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DAR Sports: The 10 Biggest Upsets In NBA Playoff History

By @TrueGodImmortal



Playoff time always brings about some interesting moments and above all else, upsets. Teams that are supposed to advance sometimes get stalled by a team full of heart pushing forward. The Boston Celtics this season were the no. 1 seed in the East, but they are struggling a bit with the 8th seed Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. The series is tied 2-2, and it can go either way honestly. With that possibility in mind, along with the 2nd seed San Antonio Spurs struggling with the 7th seed Memphis Grizzlies, we wanted to take today to look at the 10 biggest upsets in playoff history. There have been quite a few, so narrowing it down to 10 was a bit of a task, but I think these are the top 10. Let's get into it.

*Houston Rockets vs Los Angeles Lakers 
(1981 Western Conference First Round)




-This is one of those instances where I'm shocked, but I'm also not shocked. The Houston Rockets had one of the most talented players ever in Moses Malone on their team BEFORE Hakeem and Calvin Murphy showed up big time in this series. The Showtime Lakers were an unstoppable force with Kareem and Magic Johnson, but a lot of what makes this upset so interesting is that it came at a time when the NBA had a best of three first round, so Houston took 2 of 3 games against a much stronger Lakers team. The Rockets went 40-42, a below .500 team and they managed to slow down the Showtime Lakers and end their chances of winning back to back titles. That's a MEGA upset, when you defeat the defending champions.

*New Jersey Nets vs Philadelphia 76ers 
(1984 Eastern Conference First Round)





-The 76ers were seen as one of the unstoppable East juggernauts during the 80's. The New Jersey Nets had shown flashes of potential, but not enough to really have a chance in this series, right? Wrong (say it like Charlie Murphy). The Nets took games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia and the Sixers took games 3 and 4 in New Jersey. With game 5 hanging in the balance, the Nets overcame being on the road and won game 5 to advance to the next round, stopping the 76ers chances of winning another championship.

*Denver Nuggets vs Seattle Supersonics 
(1994 Western Conference First Round)





-Many of the biggest upsets in NBA history are the 8th seed defeating the 1st seed, and this one is the most interesting one of them all to me. The Sonics went 63-19, seemed poised for a possible NBA Finals run, with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton leading the way. Something happened. The Sonics went up 2-0 and many of us thought it was a done deal for the Nuggets.  The Nuggets had other plans. Behind the legendary Dikembe Mutumbo, the Nuggets would take a convincing game 3 victory, pull out a huge OT victory in game 4, and that crucial game 5 would see yet another overtime thriller. The Sonics underestimated the Nuggets and they paid for it dearly. The Nuggets would pull off a huge shocker and win game 5 in OT advancing to the Semifinals.

*Houston Rockets vs Phoenix Suns 
(1995 NBA Western Conference Semifinals)





-The Phoenix Suns were the 3rd seed and seemingly had the Rockets' number. Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, and their entire team were looking to return to the Finals after coming up short in 1993. Though the Spurs were the top team in the West this season, the biggest challenge for the Suns remained Hakeem Olajuwon and the defending NBA Champions, the Houston Rockets. The Suns took a 3-1 lead on the Rockets, but Hakeem and company found a rhythm and overtook them completely in the final 3 games. The Suns would blow their 3-1 lead and I can only imagine how bad the jokes would have flown if this happened during the social media era. Hakeem was incredible in those final 3 games and he was the biggest reason the Rockets made that amazing comeback. The Rockets would go on to win the NBA Title that year.

*Miami Heat vs New York Knicks 
(1999 Eastern Conference First Round)





-Anytime the 8th seed overtakes the 1st seed in the playoffs, it registers as a huge upset. It's rare honestly, but when it happens, it sends shockwaves through the basketball world. In the shortened lockout season, the Knicks finished at the 8th seed and the Heat were sitting pretty at the top of the East. Though the shortened season makes this feat slightly less interesting, the fact remains that no one expected this Knicks team to go as far as they did and they would defeat the Heat in the playoffs, much like they did the year before in a much more physical series. In this series, they went the standard 5 games, and the Knicks rallied in the 4th of game 5 to win on an Allan Houston short jumper. This is one of those moments that lives in infamy for this forgotten season and for Allan Houston's career.

*Charlotte Hornets vs Miami Heat 
(2001 Eastern Conference First Round)




-The Miami Heat seem to have an issue with getting out of the first round, at least during this era. With Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Eddie Jones, and Bruce Bowen in tow, the Heat seemed like they'd be unstoppable, at least heading into the 2nd round. However, the Hornets would make quick work of the team, sweeping them in a timely fashion 3-0. Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn were key for the victory, with Baron leading the way and pushing the Heat beyond what they expected. There's much to be said about Baron Davis being on two teams that pulled huge upset in the playoffs over the years.

*Detroit Pistons vs Los Angeles Lakers 
(2004 NBA Finals)





-This is one of my favorite upsets because it shouldn't have happened. No way. No chance. A healthy Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, and Kobe Bryant were virtually a lock to win the NBA Finals. The issue was that the team wasn't 100% healthy and their defense couldn't keep up with the younger and healthy Pistons team. This Lakers team was during the decline of Shaq, the final season of Karl Malone, one of the final seasons of Gary Payton, and during the rise of Kobe. Kobe and Shaq still had their chemistry issues, Shaq was fighting off injuries, Malone wasn't fully healthy, and it just didn't work. Credit has to be given to the Pistons for playing the game exactly how they needed to and walking away with the win in 5 games and the NBA Title.

*Dallas Mavericks vs Golden State Warriors 
(2007 Western Conference First Round)





-There is no greater upset in NBA playoff history than this one. The Mavericks were the no. 1 seed and the best team in basketball, going 67-15 and having the MVP, Dirk Nowitzki on their team. They were out for retribution after losing to the Miami Heat the year prior in the NBA Finals and they were off to a great start earning home court advantage through the playoffs. However, the "We Believe" Warriors, backed by Baron Davis, Matt Barnes, Stephen Jackson, and more came to compete. They would take the 67-15 Mavericks to 6 games, including a big blowout win at Oracle Arena. The craziest thing about this in general is that the Warriors had swept the season series with the Mavericks, so perhaps their victory wasn't nearly as far fetched as people thought it to be. Still, this upset is probably the greatest of them all, and on a team without a true superstar and an injured Baron Davis, it's amazing to see that they were able to breeze by the Mavericks in such a dominant fashion. Not the ideal end to the season for MVP Dirk, I'd expect.

*Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs 
(2011 Western Conference First Round)





-Similar to the story right now in the current NBA playoffs, the Grizzlies seemingly had no chance against the Spurs in 2011. The Grizzlies at the time had never won a playoff series or a playoff game for that matter when they came into this series, so they had everything working against them. Not to mention, the Grizzlies were the 8th seed and the Spurs were the 1st seed. Somehow, the younger and aggressive Grizzlies managed to steal the series right from under the Spurs, and move onto the 2nd round. It remains one of the most fun upsets to revisit, despite the belief that the Grizzlies and Spurs aren't fun teams to watch.

*Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat
(2011 NBA Finals)






-LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh. The Big 3. A created super team poised to lead the Heat to the Finals and multiple championships. Surely, no one stood a chance against this team, right? The Eastern Conference couldn't stop LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, and surely the over matched Dallas Mavericks couldn't right? Right? With Dirk Nowitzki leading the way, along with a number of players like Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, and more, this Mavericks team had a team full of players beyond their glory days, but working together to make one last run at a championship. This is infamously known as the worst performance in the Finals for LeBron, as he averaged 17.8 points a game, his lowest in any Finals series. Dwyane Wade was the leading scorer for the Heat, and after the Heat went up 2-1 on the Mavericks, the Mavericks would take three straight games and Dirk would finally win a championship and Finals MVP. This was truly an upset as the trio of James, Bosh, and Wade seemed poised to win a title this year, but the Mavericks slowed down LeBron and that was the deciding factor. This is definitely one of the greatest upsets in the NBA playoffs.

-True 

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