Upset Meter for Every First-Round NBA Playoff Series
The NBA playoffs are far different from March Madness. Upsets are rare, and the better team almost always wins in a seven-game series.
On occasion, a lower seed—like the the 2007 "We Believe" Golden State Warriors—will shock the world. But such feats are few and far between.
The opening weekend of the postseason showed why, as every higher seed won their opening-round matchups.
That said, there is some potential for a first-round upset this year. Across the board, it remains unlikely, but a few teams may be able to get hot and take out the favorite.
Milwaukee Bucks over Miami Heat
Brandon Jennings predicted that his team will beat the Miami Heat. Before the series began, he said that he thought the Milwaukee Bucks would advance, winning in six games.
That, of course, was crazy talk. His team will be lucky to win a game.
Of all the matchups in this year's postseason, this is the only one that is preordained. The Heat are the best team in the NBA, and the Bucks are the worst playoff team in either conference.
Thus, the series is more a warmup for Miami than an actual contest. Game 1 was as lopsided as you could imagine, with the Heat destroying the Bucks in the second half on the way to victory.
There is no way that Miami could possibly lose to Milwaukee. The Heat should sweep.
Likelihood of Bucks beating the Heat: Zero percent
Houston Rockets over Oklahoma City Thunder
James Harden playing against his former team is an interesting storyline, but that's all it is. This will not be a competitive series.
The Oklahoma City Thunder proved in Game 1 that they will dominate the Houston Rockets. Nothing will be a close match.
Honestly, as potent as the Rockets offense can be, it is no match for the Thunder. This series is a novelty, not an actual matchup that anyone should expect to turn toward the Rockets' dream victory.
Likelihood of Rockets beating the Thunder: One percent
Los Angeles Lakers over San Antonio Spurs
The Los Angeles Lakers making the playoffs was a fascinating story. Many analysts predicted them to be a title favorite before the season started.
We know what happened since then. Mike Brown got fired, Mike D'Antoni got hired and the team began to find an identify.
Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon, destroying any potential for the Lakers to upset the San Antonio Spurs in round one.
Pau Gasol has played well as of late, and Dwight Howard looked as athletic as he has all year. But it simply isn't enough.
The Spurs pass the ball around the perimeter too well, and the Game 1 performances of San Antonio's big three show just how great this team can be when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all show up.
Likelihood of Lakers beating the Spurs: One percent
Chicago Bulls over Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets hit 16 of the 20 shots they took in the second quarter during Game 1. These aren't the Chicago Bulls we have come to know during the Tom Thibodeau era. And given that Joakim Noah played just 13 minutes, we likely won't see a return of the defensive prowess that has become the norm in the Windy City in recent years.
Instead, we will likely continue to watch Deron Williams return to a level of play that we haven't seen since he was on the Utah Jazz. He has played incredible basketball since the All-Star break, and the Bulls could not slow him down.
Don't expect that to change.
If Noah was healthy, it might be a different story. But he's not, so the Nets should cruise into the second round.
Likelihood of the Bulls beating the Nets: Eight percent
Atlanta Hawks over Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers can be dominant. They have a starting lineup that is a murderer's row of high-level NBA talent. There isn't a weak link among them.
In Game 1, they showed that the Atlanta Hawks can't really touch them.
Still, the Pacers spent the tail end of the season sputtering. Their vaunted defense—the best in the league at holding down the opponent's shooting percentage—fell off, and their All-Star forward, Paul George, went into a slump.
They seem to have corrected those issues thus far in the postseason, but the Hawks are a dangerous team full of weapons, so they should be able to seize any opportunity if Indiana lets up.
Al Horford might be the best player in the series, Josh Smith is trying to earn a max-contract payday and Jeff Teague is trying to convince the world that he belongs in the conversation of the league's top point guards.
An upset remains unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Likelihood of Hawks beating the Pacers: 10 percent
Boston Celtics over New York Knicks
The Boston Celtics achieved one of their main goals in Game 1: keeping the New York Knicks from lighting up the scoreboard. Too bad they forgot to score themselves.
Doc Rivers has to be happy that his team held the Knicks to just 36 second-half points, but he is probably pulling out his hair due to the fact that the Celtics only put up 25 in the final two periods—including an unacceptable eight-point fourth quarter.
Boston remains dangerous, however.
They lack the depth and front-court contributors of years past, but it's hard to count our any team with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Moreover, if they can steal Game 2 in New York and then head home to play in front of a raucous, emotional crowd in Boston, there is a definite chance that they could head back to Gotham with a 3-1 series lead.
Boston has come to love these players. The fans know this is the last hurrah. Given all that has happened in the week since the attack at the marathon, it is hard to overstate how high the Celtics may be lifted by their home-court faithful. That building gets loud during any playoff series; in Game 3, the crowd might yell the roof off.
Likelihood of Celtics beating the Knicks: 20 percent
Golden State Warriors over Denver Nuggets
This projected to be one of the most entertaining first-round series in recent memory. Both teams play fast and can put up points in bundles. The Denver Nuggets dominate the interior while the Golden State Warriors can win by the three.
Unfortunately, David Lee went down with a season-ending injury to his hip flexor in Game 1. This isn't exactly the Chicago Bulls losing Derrick Rose in their first postseason game last year, but Lee was an All-Star this year and could have had a major influence on the series outcome.
Now, the Warriors are too undermanned to win.
The Nuggets still may not get the respect they deserve, but they are a top-level team that won't falter now that they have been given this advantage. Andre Miller, who scored 28 points in Game 1 and hit a game-winning layup, helped further illustrate just how well rounded this team is.
With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shooting, Golden State is never completely out of a game. But Denver's depth and relentless attack on the paint will prove too much for these jump shooters to overcome without its All-Star to help out down low.
Likelihood of Warriors beating the Nuggets: 25 percent
Memphis Grizzlies over Los Angeles Clippers
This is the only first-round series that can't contain any surprise. There is virtually no talent distinction between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies, so whichever team plays better over the next two weeks will win.
That sounds obvious—and it is—but either team could win the series.
Each finished the regular season with 56 wins, and each has a well-established identity. If the Grizzlies can turn the series into a grind-it-out affair, they can overcome not having home-court advantage. If Chris Paul and the Clippers can ramp up their half-court execution and show why they're one of the most dynamic teams in the NBA, they can advance.
It will likely come down to the role players.
The Grizzlies made a controversial midseason move to deal Rudy Gay for Tayshaun Prince. He has been a solid contributor and has the playoff-tested demeanor to become a difference-maker. For Los Angeles, players like Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler have the potential to swing games.
After losing Game 1, Memphis has an uphill battle. But when these two teams square off, it tends to get epic. So there is no reason that the Grizzlies can't win four or the next six games.
Likelihood of Grizzlies beating the Clippers: 40 percent