This NBA season the Western Conference has proven to be more dominant than the Eastern Conference, as the lowest seeded playoff team in the West has a better record than the third seeded team in the East. This story has been a common theme in the NBA playoff picture for the past 15 years thanks to two Western Conference powerhouses in particular.
There is a reason that the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers are regarded as two of the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA playoffs. Despite the Lakers struggles this season, they are only a few years removed from the upper echelons of the NBA.
Since 1999, 12 of the 15 NBA finals have featured either the Spurs or the Lakers as the representatives of the Western Conference. The Lakers won five titles in seven finals appearances during that span, while the Spurs won four titles in five appearances.
Only two other Western Conference franchises have made it to the NBA finals in this millennium. The Dallas Mavericks reached the finals in 2006 and 2011, while the Oklahoma City Thunder emerged as Western Conference champions in 2012.
While the Lakers have slipped from greatness the past few seasons, the entire league continues to marvel at the sustained greatness of the San Antonio Spurs. After an NBA record thirteenth consecutive 50-win season, and a league best record of 62-20, the San Antonio Spurs look well prepared for yet another run to the NBA finals.
The playoff consistency from the Spurs and Lakers is the main reason for Western Conference dominance in the NBA playoffs and has resulted in the West winning 10 of the last 15 NBA titles. While the West has dominated the NBA postseason for the last decade and half, the momentum seems to be swinging to the opposite side of the country thanks to a certain warm weathered beach town.
The Miami Heat are responsible for three of the five NBA titles in the Eastern Conference in the last 15 years. They have reached the finals in three consecutive seasons and come into this year’s NBA playoffs as the two-time defending champs. The Big Three and the Heat will be looking to become the first team to achieve a three-peat since the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000’s.
The Heat earned their second consecutive NBA title after defeating the Spurs in one of the most memorable NBA finals in recent memory last year. The Heat added a blemish to the Spurs NBA championship resume, handing them their first finals loss in their fifth appearance. With their perfect finals record tarnished, Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs will be looking for revenge in this year’s postseason run.
After over a decade and a half of Western Conference dominance in the playoffs, perhaps the Heat’s game seven victory over the Spurs marked a changing of the guard in the NBA playoff picture. Despite having inferior regular season records across the board, all it takes is one team to put the NBA Eastern Conference ahead of the West in June.
Commentary by Eric Kummel