NBA Playoffs: 10 Biggest Upsets in NBA Playoff History
The 2012 NBA playoffs are upon us.
The NBA playoffs have been the stage for some of the most iconic and memorable moments in all of sports, as well as some of the most intense team and individual matchups ever.
Magic Johnson's baby sky hook to sink the Celtics.
Michael Jordan's heroic performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain.
Michael vs. Magic.
Lakers vs. Celtics.
The list goes on and on.
Mixed in with all these epic moments have been some equally epic upsets.
While they may not be as commonplace as in the NHL playoffs, for example, upsets in the NBA playoffs still happen from time to time.
It is hard to say why upsets in the NBA playoffs are not quite as frequent as in the NHL, but there are a few factors that come to mind.
One is that home-court advantage actually matters in the NBA playoffs. A road win in the NBA playoffs can be a series-changing event.
Another factor to consider is that the gap in talent between the No. 1 seed and the No. 8 seed is noticeably more significant in the NBA playoffs than in the NHL playoffs.
It is not unheard of for a sub-.500 team to make the NBA playoffs as a No. 8 seed—only to be absolutely crushed by the No. 1 seed, very often an elite squad that is going to challenge for the NBA championship.
Another factor to consider is that the NBA playoffs, and the matchups being played, are not as prone to fluky events that change the course of a series—or even a season.
How many times have we seen an NHL playoff series completely change course due to a crazy deflection, erratic bounce off the boards or something along those lines?
That does not really happen in the NBA playoffs. Usually, the better team wins. The series might go seven games, and it might have enough drama that the fans and players can hardly take another moment, but the cream usually rises to the top in the NBA playoffs.
It is because of this that when a real upset occurs, a true eye-opening, jaw-dropping stunner, it resounds through the sports world like a bomb exploding.
Recently I wrote an article on the 10 biggest upsets in NHL playoff history. With the NBA playoffs about to get going, it only seemed natural to look at the history of basketball's premier tournament and rank the 10 biggest upsets in the history of the NBA playoffs.
Which stunners made the list?
Let's find out.
Not All Upsets Are Created Equal
Bill Walton and the Trail Blazers roll to an unexpected title in 1977
If you read my article on the 10 biggest NHL playoff upsets, you know that I tried to define the type of upset I was looking at for inclusion on that list. In the spirit of consistency, I will try to do the same here.
Admittedly, it is a bit of a tougher task where the NBA is concerned.
Obviously, seeding has to be considered. But consider this: Only four No. 8 seeds have ever beaten a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs, and yes, all four of those are on this list somewhere. The infrequency of such an occurrence practically guaranteed such an event qualifying.
By contrast, since 1993, the No. 1 seed has beaten the No. 8 seed in the NHL playoffs 10 times after the Kings eliminated the Canucks recently
So seeding is not the only factor to consider. What other factors should be considered then?
Length of the series is one thing I looked at closely. There have been some definite upsets in the NBA playoffs over the years, but they took place in the days when the opening round of the playoffs consisted of a mini-series that was a best-of-three affair.
The opening round of the NBA playoffs then became a best-of-five scenario from 1984 to 2003, and this led to several upsets. Many critics of the best-of-five format noted how the propensity for an upset was greater in a shorter series. Thus, the length of a series has to also be considered in trying to classify an upset.
I also tried to look at the teams involved very closely. Parity does not run as rampant in the NBA as in other sports, so we still see a dynasty every so often. There are a few upsets on this list where a great team, or a team everyone thought was great, got defeated by a supposedly inferior opponent.
I also tried to look at some of the upsets to see exactly how far the team pulling the upset went in the playoffs. The longer the run, the more significant an early upset became.
In the end, though, not all upsets are created equal, and the ones that I considered the 10 biggest of all time had a different "feel" to them, an intangible sort of quality to them that allows them to stay fresh in the mind of most basketball fans.
If it feels like a big upset, then it probably was.
Before we get to the top 10, though, let's take a look at some of the upsets that deserve to be recognized but did not make the list.
The Magic upend Lebron James and the 66 win Cavs in the 2009 East Finals
Here are four upsets I came upon that were definitely surprising but for one reason or another were not surprising enough to make the top 10.
Here, then, are the Honorable Mentions.
1959 West Finals: The Sub-.500 Lakers Upset the Hawks
Right off the bat we get an upset that quite possibly could make the top 10, but I will leave it as an Honorable Mention for a couple of reasons.
From 1957 to 1966, the Boston Celtics won every single NBA championship except one—and that was the 1958 finals, where they lost in six games to the St. Louis Hawks.
In the 1959 playoffs, the Hawks were back as the best team in the Western Conference, and in the conference finals they squared off against the Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers had finished the regular season with a 33-39 record, while the Hawks had cruised to a 49-23 record.
But the Lakers had a rookie by the name of Elgin Baylor, and he spearheaded a huge upset of the defending champions. Baylor scored 33 points in Game 6 as the Lakers completed the upset.
This would have ranked higher but for the Lakers getting pretty well dominated by the Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Celtics began a run of eight straight titles by sweeping the overachieving Lakers out of the finals.
1977 NBA Finals: The Trail Blazers Beat the 76ers
Blazermania was born during the 1976-77 NBA season, and it reached a fever pitch in the NBA Finals against the heavily favored Sixers. This was a Sixers team that was absolutely loaded. They had names like Julius Erving (or Dr. J if you prefer), Darryl Dawkins and George McGinnis.
Going against them was a very young Portland team led by a very young Bill Walton. Walton had some help from Herb Gilliam and Maurice Lucas, but most figured that the young Blazers would wilt under the pressure of the All-Star-caliber lineup of the Sixers.
For the first two games, that seemed accurate as the Sixers took a 2-0 lead. The series turned near the end of Game 2, though, when a fight erupted between Dawkins and the Blazers' Bobby Gross. First the Blazers got mad, then they got even and then they just took the title in six games.
Walton was the hero of Game 6 with 20 points and 23 rebounds as Portland won its only NBA title to date.
1981 First Round: The Sub-.500 Rockets Stun the Lakers
In reality, the entire run of the 1980-81 Rockets was a huge upset, but it began with their stunning first-round defeat of the Lakers.
The Lakers were the defending NBA champions. Led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, most everyone expected the Lakers to make a serious run at repeating as champions.
The Houston Rockets, meanwhile, had limped into the playoffs with a 40-42 record.
But the No. 3-seeded Lakers could not handle Moses Malone or Calvin Murphy, and the Rockets shocked Los Angeles by taking two of three from the Lakers.
The Rockets would then take out the Spurs and the similarly sub-.500 Kansas City Kings before finally falling to Larry Bird, Robert Parish and the rest of the Boston Celtics in six tough games.
This would rank higher but for the best-of-three format that got the whole ball rolling. It is awful hard to put a ton of credence into a series that ends at 2-1 when, by modern standards, that series would have just gotten good.
So, while the '81 Rockets' upset of Showtime clearly deserves an Honorable Mention, I do not believe it deserves a spot in the top 10.
2009 Eastern Conference Finals: The Magic Wipe Out the Top-Seeded Cavs
The Cavs had been the best team in the NBA in the regular season, having racked up 66 wins. LeBron James had been an unstoppable force all season long.
In the playoffs, the Cavs were even more dominant, as they won their first eight playoff games. It seemed like Cleveland's year, and the title was there for the taking.
But Dwight Howard and the Magic had other ideas. Orlando won Game 1 in Cleveland and then won both games in Orlando. Cleveland would stay alive in Game 5, but in Game 6 Dwight Howard would show why he is Superman as he poured in 40 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.
While this was certainly an upset, it is hard to place it in the top 10. Orlando was a No. 3 seed and had already proven itself worthy by beating the No. 2-seeded Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Again, not all upsets are created equal.
Hopefully you are now even more curious to see what made the top 10.
10. 1995 Western Conference First Round: The Rockets' Run Begins
The Rockets' run to a second straight title began with an upset of the Jazz
On the surface, you may be wondering how this is even an upset at all.
After all, in 1995 the Rockets were the defending NBA champions. On top of that, they were a No. 6 seed with 47 wins. They also had Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on their team, so how could they be underdogs at all?
Well, the Utah Jazz were a tremendous team during the 1994-95 season. Led by the dynamic duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz racked up 60 wins during the 1994-95 season.
As most of us know, one of the biggest home-court advantages in the NBA is the one the Jazz enjoy in Salt Lake City. For the Rockets to win this series against the favored Jazz, Houston would have to win a game in Utah.
It won two.
In Game 5, the Rockets trailed by 12 points late in the third quarter. Behind 33 points from Olajuwon and 31 points from Drexler, Houston staged a furious rally and won Game 5, and the series, 95-91.
The Rockets would continue on from there, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Phoenix Suns before going on to take down the San Antonio Spurs in six games.
In the NBA Finals, the Rockets would sweep Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway and the favored Magic.
If the Rockets had not been so good themselves, this would rank much higher. Houston beat four 50-win teams en route to the title and won nine games on the road during this playoff run.
An amazing and impressive run that began with an improbable defeat of the Utah Jazz.
9. 1969 NBA Finals: Russell's Last Stand
The Celtics upset the Lakers in the 1969 NBA Finals
The Boston Celtics of the 1960s were the most dominant franchise in NBA history.
By 1969, the Celtics had won eight of the past nine NBA championships.
But 1969 was different. The Celtics were older, slower and nearing the end of this great dynasty. The legendary Bill Russell was the player-coach by then, and both of his knees were just about shot. Sam Jones was about to retire. The Celtics were not the same.
Indeed, Boston limped into the playoffs with a very disappointing 48-34 record.
But the Celtics had one final run in them—and what a run it was.
It began with an upset of the 55-27 Philadelphia 76ers.
It continued with an equally stunning upset of the 54-28 New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference finals.
In the NBA Finals, the Celtics would meet a familiar foe in the Los Angeles Lakers. These Lakers, however, had taken steps for this contingency, having acquired Wilt Chamberlain in the offseason.
Along with All-Stars Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, everyone was picking the Lakers to finally beat the Celtics and take the title. The Lakers had finished the season at 55-27 and seemed to have too much talent and speed for the Celtics.
After the Lakers won the first two games, it looked like the Celtics were done.
But reports of Boston's demise were premature—and greatly exaggerated.
In Game 3, Russell decided to start double-teaming West, and it paid immediate dividends.
Game 4 ended with a buzzer-beater from Jones that somehow eluded Chamberlain's attempt to block it. Improbably, the Celtics had tied the series up.
The two teams would then hold serve on their respective home courts to send the series back to Los Angeles for a decisive Game 7.
In one of the least intelligent moves on the part of an owner in NBA history, Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke had thousands of balloons suspended from the rafters of the Forum. They all said "World Champion Lakers" on them.
Cooke also had flyers placed in every seat in the forum advising the crowd as to how things would progress after the Lakers had won the title.
All this was all the motivation the Celtics would need.
Russell knew Jerry West was injured, and he decided to attack the Lakers with the fast break as much as possible.
The Celtics had a 15-point lead after three quarters. But the Lakers then started finding their range and began to chip away at the lead.
One of the more controversial aspects of the game was when Chamberlain wanted to come back into the game with about two minutes left. But Lakers coach Butch van Breda Kolff left Chamberlain on the bench, not wanting to disrupt the chemistry of the group that had sparked such a great comeback.
A fluke shot by Don Nelson that hit the back iron, went straight into the air and then fell through the basket pretty much killed the final hope for a Lakers comeback, and Boston was able to win the game 108-106.
The Celtics' victory in the 1969 NBA Finals was the end of the line for Bill Russell, as he retired after the season.
But Russell would go out on top—and as an integral part of the ninth biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
8. 2011 Western Conference First Round: The Grizzlies Stun the Spurs
Highlights of the Grizzlies' shocking upset of the Spurs last year
Up until the 2011 NBA playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies had never won a single playoff game, let alone a series.
Twelve games. Twelve losses.
It was no real surprise that no one gave Memphis any chance at all against the battle-tested and veteran San Antonio Spurs.
It became very apparent very early on in the series that something special was happening. In Game 1 the Grizzlies caught the Spurs off balance with their speed and athleticism. Shane Battier's three-pointer with 24 seconds remaining put the Grizzlies ahead for good, and after a 101-98 win, Memphis was no longer focused on just winning a game—it wanted to win a series.
The Spurs would fight back to win Game 2, but it was becoming obvious that San Antonio had a big problem on its hands—and his name was Zach Randolph.
This was apparent in Game 3, as when Randolph was not doing the damage himself, the offense was flowing through him. The Grizzlies punished the Spurs inside. In the end, Randolph's first career three-pointer would provide the difference in a 91-88 win.
The Grizzlies would easily win Game 4, but the Spurs would get a near miraculous win in Game 5 to keep hope alive.
In Game 6, though, that hope would vanish. Randolph would prove to be the difference again. He scored 17 fourth-quarter points en route to a game total of 31. Marc Gasol added a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Memphis prevailed 99-91 and won its first playoff series in franchise history.
Memphis also became only the second No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed since the NBA went to a best-of-seven format for the first round.
This was a stunning outcome, no doubt. But those who watched the series know that the Grizzlies matched up very well against the Spurs.
And after their colossal series with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals, it was apparent just how good the Grizzlies were.
That is why this upset does not rate higher. The Grizzlies were a team that came of age against the Spurs, and their No. 8 seed was highly misleading.
Still, the Grizzlies' elimination of the Spurs in the 2011 NBA playoffs comes in as the eighth-biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
7. 2001 Eastern Conference First Round: The Hornets Sweep the Heat
Craig Jones/Getty Images
The Heat had Pat Riley as their coach and had veteran leadership up and down their lineup. Anthony Mason, Brian Grant and Tim Hardaway had led the Heat to an impressive 50-32 record, good enough for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Hornets, on the other hand, finished at 46-36 and did not seem to have the weapons or experience to compete with Miami.
In a show of unity, all of the Hornets began sporting the same headbands that Davis and Robinson wore.
The result was a shockingly easy three-game sweep over the heavily favored Heat.
The sweep was especially satisfying for Mashburn, who had been blamed for the Heat's previous playoff failures.
Against his former team, Mashburn would score 71 points and was a defensive force. He would also shoot 25-of-25 from the charity stripe.
Davis was also a big factor in the stunning sweep of Miami, as he averaged 20.3 points per game.
The defeat of Miami was so complete that Charlotte out-rebounded Miami by almost 10 rebounds per game and held the Heat to a record low of 235 points over the three-game set.
This dominating performance by a supposedly inferior team against a team as talented as the 2001 Heat earns the Hornets the No. 7 spot on this list.
6. 1975 NBA Finals: The Warriors Sweep the Bullets
The Warriors sweep the heavily favored Bullets in the 1975 NBA Finals
The 1975 NBA Finals was supposed to be a mere formality before crowning the Washington Bullets the new NBA champions.
Experts everywhere were predicting that the Bullets would sweep the Warriors.
They were right about the sweep—but very wrong about the team.
You couldn't really blame the experts. The Bullets had won 60 games during the regular season and had eliminated the defending champion Boston Celtics in the playoffs. Led by future Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, the Bullets were considered to have just too much talent for the Warriors.
Certainly, nothing that happened in the regular season would give anyone reason to think an upset of such colossal proportions was lurking. The Bullets had beaten Golden State three of the four times they met in the regular season.
But the Warriors were the highest-scoring team in the league, and once the finals got going, it was evident that the Warriors would be able to score against Washington.
In Game 1, led by Phil Smith's 20 points off the bench, the Warriors would draw first blood with a 101-95 win.
The series would then shift to the West Coast. But the games would have to be played at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, as the Oakland Arena was already being used that week.
It did not matter much. In Game 2 Rick Barry scored 36 points for Golden State, and the Warriors escaped with a 92-91 win.
In Game 3, the Warriors shocked everyone again. This time Barry poured in 38 points, and the Warriors had an incredible 3-0 lead in the series.
Still, there were many critics who fully expected Washington to come back and win the series.
Instead, in Game 4 at the Capital Center, the Wizards blew an early 14-point lead and fell to the Warriors in a game that saw a brawl between a coach and an opposing player. Whatever came of all that did not matter. After order was restored, Rick Barry would put the final nail in the Bullets' coffin as Golden State prevailed 96-95 to claim the NBA championship.
Golden State's shocking sweep of the supposedly superior Bullets was, and still is, one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.
It comes in as the sixth-biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
5. 2004 NBA Finals: The Pistons Put an End to the Lakers Dynasty
The best plays of the 2004 Pistons upset of the Lakers in the NBA Finals
The 2004 NBA Finals featured a contrast of styles.
The Los Angeles Lakers had won three straight NBA titles from 2000 to 2002 but had been beaten by the Spurs the year before. In the offseason, they added role players by bringing in Gary Payton and Karl Malone for the sole purpose of trying to win a title, which would be the first for either veteran.
The Detroit Pistons, on the other hand, were known more for their suffocating defense. In many ways the 2004 NBA Finals battle between the two teams would be very reminiscent of their battles in the late 1980s over the NBA championship—with one notable exception.
This time out, the Pistons were considered huge underdogs to the Lakers. The experts predicted that Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Payton, Malone and the rest of the Lakers would be too much for Detroit.
They could not have been more wrong.
It was evident from Game 1 that the Lakers were in trouble. Focusing on letting anyone other than Kobe or Shaq beat them, the Pistons held the Lakers to just 75 points as Detroit took home-court away from LA in an 87-75 win.
In Game 2, Kobe would nail a semi-miraculous three-pointer with about two seconds left to force overtime. The Lakers would prevail 99-91 in overtime, and Lakers fans breathed a sigh of relief.
But the series would never return to the City of Angels. Detroit would complete the shocking upset of the Lakers by winning the next three games.
In Game 3, the Pistons would hold the Lakers to a franchise low in a playoff game with just 68 points.
In Game 4, Shaq and Kobe would play much better, but it would not be good enough as Detroit prevailed 88-80 to push LA to the brink. This would turn out to be the great Karl Malone's final game, as a knee injury would hold him out of Game 5.
In Game 5, the Pistons ended the drama with a 100-87 victory.
Using a bunch of cast-offs, the Pistons had brought an end to the Lakers dynasty in emphatic fashion.
Shaq would end up in Miami the next season, while Phil Jackson would leave the NBA for about a year.
Karl Malone's career would end without that elusive NBA title.
The dominance of the Pistons in upending the mighty Lakers is the fifth-biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
4. 1984 Eastern Conference First Round: Road Warriors
The Nets shock the Sixers in a series where the road team won every game
In 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers finally broke through and captured an NBA championship, going 12-1 in the playoffs in the process.
In 1984, the Sixers' quest to repeat as champions would run into a stunning roadblock—with road being the operative word—in the form of the New Jersey Nets.
Going into this series, the Nets had never won a playoff game, and going up against the defending champions did not seem to be the tonic the young Nets would need to get their playoff fortunes on track.
But New Jersey would shock Philadelphia in Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia, winning both games by double digits.
The Sixers looked old and tired. Dr. J, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks—all of them had lost a step, and the young Nets, led by Buck Williams and Albert King, pounced on them.
But when the series shifted to Newark, the Sixers suddenly showed why it is always so hard to end the reign of a defending champion, especially one with as much talent as the Sixers.
Philly would win Games 3 and 4 by eight points each time, and the series would shift back to the Spectrum for a fifth and decisive game.
Surely the Nets could not win a third game in Philadelphia—could they?
Yes they could, as it turns out. The Sixers had a seven-point lead about halfway through the final quarter, but they could not hold that lead.
Led back by Micheal Ray Richardson, the Nets began to claw away at that lead. The Sixers started turning the ball over, and before you knew it, New Jersey had taken control.
The Nets would win Game 5 101-98 to cap an amazing upset of the defending champions in a series where the road team won every game.
The Nets' incredible upset of the 76ers in 1984 is the fourth-biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
3. 1999 Eastern Conference First Round: The No. 8 Knicks Upend the Heat
Highlights of the Knicks incredible Game 5 win over the Heat
This one ranks really high on some people's lists.
On others it does not rank anywhere at all.
It is a difficult one to place because this was the lockout-shortened season of 1998-1999, when the teams only played a 50-game season. As such, the question always has to be asked: Were the Knicks really a legitimate No. 8 seed?
Were the Miami Heat a legitimate No. 1?
It is hard to say.
One thing we do know is that when this upset took place, the Knicks vs. Heat rivalry was at its high point.
Pat Riley was facing his former team, which was being coached by Riley's former assistant, Jeff Van Gundy.
The two teams genuinely did not like each other. Remember the incident in 1998 where Van Gundy grabbed onto the leg of Alonzo Mourning?
The bad blood got even nastier when the Knicks bounced the Heat from the playoffs the year before.
Lockout or not, the story lines for this series were everywhere—and the teams did not disappoint.
New York smoked Miami in Game 1 in Miami, and it looked like the Knicks would roll.
But Miami would get even in Game 2.
The teams would then split the two games in New York. That would mean a fifth and deciding game back in Miami.
Game 5 would be one of the best deciding games in NBA history. Miami had a seven-point lead fairly late in the fourth quarter. But the Knicks kept chipping away and chipping away until they cut the deficit to one with about 20 seconds left.
With just 0.8 seconds left in the game, Allan Houston split the defense and put up a short jumper that hit the rim, bounced off the backboard and went through to put the Knicks up 78-77.
Terry Porter's long jumper at the buzzer was unsuccessful, and the New York Knicks became only the second No. 8 seed to ever beat a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The Knicks were far from done though. They would sweep the Hawks and then beat the Pacers in six games to become the only No. 8 seed to ever reach the NBA Finals. There, they lost to Tim Duncan's Spurs.
The 1999 Knicks run to the title began with an amazing and intense upset of their chief rival at the time, the Miami Heat.
Because of what that upset led to, it is the third-biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
2. 1994 Western Conference First Round: The Nuggets Lay the Boom on the Sonics
The Denver Nuggets pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBA history
The 1994 Seattle SuperSonics looked poised to seriously challenge for the NBA championship.
They had stormed through the regular season en route to a 63-19 record, best in the NBA.
Their lineup was loaded with stars like Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Sam Perkins and Kendall Gill.
In the first round of the playoffs, they would meet the No. 8-seeded Denver Nuggets, a team that had qualified for the playoffs with a 42-40 record.
The Nuggets had no real stars to speak of and were far too inexperienced to hang with Seattle—or at least that is what conventional wisdom seemed to indicate.
The series started off predictably enough with the Sonics cruising to victory in Games 1 and 2 by double digits.
But when the series shifted to Denver, everything changed.
The Nuggets stunned the Sonics with an impressive win in Game 3.
They then won in overtime in Game 4, and the series went back to Seattle for a deciding fifth game that no one could have possibly believed would be taking place.
In Game 5, the Sonics looked like they were not interested in playing with Denver any longer. The Sonics jumped out to an early lead, but it did not last.
Led by the inspired effort of Dikembe Mutombo, and by a huge fourth-quarter effort by Robert Pack, the Nuggets seized control of the game, and suddenly it was the Sonics who had to get up off the mat to avoid elimination.
A basket by Kendall Gill with 0.5 seconds remaining would send the game to overtime.
But in overtime the Nuggets would show everyone what they were made of.
When the final horn sounded, Denver had pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever by the final of 98-94, and we were left with one of the most recognized images in NBA playoff history—Mutombo clutching the final rebound and falling to the floor, overcome by elation.
The Nuggets had just pulled off the second-biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
1. 2007 Western Conference First Round: Down Goes Dallas
The Warriors pull off the biggest upset in NBA playoff history.
We have come a long way and talked about some truly classic upsets.
Only one remains—the Big One.
In 2007, the Dallas Mavericks were the No.1 seed out in the Western Conference with a 67-15 record. Picked by many to finally bring a title to Dallas, the Mavs figured to roll right over their first round opponents, the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State finished the season 42-40 and did not qualify for the playoffs until the final day of the season.
But there was more to this matchup then met the eye.
The Warriors had actually been dominating Dallas heading into the series and had won the previous five meetings.
Still, that would all change in the playoffs, when all the chips were on the table, right?
As you know by now, the answer to that is a resounding no.
Baron Davis caught fire in this series and in particular in Game 1 with a near triple-double as the Warriors cruised to a 97-85 win.
Dallas would win Game 2, but once the series shifted to Oakland, the Mavs were essentially done.
Before one of the most raucous crowds in recent memory, the Warriors crushed the Mavericks by 18 points in Game 3 and then held on to win Game 4 by the final of 103-99.
In Game 5, Golden State very nearly closed the series out. But it could not hold on to a nine-point lead over the final three minutes, and Dallas forced a Game 6 back in Oakland with a 118-112 victory.
It only delayed the inevitable. The Warriors saved their best for last, as Stephen Jackson rained seven three-pointers down on Dallas, Davis nearly recorded another triple-double and the Warriors completed the biggest upset in NBA playoff history with a dominating 111-86 win.
For those wondering why I have this as a bigger upset than the 1994 Nuggets, I will base that pretty much entirely on the fact that the Warriors beat the Mavericks in a best-of-seven series.
Would the Nuggets have been able to beat the Sonics in Game 6? We will never know.
What we do know, however, is that the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors pretty much dominated a tremendously good Dallas Mavericks team in a best-of-seven series—and they did it with style.
That is what magical moments are made of. Those are the memories that stick with us all for many, many years.
That is why it is the biggest upset in NBA playoff history.