1. Nuggets defeat Seattle (1994 first round)
Though they barely finished over .500 (42-40), the Nuggets, led by Dikembe Mutombo, defeated top-seeded Seattle in overtime of Game 5 to win the series. It was the first time in history that an eight seed had defeated a one. Seattle, led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, was plagued by Mutombo, whose 31 blocks set a record for a five-game series.
2. Sonics defeat Mavs (1987 first round)
Despite a losing regular-season record (39-43), the seventh-seeded Sonics knocked off the No. 2 Mavs (55-27) three games to one, including an incredible 151-point performance in Game 1. The Sonics were led by Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers while the Mavs struggled to make up for the lackluster play of Mark Aguirre, who was suffering from strep throat. The Sonics made it past Houston in the semifinals before being swept by the eventual champion Lakers.
3. Pistons defeat Lakers (2003 NBA Finals)
Veterans Gary Payton and Karl Malone moved to Los Angeles to help the team try to win its fourth championship of the Shaq-Kobe era. The series was billed as David (the underdog Pistons) vs. Goliath (the supremely talented Lakers), but after splitting the first two games, Detroit won three straight by an average of 14 points to win the title. Leading the way for the Pistons was guard Chauncey Billups, who averaged 21 points and five assists on his way to winning Finals MVP.
4. Suns defeat Warriors (1976 Western Conference semifinals)
Before Garfield Heard's miraculous rainbow shot at the buzzer forced triple overtime against the Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Suns (42-40 during the regular season) had to match up against Golden State (59-23). After a hard-fought six games, the Suns traveled to San Francisco and defeated the Warriors 94-86 in Game 7. Paul Westphal and Alvan Adams led the way for the Suns, marking the second-greatest upset (based on win differential) in NBA history.
5. Suns defeat Lakers (1990 Western Conference semifinals)
The pre-Charles Barkley Suns, led by Tom Chambers and Kevin Johnson, weren't supposed to be much of a challenge for the top-seeded Lakers. But after splitting the first two games, the Suns took three straight to win the series. Despite winning his third straight MVP, Magic Johnson couldn't do much to help his squad pull out the victory. The Suns, who featured six players with double-digit scoring averages during the regular season, advanced to the conference finals, where they were promptly dismissed by Portland.
6. Bulls defeat Knicks (1989 Eastern Conference semifinals)
After Michael Jordan hit his famous foul-line jumper (complete with fist-pump celebration) to lead the sixth-seeded Bulls past Cleveland, the Bulls were rewarded with a second-round series against John Starks, Patrick Ewing and the rest of the second-seeded Knicks. The Bulls jumped to a quick 3-1 series lead and came back from a loss in Game 5 to win the series in six. They lost to the Bad Boys of Detroit in the conference finals.
7. Kansas City Kings defeat Suns (1981 Western Conference semifinals)
Otis Birdsong and the fourth-seeded Kings were not expected to be much of a match for Truck Robinson, Dennis Johnson and the rest of the top-seeded Suns, but after four games, the Kings had a 3-1 lead. The Suns fought back to tie it at six, but the Kings battled hard in Game 7, pulling out a 95-88 win to advance to the conference finals, where they were ousted in five games by Houston.
8. Rockets defeat Lakers (1981 first round)
Though this first-round series was only a best-of-three affair, nobody gave the Rockets much of a chance to defeat the defending champion Lakers, who finished the season with 14 more wins than Houston. But Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich were able to contain Kareem Abdul Jabbar and second-year star Magic Johnson as the Rockets won the deciding Game 3, 89-86, to take the series. Houston continued its surprise run all the way to the NBA Finals but were eventually defeated by Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
9. Knicks defeat Heat (1999 first round)
This series was one of only two in which a No. 8 defeated a No. 1 (though the regular season was shortened to 50 games that season because of a league-imposed lockout). The Knicks won three games in Miami, capped by a memorable Game 5 in which Allan Houston put up a runner in the lane that bounced off the backboard and the rim before falling in with 0.8 of a second left to give the Knicks a 78-77 victory.
10. Rockets defeat Magic (1995 NBA Finals)
This was a battle of the big men: Orlando's young stud, Shaquille O'Neal, against Houston's Hall of Fame-to-be center, Hakeem Olajuwon. Orlando, with a 57-25 regular-season record, was the No. 1 seed in the East while Houston carried a more pedestrian 47-35 record and was seeded No. 6. But Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Sam Cassell and Clyde Drexler, who was acquired midseason, were too much for the young Magic to handle as the Rockets took their second championship of the "Michael Jordan in professional baseball" era.
- May 25 Thu 2006 04:17