Monday, May 27, 2024

Upsets in NBA History: Tracing the Success of No. 7 Seeds Against No. 2 Seeds in the Playoffs

The NBA playoffs have occasionally witnessed the underdog No. 7 seeds triumph over the No. 2 seeds, creating some of the most unexpected and thrilling moments in basketball history. This season, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers secure their spots in the playoffs through 7-8 play-in tournament victories, the question arises again: Can history favor the underdogs?

The Los Angeles Lakers, after a decisive victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Philadelphia 76ers, who overcame the Miami Heat, are set to face formidable opponents in the first round. The Lakers are gearing up for a challenging rematch with the Denver Nuggets, last year’s champions who previously swept them in the Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the 76ers are preparing to take on the New York Knicks, who have bested them in three out of four regular-season games.

Historically, the odds might seem stacked against the Lakers and 76ers. However, the narrative of No. 7 seeds overcoming No. 2 seeds isn’t just a tale of hope but one of real precedent. Since the playoff format expanded in 1984, six No. 7 seeds have upset their No. 2 seeded rivals. The 1986-87 Seattle SuperSonics were the pioneers, toppling the Dallas Mavericks in a surprising turn of events, despite losing the series opener by a hefty margin.

Other memorable upsets include the 1988-89 Golden State Warriors, led by Chris Mullin, sweeping the Utah Jazz. This feat was mirrored by the same team two years later against the San Antonio Spurs. The 1997-98 New York Knicks also stand out, not only for winning a first-round series as a No. 7 seed but for reaching the NBA Finals the following year as an eighth seed.

More recent history adds to this legacy, with the 2009-10 San Antonio Spurs and the 2022-23 Los Angeles Lakers both progressing to the second round as No. 7 seeds, the latter even after an intense six-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

As the playoffs commence, the basketball community watches closely. Will the Lakers or 76ers add another chapter to the saga of No. 7 seeds defying expectations? Only time will tell, but the blend of anticipation and historical precedent makes for an enthralling playoff season.

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