Golden State Warriors

This Date in NBA History (May 22): Golden State Warriors advance to 2017 NBA Finals with historic 12-0 playoff record & more

The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors
(NBA Getty Images)

On May 22nd in 2017, the Golden State Warriors won Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals 129-115 against the San Antonio Spurs. Thus, booking their ticket to a third consecutive NBA Finals.

Multiple teams have done that in NBA history but how these Warriors separate themselves is their record en route to the Finals.

They became the first team in NBA history to sweep three consecutive best-of-seven series, thus, becoming the first team in NBA history to go into the Finals with a 12-0 record.

The Warriors absolutely dominated their Western Conference opponents, winning their 12 games by an average margin of 16.3 points.

In the first round, they won four straight against the Portland Trail Blazers by an average margin of 18.0 points. Then, they dominated the Utah Jazz in the Conference Semifinals, winning by an average margin of 15.0 points. And, finally, in the Conference Finals, they defeated the Spurs by an average margin of 16.0 points.

Only a couple of those 12 wins came by a margin of fewer than 10 points - 119-113 in Game 3 vs. Trail Blazers & 113-111 in Game 1 vs. Spurs.

In fact, in Game 1 against the Spurs, the Warriors were down by as many as 25 points. When Kawhi Leonard was forced to leave the game with an injured ankle, there were 7:53 left in the third quarter with the Warriors down 78-55. From there, the defending conference champions rallied and narrowly extended their unbeaten playoff streak.

"12-0 is great, but it doesn't mean anything going into the next series," Steph Curry said after the Game 4 win against the Spurs.

The Warriors nearly went unbeaten in the 2017 postseason. They had a chance when they held a 3-0 series lead in the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, a Game 4 loss meant they had to settle for a 16-1 postseason record.

An important note to this would be that prior to the 2002-03 season, the first round of the NBA playoffs was a best-of-five series. So, even if a team entered the NBA Finals unbeaten, they would not have a 12-0 record.

The Warriors are not the first team to enter the NBA Finals 'unbeaten'. In fact, they are the second franchise and the third team overall after the Los Angeles Lakers achieved it twice - 1989 and 2001.

While the 1989 Lakers ended up getting swept in the Finals by the Detroit Pistons, the 2001 Lakers clinched the title - their second consecutive - after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 4-1 in the championship series.

Other notable events on May 22nd

  • In 1963, the Syracuse Nationals' move to Philadelphia was approved by the NBA. The franchise was purchased by Philadelphia's Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman earlier that spring.
  • In 1988, Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins went head-to-head in one of the greatest fourth-quarter duels in NBA playoff history. It was Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals and the Celtics eventually won 118-116, but not before Wilkins (17) and Bird (20) combined for 37 points in their duel during the final period. "The basket was like a well," remembered Wilkins, who finished with 47 for the game. "I couldn't miss. He couldn't miss. That's the greatest game I've ever played in or seen played. It was two guys who just did not want to lose." Both teams would shoot a combined 58.8% from the field - the second-highest mark in NBA playoff history.
  • In 1994, the Toronto franchise, which was set to join the NBA for the 1995-96 season, unveiled 'Raptors' as the team's nickname.

Game-winning buzzer-beater on May 22nd

LeBron James vs. Indiana Pacers in 2013

LeBron James vs. Orlando Magic in 2009

Notable playoff eliminations on May 22nd

  • In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the reining champion San Antonio Spurs 119-111 in Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals, booking their third Conference Finals appearance in franchise history and the second in the previous four years.
  • In 1994, the New York Knicks eliminated the Chicago Bulls in the Conference Semifinals with an 87-77 Game 7 victory. Although the Bulls were without Michael Jordan, still in his first retirement, this was the first Knicks' series victory against the Bulls after getting eliminated by them in four of the five previous postseasons.

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