Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Nets say Thaddeus Young has a left knee strain, out Friday vs. Cavaliers

    Mar 26, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Brooklyn is a half-game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

  2. Timofey Mozgov’s local commercial is an absolute gem (video)

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Cleveland Cavaliers Indiana Pacers v Cleveland Cavaliers

    Timofey Mozgov in a backward jersey? Timofey Mozgov in a backward jersey

  3. Tim Duncan bet on basketball, according to his girlfriend

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    Tim Duncan, Mitch McGary AP

    Spurs big man apparently earned $100 by making 3-pointer against Thunder

  4. Pelicans-Rockets nearly had a very screwed-up ending (video)

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

    Anthony Davis, Alexis Ajinca, James Harden Anthony Davis, Alexis Ajinca, James Harden

    Referees miss blatant out of bounds call, clock momentarily stops before restarting

  5. NBA Draft prospect matchups to watch in NCAA Tourament this weekend

    Mar 26, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT

    Northeastern v Notre Dame Getty Images

    The best matchup of the weekend may be Jakob Poeltl vs. Jahlil Okafor.

  6. Report: LeBron James frustrated with Kevin Love for not fitting in

    Mar 26, 2015, 9:08 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks

    That might be fair, but what about all Love’s reasons for being frustrated with Cavaliers?

  7. Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: Kevin Love seems to be fitting in just fine suddenly

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:29 AM EDT

    Kevin Love, Zach Randolph AP

    Lionel Messi was hanging out at the most entertaining NBA game of the night.

Featured video

Where does Steve Nash rank all-time?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (7384)
  2. K. Lowry (6535)
  3. R. Rubio (6049)
  4. P. George (5906)
  5. A. Davis (5760)
  1. D. Howard (5681)
  2. L. Aldridge (5667)
  3. G. Monroe (5657)
  4. D. Rose (5617)
  5. B. Knight (5539)