The NBA's "real season" begins soon, as playoff time is finally almost upon us.
HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: Upsets used to be the exception, now they are the rule.
The following five match-ups all feature an eighth seed upsetting a number one seed, a feat that has only happened five times in NBA history. Of the five times, three of those upsets ocurred in the last six years.
Golden State Warriors Upset Dallas Mavericks - 2007
At the time, the Dallas Mavericks were considered one of the biggest favorite one seeds ever, coming off of a 67-15 regular season record which was the only since legitimate claim to challenge the Bulls 72-10 all-time best NBA season. The Mavericks were also coming off of losing in the Finals to the Heat the previous season, a series many people felt like they should’ve won; expectations were high and facing Golden State in the first round they had every reason to be. The Warriors were a franchise at the time, much like now, that was mired in mediocrity with no real reason to be optimistic. After squeaking into the playoffs at 42-40, they were a complete after-thought. The Warriors qualified for the playoffs that year for the first time since 1994 with the 13 year drought between appearances being the second longest in NBA history. The Warriors beat the Mavs in six games, and this Baron Davis dunk over AK-47 (even though it took place in the following playoff series) shows you the level he and the Warriors were playing at:
Denver Nuggets Upset Seattle Supersonics - 1994
The year was 1994. Charles Barkley signature “Air Max” shoes, selling for $150 a pair, were king. The world was shocked by the unexpected death of Kurt Cobain. And Seattle Supersonics fans the world over were reeling from a first round playoff loss to the eighth seed Denver Nuggets. The Sonics had blown through the regular season going 63-19 which was a franchise record for wins and were the number one seed heading into the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs to face a Denver Nuggets team that no one had expected anything from. And with good reason; to that point in NBA history no eighth seed had ever beaten a number one seed. And no one expected a 42-40 Denver team to pose a legitimate threat, especially after losing the first two games in what was at the time a best of five game first round series. Game five was an epic back and forth game where the intensity never waned and every possession felt like the most important in the game. Kendall Gill’s layup with a half second left on the clock sent the game into overtime. But the Nuggets maintained the momentum throughout the extra frame and escaped with a 98-94 victory, winning the series.
New York Knicks Upset Miami Heat - 1999
The Pat Riley led Heat were the number one seed after posting a 33-17 record during the strike shortened season and the Knicks stumbled to 27-23, barely qualifying as the eighth seed. Both teams had dominant big men from Georgetown University; Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing. Both had flashy offensive weapons that could make plays, Tim Hardaway for the Heat and a still dominant Latrell Sprewell. Down by one with 19.9 seconds left in the deciding game five, the Knicks did everything they could to screw up the possession and struggled to get a shot off. Ultimately after an inbound with 4.4 seconds, Allan Houston launched a running floater from the top of the lane that bounced off the rim and backboard before falling through the hoop securing a one point victory and the series for the Knicks.
Philadelphia 76ers Upset Chicago Bulls - 2012
Game one of the series, the Bulls are coasting right along, up by 12 with 81 seconds left. Then, this happens:
Series over, Philly wins four games to two. That's pretty much it.
Memphis Grizzlies Upset San Antonio Spurs - 2011
I remember at the time watching this series, particularly how slow and old the Spurs looked and thinking, "Man they had a great run, but they are definitely over the hill." Wrong again! The Spurs, essentially with the same core of players, will be the #2 seed in the West this year. The Spurs came into the 2011 playoffs as the #1 seed, with the second-best record in basketball and home court advantage against any Western Conference opponent and were dropped in the first round. Zach Randolph played out of his mind and Marc Gasol wore down Tim Duncan on both ends of the floor.
In this year's playoffs, if the Bucks were to beat the Heat, or the Lakers were able to vanquish the Thunder, would either be a bigger upset than any of the previous upsets on this list?