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Looking at the possible first round upsets in the NBA playoffs

Apr 19, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

Heat's Bosh and Bulls' Boozer await a rebound from a Miami free throw in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami

There are some first round series in the NBA playoffs, like the one between the Heat and the Bucks, for example, that are nothing more than foregone conclusions.

But there are others where the lower seed has a more than legitimate shot at beating a higher-seeded team winning and advancing, at least in theory.

In the East, the four-five matchup between the Nets and the Bulls could really go either way. Brooklyn is probably the better team based on the way the Nets have closed the season, and with Deron Williams appearing to be as healthy as ever over the past few weeks, that superstar presence offensively might be enough for Brooklyn to advance.

Then again, Chicago is the one team (other than the defending champion Heat, of couse) no one wanted to face in the postseason, thanks to the hard-nosed, defense-first style the team plays under head coach Tom Thibodeau, and a Spurs-like ability to find a way to win no matter which players are available on any given night.

The Celtics and the Knicks should be an absolute war, given the history between the two teams this season. Even though New York is the two seed and has a far better won-loss record, Boston is unpredictable in terms of the effort veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett may be able to turn in, and even without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics are capable of putting up a fight of epic proportions against the Knicks in a seven game series.

The Hawks, entering the playoffs winning just two of their last seven games, don’t appear to be much of a threat against the higher seeded Pacers, and as we touched on briefly, there’s no way in the world the Heat lose four times to the Bucks unless multiple, tragic injuries should somehow rock the Miami franchise.

Shifting to the West, it’s tough to see any of the lower seeds taking out the higher ones in an upset.

The Thunder aren’t going to lose to a Rockets team that has become way too easy to slow offensively, and Houston (like most teams) has no answer for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

The Lakers may seem like a decent upset pick to take down a Spurs squad that has struggled to stay healthy, but L.A.’s team defense has been dreadful all season, and even a moderately healthy Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili should be able to exploit that for way too many easy baskets.

Memphis, meanwhile, as the five seed taking on the Clippers would seem to have a shot at the minor upset given the fact that they took L.A. to seven games in the first round of the playoffs last season. But as good as the Grizzlies are defensively, they can’t be counted on to score with any consistency. So, a Clippers team led by Chris Paul who can both score plenty himself as well as set up his teammates for easy looks should have surprisingly little trouble with Memphis, even though the Grizzlies have appeared to be a somewhat strong team throughout the course of the season.

As for the Warriors taking down the Nuggets, Denver’s home court advantage is so strong that it finished with a better home record than the Miami Heat, who won 66 games and at one point during the season rode a 27-game winning streak. The home record of 38-3 the Nuggets put together is beyond impressive, it’s formidable.

The Warriors have a legitimate superstar in Stephen Curry, but they’ll need to prevent Denver from getting out in transition for the bulk of the series, especially at home, to even have a chance.

There’s a reason that upsets in the first round of the NBA playoffs are few and far between. Teams play all season long for postseason positioning, and the better team needs to lose four times before being sent home, which isn’t likely to happen unless injuries intervene, or an underdog puts together a rare and magical run that gets them to the next round.

The Bulls seem the most likely to pull the “upset,” with the Celtics, Grizzlies, and Warriors having the next best (albeit longshot) chances of proving the pundits wrong and advancing to the second round.

  1. 1972wasalongtimeago - Apr 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Bulls will beat the Nets

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      I agree.

  2. sdelmonte - Apr 19, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Celtics will be playing for a wounded and traumatized city. That doesn’t always mean a win, but I really don’t want to be the Knicks facing 12 Celtics and millions of well-wishers trying to give Boston something to smile about.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      And this is one of those times where it doesn’t mean a win.

    • mazblast - Apr 20, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      The Hollywood treatment will be reserved for the Lakers, if anyone.

  3. miamatt - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    I don’t really consider it an upset when a #5 beats a #4, unless there is an obvious disparity between the two teams.

  4. Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 19, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    ALTHOUGH I know Heat fans hope the Bulls win because the Nets’ size will give Miami problems, whereas the Bulls are trotting out a limping Gibson, and a less-than 90% Noah.

  5. cornbreadbbqred - Apr 20, 2013 at 12:42 AM

    Nobody wanted to play Denver or Golden State in the first round. Thanks goodness they get to beat up on each other!

    Laker Fan

  6. Jeff - Apr 20, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    Sure would be nice to see a major upset though, like the Bucks winning. Think of all the media coverage. Go Bucks!

  7. omniusprime - Apr 20, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Look for the Lakers to upset those deadbeats from San Antonio. The Spurs stumbled and bumbled across the season’s finish line, they looked like an 8 seed and the Lakers looked like a 2 seed when they last played. The Lakers don’t need much defense against a pathetic Spurs team that can’t score. Yesterday I saw some fool pundit touting the Spurs as the only team that could beat the Heatstroke.

    The lowly celtics won’t put up any fight as Sergeant Sad Sack and The Lie just lay down and play dead for the Snickerbockers. The despicable celtics are so bad they can’t even beat themselves.

    • mazblast - Apr 20, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      You got your drug levels just right today, didn’t you?

      • ocgunslinger - Apr 21, 2013 at 8:55 AM

        They help with the cutesy knee slapping names he comes up with.

  8. mw198667 - Apr 20, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    the bucks WILL beat the heat

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