By the numbers, the Lakers had the easiest path to a title in 30-plus years

By defeating the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers won the 17th title as a franchise, tying them with the Boston Celtics for the most in NBA history.

It was a tremendous accomplishment for Los Angeles, particularly with what a difficult season it’s been for everyone, one that will be looked back on fondly for years to come.

On the other hand, as the league’s most prominent franchise, the Lakers will always have their fair share of haters. And the haters won’t have to look far this year for a talking point to use against L.A.’s main team and their latest trophy.

That’s because, according to our research, with a combined opponent regular-season win percentage of 57.9 percent, the Lakers just had the easiest path to a championship since the 1985-86 Celtics.

Overall, Los Angeles’ title run was 17th “easiest” ever based on opponent regular-season win rate, and the fifth easiest since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, which many consider the start to the modern era of professional basketball in America.

Only the 1986-87 Lakers (54.0 percent combined opponent regular-season percentage), the 1987-88 Lakers (56.4 percent), the 1983-84 Celtics (56.7 percent) and the 1985-86 Celtics (57.3 percent) had less challenging foes on their way to a championship than this year’s Lakers.

At the same time, it’s not Los Angeles’ fault they had such a seemingly “easy” rode to a title; they just beat whoever was in front of them and did so with aplomb in a rather dominant fashion.

Faced off with a hot Portland Trail Blazers team in Round 1, who had won seven of their previous nine games prior to the playoffs, the Lakers dropped just Game 1 before ending the series in five.

In the Western Conference semifinals, Los Angeles again dropped Game 1, this time against the Houston Rockets, before winning the next four contests by an average margin of victory of 12.8 points.

Against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers ended the series 4-1, dropping just Game 3, pretty convincingly winning the rest of the series.

And in the 2020 NBA Finals, L.A. faced a Miami Heat team that finished fifth in the East in the regular season and was not expected to be a Finals-caliber squad. Despite a solid effort out of Miami, the Lakers were still able to win their 17th title following a 4-2 defeat of the Heat.

No title run is “easy”, but the Lakers certainly did not have the toughest path in being crowned the 2019-20 champions.


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