Every year, a few teams are capable of knocking off a contender. They are often slept-on and overlooked. Throw in a condensed, do-or-die seven game series and these Cinderella candidates need signs saying ‘proceed with caution’.
After all, the eighth seeded Denver Nuggets popularized the upset trend when they beat the first seeded Seattle Super Sonics back in the early nineties. More recently, the Golden State Warriors ‘Shocked the World’ like Muhammad Ali when they disposed of the Dallas Mavericks in 2007.
Often, they’ll tire a contender out. Last year, the Chicago Bulls killed the Boston Celtics' chances of repeating as world champions by pushing them to seven, nail biting games. The green-and-white advanced, but had nothing left for the Orlando Magic in the second round.
Will Cinderella get the glass slipper in 2010? Or will the clock strike midnight? HoopsVibe begins its playoff preview by naming three teams that can scare and, possibly, beat a contender.
#3) Charlotte Bobcats
Why: Team Jordan are second season virgins, but they won't be awkward or uncomfortable.
Individually, they have experience: Stephen Jackson was Captain Jack for the We Believe Warriors of 2007; Boris Diaw made the Western Conference Finals with the Phoenix Suns; Gerald Wallace was a youngster on those impressive Sacramento Kings teams; and Coach Larry Brown won an NBA Title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.
Collectively, these Bobcats possess the rare ability to dig in and get stops, which is so important in the playoffs. Jackson and Wallace can lockdown opposing swings, while Tyson Chandler, Tyrus Thomas, and even Theo Ratliff can plug the middle with their length.
Face it: Charlotte is dangerous. And a contender may learn this lesson the hard way.
#2) Phoenix Suns
Why: Seven Seconds or Less is now Seven Seconds to Defend. Well, sort of.
While these Suns shouldn’t be confused with the 1989 Detroit Pistons or Pat Riley’s New York Knickerbockers, they can hold their own defensively. For instance, if Coach Alvin Gentry needs a stop he can look down his bench and call on Louis Amundson, Jared Dudley and/or Robin Lopez.
Of course, the biggest difference is superstar Amar’e Stoudemire, who recently stopped treating defense like a contagious disease. Perhaps, he’s matured. Or perhaps, he wants a Max’ extension when he hits free agency this summer. Whatever his reason, STAT must continue performing like an MVP for Phoenix to push deep in the playoffs.
#1) San Antonio Spurs
Why: They defend. They have been there and done that. And, most importantly, they still have The Big Three.
The days of championship parades on the river walk and Tony Parker ‘blessing’ us with sixteen bars at the victory party have passed, but this veteran crew are relevant because they defend. San Antonio can get stops at home or on the road, which gives them a chance in every game.
And two things decide close games: experience and talent. No situation fazes the wily Spurs, especially with their All-Star trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Parker rounding into form.
Are Charlotte, Phoenix, and San Antonio capable of playing Cinderella? What other teams can pull of an upset? Get at us with comments and thoughts. Photo courtesy of Shindz.