the unusual trend only seems to be strengthening in recent years. Since the Boston Celtics lost 10 games before taking the 2008 title back to Beantown, five of the last seven playoff winners have posted the seemingly requisite 16-7 win-loss statistic.

Losing to win

But does losing games regularly actually help a team outlast everyone else? It might sound ridiculous, but it looks to actually stand them in good stead when it comes to the crunch - especially in recent years.

Heading into the last four NBA Finals series', the team who have entered the season finale with more defeats to their name in the first three rounds of playoff action have gone on to lift the title.

Even taking it back one more year to the 2011 postseason, the eventual winners, the Dallas Mavericks, and their opponents, the Miami Heat, went into the Finals with an identical 12-3 record.

So, what does this mean for this year's playoff action? Well, we shouldn't expect Steve Kerr to suddenly instruct his record-breaking 73-9 Warriors roster to start throwing games, or Gregg Popovich to rest his troop of starters when up 3-2 in a series.

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Nevertheless, it does suggest that a team having made it to the Finals will apparent ease might not be the bankers you'd expect and, when a team loses a game, it isn't necessarily time to hit the panic button.

This could be especially pertinent for the Cleveland Cavaliers whom many expect will make light work of the Eastern Conference pack.

It also means, if you've filled in an office bracket, now might be the time to go back and add another couple of tough road losses on your pick's route to the championship.

Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Stephen Curry
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
NBA Playoffs

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