The Raptors beat the 76ers by 36.
The Nuggets beat the Trail Blazers by 26.
“Whether you lose by one or you lose by 25, it’s one game,” Portland star Damian Lillard said.
Butler and Lillard are right. Their teams still have a chance.
But their lopsided setbacks last night have spelled doom for every team that previously faced a similar situation.
In what had been 2-2 series, Toronto and Denver blew the doors off their opponents in Game 5. The Raptors won, 125-89. The Nuggets won, 124-98. And just like that, a pair of tight series now have overwhelming favorites.
Game 5 winners in a 2-2 best-of-seven series have won the series 82% of the time. So, simple victories would have put Toronto and Denver in the drivers’ seats.
But the way they won suggests they’ve seized even greater control.
All teams that won Game 5 of a 2-2 series by at least 23 points have won the series. They didn’t always finish it in six, but they’ve always won – a perfect 26-for-26.
Even lowering the threshold to a 15-point Game 5 win, the Game 5 winner has won 96% of the time. For comparison, Game 5 winners that won by less than 15 points have won only 77% of the time.
The largest Game 5 loss in a 2-2 series ever overcome was 22 points by the Spurs, who came back to beat the New Orleans Hornets in 2008. The only other team to lose Game 5 in a 2-2 series by 15+ and still win the series: Suns, who lost by 16 to the Warriors in 1976.
So, if the 76ers or Trail Blazers win their series after suffering a blowout like that last night, it’d be unprecedented.
Here’s every 2-2 best-of-seven series with a Game 5 margin of 15+, sorted by Game 5 margin. When the Game 5 winner won the series, it’s red. When the Game 5 loser won the series it’s blue.