Tuesday 27th February 2024,
The Hoop Doctors

Five Times the Top Seeds Flopped in the NBA Playoffs

The playoffs are always unpredictable and full of surprises, and that has never been more apparent than in the 2023 postseason. Heading into last season’s spectacular playoffs, the Eastern Conference had two clear frontrunners, namely the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics. However, there was one former powerhouse that was looking to restore itself to its former glories and they stunned the basketball world.

That team was of course the Miami Heat. Inspired by the brilliance of former Marquette Golden Eagle Jimmy Butler, the Florida-based outfit stunned Giannis Antetokounmpo’s top-seeded Bucks in the opening round, routing them by four games to one. They would then defeat Derrick Rose’s New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. That set up a meeting with the heavily favored Celtics in the conference finals, a series in which the underdogs would race into a three-game lead.

The favorites would come roaring back to tie things up at three apiece and set up a seventh-game decider at the TD Garden. But with everyone writing the three-time champions off, Jimmy Buckets would once again deliver the goods. He would top scorer with 28 points and lead the bottom seeds to a famous victory.

As we all remember, in the NBA Finals, Nikola Joki? and his Denver Nuggets would have too much for the plucky underdogs to handle. They managed to secure a four-games-to-one-series victory to secure a maiden NBA championship and if you have been following the latest NBA odds, you’ll have noticed that the Colorado-based outfit is the +475 favorite to retain the trophy next season. However, the favorites coming out on top isn’t always the case, as some top-ranked teams have flopped in the NBA playoffs.

2007: Dallas Mavericks vs. Golden State Warriors

16 years ago, the Golden State Warriors weren’t the dynasty that they would go on to become a decade later. However, despite that, back in 2007 they became the first eighth seed in NBA history to defeat a top seed in a seven-game series. Back then, the Dallas Mavericks entered the playoffs with the best record in the league, just as they did last season. However, that time around it didn’t matter. The Mavericks were no match for the upstart Warriors who managed to romp to victory in six games despite being their opponents’ illustrious roster.

Stephen Jackson and Baron Davis, who played with an intensity that left Dallas reeling, spearheaded the upstart club, and put in noteworthy performances. The Mavericks put up a valiant fight, but ultimately, they were eliminated following a humiliating first-round loss due to Golden State’s scorching shooting and ferocious energy.

2011: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

Four years on from that shocking defeat, the Mavericks found themselves the underdogs against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers. The Staples Center outfit was the reigning back-to-back champion and had reached the NBA Finals in each of the last three seasons however, that counted for nothing as they were whitewashed in four by the upstart Mavs. Despite having outstanding players like the Black Mamba himself Kobe Bryant and All-Star big man Pau Gasol, they struggled to contain Dirk Nowitzki and the talented Mavericks squad that was determined to lay to rest the ghosts of four years prior.

2014: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

In the postseason of 2014, the San Antonio Spurs faced off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a true heavyweight contest, with the pair battling it out to become Western Conference’s representative in the NBA Finals. The Spurs entered the contest as the top seeds however, it was the Thunder who won the series 4-2, thanks to the unbeatable combo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Sadly, the Spurs struggled to find their rhythm throughout the series, and their hopes of retaining the crown were dashed by Oklahoma’s scintillating double act.

2017: Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Boston Celtics’ recent resurgence began back in 2017 when they clinched top spot in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 53-29 record. Unfortunately for them, however, their regular-season success didn’t translate into the playoffs glory as they were eliminated by Lebron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite having home-court advantage, the Massachusetts-based outfit struggled to contain King James, whose brilliance was on display for all to see.

2019: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors

The Milwaukee Bucks had the best record in the NBA during the regular season in 2019 and were led by MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The team was bang in form throughout the opening rounds of the postseason however, they were unable to contain Kawhi Leonard, who put up a stellar performance at both ends of the floor. Nobody could have anticipated such an unexpected result, leaving both fans and analysts to wonder what went wrong for the Bucks and what the Raptors’ future may contain, which turned out to be a maiden Larry O’Brien Championship trophy.

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