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The Warriors Went 73-9 — Now Can They Go Fo’ Fo’ Fo’ (Fo’)?

Entering the 1983 playoffs, 76ers center Moses Malone boasted that his team would go “fo’, fo’, fo’” — 4-0 in three straight playoff series to win the NBA title. Philadelphia went 12-1, dropping Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Bucks before sweeping the Lakers. Malone’s dream of an undefeated postseason was never realized, by his Sixers or any other team.

The Golden State Warriors just had the best regular season in NBA history, including a 24-0 streak out of the gate. Can they do Malone one better and go “fo’, fo’, fo’, fo’ ”? Based on 50,000 simulations of the NBA playoffs using our NBA CARM-Elo ratings, probably not:

TEAM OCCURRENCES IN 50,000 SIMS CHANCES
Warriors 199 0.40%
Spurs 136 0.27
Cavaliers 11 0.02
Thunder 10 0.02
Raptors 6 0.01
Clippers 1 <0.01
Hawks 1 <0.01
Hornets 1 <0.01
Chances of going 16-0 to win the 2016 NBA title

Other playoff teams went 16-0 in zero simulations.

The NBA playoffs are stacked this year. The Warriors have been historically great, but so have the Spurs. And the Thunder, Cavaliers, Clippers and Raptors are fielding strong teams. Our model currently gives Golden State just a 42 percent chance of repeating its title, so to escape four rounds unscathed would be a near-impossible achievement. We put it at 0.40 percent.

But 16-0 is a lot to ask. The greatest playoff run in NBA history belongs to the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers, who were undefeated entering the Finals. They then ran right into Allen Iverson, who did this:

iverson-2001-boxscore

… and also this:

eTSu70Y

The Lakers would go on to win the last four games, finishing with a 15-1 postseason record. Now that the first round playoff series are seven games instead of five, the Warriors could surpass that winning percentage by going 16-1. Alas, they probably won’t:

TEAM OCCURRENCES IN 50,000 SIMS CHANCES
Warriors 1,099 2.20%
Spurs 669 1.34
Cavaliers 61 0.12
Thunder 43 0.09
Raptors 32 0.06
Hornets 7 0.01
Clippers 5 0.01
Hawks 5 0.01
Celtics 1 <0.01
Trail Blazers 1 <0.01
Chances of going 16-1 or better to win the 2016 NBA title

Other playoff teams went 16-0 or 16-1 in zero simulations.

We give Golden State roughly a 1-in-45 chance of following up the greatest regular season ever with the greatest postseason ever. The Spurs have around a 1-in-75 chance, while Tyronn Lue — head coach of the Cavs and victim of Iverson’s vicious step-over — has a very outside shot at surpassing his own Lakers squad.


Check out our latest NBA predictions.

Reuben Fischer-Baum is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

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