The 2014 NBA playoffs are commonly filled with upsets, but this year's early crop of games has been anything but predictable.
With teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors pulling off surprising series-opening wins, the postseason got off to a strong start. But no one remembers teams who almost clinch huge series wins.
Each higher seed is there for a reason, but quite a few have shown flaws that just might be their undoing in the opening round. Franchises that have experience like the Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies have proved to be strong enough to get road wins in the early going and have confidence heading back home.
Before a few of these series get back underway, here's a look at a few of the teams that have a great chance of clinching the pivotal upset and advancing in the postseason.
When the Nets assembled the current cast of players for this season, they did so with expectations of competing for the Eastern Conference crown. And after early woes in the season, they came in as the No. 6 seed against an inexperienced Toronto Raptors team with several young stars.
But then Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri made a crucial mistake by yelling out obscenities at the entire city of Brooklyn (Warning: NSFW). Now his team will be walking into a buzz saw at the Barclays Center, not just against the Nets, but their proud fans as well.
Garnett spoke about what he expects the atmosphere to be like in Brooklyn, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com.
"We know it's going to be a rowdy environment, like it should be," Garnett said. "I don't know if you can say 'F Brooklyn' and then come into Brooklyn. So we're about to see what it's like."
Add to that the fact that they have other immensely talented players like Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and a pissed off Nets team will eventually be too much for the Raptors.
With what will likely be an incredible crowd and a slightly superior team on the court, the Nets have all the makings of being able to pull off a huge upset as the No. 6 seed in the opening round. And thanks to those crucial offseason moves, Garnett and Pierce will get another crack at the Miami Heat in the second round.
Portland Trail Blazers
Out of all the Western Conference series, the No. 4 vs. No. 5 seed showdown is clearly the most intriguing.
While the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers clearly have a history of disdain for one another, the clash between the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets pits two of the best big men in the game against each other.
In Game 1, LaMarcus Aldridge got the best of the Dwight Howard and the Rockets by putting up an astounding 46 points and 18 rebounds. ESPN Stats & Info and Jim Rome of CBS Sports put the outstanding night for Aldridge and the Blazers into perspective:
46 points, 18 rebounds. The only ones who could stop LaMarcus Aldridge were the refs.— Jim Rome (@jimrome) April 21, 2014
But what the Blazers proved by getting the series-opening win was that playing inside out can work against the Rockets. With Aldridge dominating inside, the great play of Damian Lillard makes the team multi-dimensional from outside the paint.
The Rockets clearly have a talented cast of players in James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons, but with the Blazers at full health they will be too much for Houston in a seven-game series.
Which team has the best chance at the upset?
OK, so maybe this one seems a bit obvious at this point, but there's still a chance for the Chicago Bulls to come back from the 0-2 deficit. After all, they have faced plenty of adversity to this point.
But even with great defense and a good frontcourt play from Joakim Noah, the Bulls can't keep up with the backcourt tandem of the Washington Wizards. With both Bradley Beal and John Wall shooting the lights out in the series, Chicago has now allowed over 100 points in consecutive games.
For a team that relies on shutting down the other team's offensive stars, even the Defensive Player of the Year Noah can't find a way to put the clamps down on Washington.
After putting together a successful season throughout the year despite the loss of Derrick Rose, the emergence of Wall will continue to be too much for the Bulls as the Wizards eventually take this series in five games.
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