Skip to content

Looking at the possible first round upsets in the NBA playoffs

Apr 19, 2013, 10:30 AM EST

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. Kevin Durant to miss Thunder-Timberwolves game with sprained big toe

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:11 PM EST

    kevin Durant kevin Durant

    Durant suffered the injury on Sunday in Cleveland.

  2. PBT Extra: Who should be the All-Star Game reserves?

    Jan 26, 2015, 7:30 PM EST

    James Harden, Jeremy Lin AP

    Will Steve Kerr start Klay Thompson or James Harden?

  3. Report: Kobe Bryant “definitively coming back to play next season”

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:43 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Did you really think Kobe Bryant was going to leave the game on anything but his own terms?

  4. Kobe Bryant to have surgery on shoulder, is done for season

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:37 PM EST

    Kobe Bryant AP

    He should be back for the start of next season.

  5. PBT’s Weekly NBA Power Rankings: Hawks continue to fly high

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:38 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptnmmtzkyjjhzgm1zdzlogjiyza4mgjimdhiyjc2mjcy AP

    It’s Hawks and Warriors and everyone else. Just as its been for a while now.

  6. Kobe Bryant wanted to sign with Michael Jordan’s Wizards

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:04 PM EST

    Kobe Bryant with Michael Jordan Getty Images

    After Washington pushed out Jordan, Kobe re-signed with Lakers

  7. Nick Young benched because Byron Scott thought Lakers guard ‘didn’t want to be there’

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    The Los Angeles Sports And Entertainment Commission's 11th Annual Lakers All-Access Event Getty Images

    Lakers coach asked Young about his defense. ‘The answer he gave me, I couldn’t figure it out.’

  8. Pau Gasol’s trade tip put his and Marc Gasol’s All-Star futures in motion

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:44 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Memphis Grizzlies Getty Images

    Gasols, Pau of the Bulls and Marc of the Grizzlies, become first brothers to start an NBA All-Star game

Featured video

Stephen Curry leads NBA MVP race mid-season
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (7754)
  2. L. Aldridge (7226)
  3. H. Whiteside (7037)
  4. R. Rubio (6381)
  5. K. Martin (6256)
  1. K. Walker (6049)
  2. N. Batum (5910)
  3. J. Noah (5868)
  4. C. Anthony (5814)
  5. D. Wade (5470)