Celtics proved to be the best of the NBA 2022-23 tournament so far, with a strong 29-12 record after 41 games of regular season. But, when do halfway champs actually go on all the way to win that year’s title?
Well, turns out it’s less common than expected. Over the last decade, only 5 teams achieved the best halfway record and stood tall all through the rest of the regular season, playoffs and unto the Finals to be crowned as champions.
Will this 2023 be the case for the Celtics? Well, I’ve got to admit, 29-12 is a good record but truthfully we’ve all witnessed even bolder stats at halfway, for example the Milwaukee Bucks’ 35-6 record back in January 2020. And I’ll remind you guys that the Bucks didn’t even win the tournament that season!
Over the years, the analysis of mid-season stats have provided us sports fans with great lessons. For example, four times in the last decade it’s actually been the second team with the best halfway record to win the year’s tournament. So, Nuggets, wake up! This might just be your lucky year.
Let’s have a blast from the past and revisit every year’s halfway season winner and actual NBA Champion in the last decade:
2013: Miami won even though they weren’t halfway’s best
Amazingly enough, performance-wise that 2012-13 tournament seemed to be destined for Oklahoma City. The Thunder had the best record at halfway (32-9) and finished with a 60-22 record after 82 games. Problem was… LeBron James. The Heat recovered throughout the regular season and finished 1st with an outstanding 66-16. The reigning champions from Miami went on to defeat Spurs 4-3 in the final series to win a second consecutive title.
2014: Pacers were best at mid-season but Spurs took the title
Once again, the team who was strongest at mid-season, did not even make it to the Finals. Indiana Pacers had a 33-8 track by January 2014, but it was Miami who would finally win the Eastern Conference. In the West, San Antonio had been eyeing up the opportunity to take revenge on the Heat and finally got their chance with an undeniable 4-1 victory in the final series, only to win their fifth NBA Championship.
2015: Warriors were the best all year long
Finally, for the first time in this recount, the Golden State Warriors proved you can be outstanding from the beginning until the end. The Warriors demonstrated their might with a 35-6 record, even over the Atlanta Hawk’s 33-9. The team from the Bay Area began their intense rivalry against the Cavs that year, fighting until last minute in the final series which saw the Warriors win 4-2. For the first time ever, Stephen Curry would become the League’s MVP.
2016: No team was match for the Cavaliers
2016 was a year to remember for Cleveland. They were best at mid-season (30-11) at stayed best until the end of the regular season. At the Finals, they crossed against the Warriors for another classic encounter. Only this time, it was payback for the Cavs as they beat Golden State in seven games. Even though LeBron James was chosen the best player of the Finals, Steph Curry was handed the year’s MVP award for the second time in a row.
2017: Golden State’s golden year
Probably one of the best display’s of basketball we will see in decades. Golden State’s 2017 was almost faultless. By January, their track was 35-6, and by the end of the regular season they stood first place with 67 wins in 82 games. In the Western Playoffs, they beat every single series they confronted with an overwhelming 4-0. Again they clashed against the Cavaliers in the Finals but this time earned the crown 4-1 in the series. This year’s MVP was for Russell Westbrook’s amazing 31.6 points per game season.
2018: Can anyone defy the Warriors?
Seriously, can anyone defy the Warriors? That year, the Rockets would take on the task. At halfway season, Golden State had the best record as expected (33-8), but after 82 games, Houston took the league by storm and beat the Warriors at the top of the West. At their Conference finals, the Rockets almost defeated the Bay Area’s team in seven long hard-fought games. Finally, Curry’s side would win to yet again meet LeBron James in the Finals and proclaim themselves as victors with four straight wins.
2019: Toronto were the last team to win halfway and all the way
So as the rivally Cavs versus Warriors finally comes to an end, other franchises began to sprout and take over the spotlight after years of Golden hierarchy. 2019 was the Raptor’s year and it was well deserved. By week 13 of the tournament, Toronto was first place with a 29-12 record, only Denver trailing behind 28-13. In the Finals, it was the Golden State nightmare all over again, but not unless Kawhi Leonard had something to say about it. The Raptors would become the first Canadian team to with the NBA title as they won 4-3 over the Warriors. Below you can see this moment you should never forget, as Toronto won the Championship right at the buzzer:
2020: Lakers beat the Bucks amazing halfway record to the title
Yep, this is exactly when the halfway champ illusion seems tricky. It was January 2020 and Milwaukee sure believed that would be their year to be crowned champions. By halfway, they carried 35 wins and stood first in the East. As for the Lakers, they had other plans. Having signed LeBron James that year, well, anything can happen. Lakers were the second best at mid-season and grew gradually throughout the tournament. King James’ side would encounter the Heat, his old team of him, and showed them who was boss. LeBron would become the MVP of the Finals and the Lakers would finally win the NBA title for the first time since 2010.
2021: Bucks take revenge after great Utah season
Well, if it wasn’t 2020 then 2021 would have to be for Milwaukee. This time, it was the other way around. The Jazz were first place both at halfway (30-11) and at the end of the regular season (52-20). The Bucks also had a great season, but they were always in Utah’s shadows. Unbelievably, the Jazz would lose in the Conference’s Playoffs against the Clippers, and Milwaukee would go all the way to the Finals. The team from Wisconsin would play the last series against The Phoenix Suns and won 4-2, with giant performances all year long from Giannis Antetokoumpo.
2022: GSW took over Phoenix favorites
Finally, up to the reigning champions. Exactly one year ago Phoenix was convinced they would earn the title, especially after losing to the Bucks in the past Finals. The Suns won 32 times in 41 games, and later on consolidated a record of 64-18 by the end of the regular season. Golden State wasn’t doing bad at all, but only managed to finish third in the West (53-29), behind Memphis and Phoenix, of course. The Arizona side would finally flop in the Conference Playoffs and the Warriors grew favorites throughout the final stages. By June 16th 2022, the Californian team beat the Boston Celtics and were crowned NBA Champions with an inspired Steph Curry.