The opening round of the NBA playoffs this year have featured some of the most exciting series in years. With both the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder on the brink of elimination in their first round series, it’s time to look at some of the biggest first round upsets in NBA history.
1981 Houston Rockets Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers came into the 1981 playoffs as the defending champs with Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson still leading the team. The Rockets came into the playoffs with an underwhelming record of 40-42.
Nobody gave the Rockets a chance against the powerhouse Lakers, but in the 1981 the first round of the playoffs were only best of three, which made it more possible for the underdogs to come out on top.
Led by their own Hall-of-Famer in Moses Malone, the Rockets defeated the Lakers 89-86 in game three and went on a run to the NBA finals where they eventually lost to the Boston Celtics.
1994 Denver Nuggets Seattle Supersonics
The Seattle Supersonics came into the 1994 playoffs as the number one seed in the Western Conference with a 63-win regular season. In a year where Michael Jordan was not in the league, many expected the NBA champions to come from the western conference.
Led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the Supersonics were expected to roll over the Nuggets and make a run at the title. It looked like this was the case, as the Sonics blew out the Nuggets in games one and two. As the series shifted to Denver, the Nuggets seemed to gain new life behind their home crowd.
The Nuggets forced a fifth and decisive game in Seattle and after Gary Payton got injured early, the Nuggets came up with what is still considered today to be one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. The Nuggets became the first eight seed to upset a one seed in the opening round and the image of Dikembo Mutombo lying on the ground grasping the ball is one of the most iconic in NBA playoff history.
2007 Golden State Warriors Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks finished the 2007 NBA regular season with 67 wins and were coming into the playoffs as defending NBA finalists. The Mavericks were expected to crush the Golden State Warriors and return to the NBA finals for a second consecutive year.
The Golden State Warriors had not been relevant in the NBA years, but despite their huge underdog status, they split the opening two games in Dallas. Once the series shifted to Oracle arena, Warriors fans demonstrated what a true playoff atmosphere should feel like.
Much like this year’s Golden State team, the Warriors were capable of shooting the lights out from the three-point line. Fueled by their electric home crowd, the Warriors put on a shooting clinic and Baron Davis eventually led the team to a six game series victory over the 67-win Mavericks. Baron Davis became a household name in Oakland and this series is still regarded as possibly the biggest upset in the history of the NBA.
While the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder still have a chance to come back in their series, if they do fall in the opening round, who knows where those upsets will rank in NBA history.
Commentary by Eric Kummel