The Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns entered the 2022 NBA playoffs as No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences.
But neither will be taking home this year’s Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Heat’s bid for a second NBA Finals appearance in three years ended on Sunday night, as they were narrowly defeated by the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Meanwhile, the reigning Western Conference champion Suns were the top overall seed after posting an NBA-best 64 wins in the regular season, yet they didn't even reach the conference finals. Phoenix exited the postseason in embarrassing fashion, being shellacked on their home court in Game 7 of the second round by the No. 4 seed Dallas Mavericks.
The West's No. 2 seed also failed to make it out of the second round, with the Memphis Grizzlies falling to the eventual conference champion Golden State Warriors in six games.
So the 2022 NBA Finals will pit the No. 2 seed from the East up against the No. 3 seed from the West.
When was the last NBA Finals without a No. 1 seed?
Celtics-Warriors will be the second straight NBA Finals that didn’t feature a single No. 1 seed. The two top seeds in last year’s playoffs – the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz – also lost in Round 2 as the No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks and No. 2 Suns emerged from each conference. The Bucks then overcame a 2-0 Finals deficit to win the championship.
The last time there were consecutive Finals without a one seed was 2011 (No. 3 Mavericks over No. 2 Heat) and 2012 (No. 2 Heat over No. 2 Thunder).
How many NBA Finals haven’t featured a No. 1 seed?
Including this year, there have been 15 NBA Finals without a No. 1 seed. And most of them have occurred within the past 20 years, with nine coming since 2004.
Both the Celtics and Warriors have been involved in a one-seed-less Finals before. In a battle of No. 2 seeds, the Celtics took down the rival Los Angeles Lakers in six games to win the 1968 Finals. And as a two seed in 2018, the Warriors swept the No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers to secure a second straight title.
Here’s a full look at every NBA Finals that didn’t include a No. 1 seed:
2022: No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 3 Golden State Warriors
2021: No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks over No. 2 Phoenix Suns
2018: No. 2 Golden State Warriors over No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers
2012: No. 2 Miami Heat over No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder
2011: No. 3 Dallas Mavericks over No. 2 Miami Heat
2007: No. 3 San Antonio Spurs over No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers
2006: No. 2 Miami Heat over No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
2005: No. 2 San Antonio Spurs over No. 2 Detroit Pistons
2004: No. 3 Detroit Pistons over No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers
1994: No. 2 Houston Rockets over No. 2 New York Knicks
1978: No. 3 Washington Bullets over No. 4 Seattle SuperSonics
1973: No. 2 New York Knicks over No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers
1968: No. 2 Boston Celtics over No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers
1952: No. 2 Minneapolis Lakers over No. 3 New York Knicks
1951: No. 2 Rochester Royals over No. 3 New York Knicks