Posts Tagged ‘Sonics’

Ranking the 8-1 upsets in NBA Playoff history

by Micah Hart

The Spurs dominated the NBA for most of the regular season, starting the year 13-1 and reaching the midway point of the season at 35-6, halfway to the rarified 70-win plateau. And though they suffered some injuries and stumbled down the stretch (including a six-game losing streak), they still finished the season 61-21, good for the second-best regular season mark of the Popovich/Duncan Era.

Memphis, on the other hand, began the year inauspiciously, with their owner getting into it with a local radio station over the team’s draft picks, and then seemingly panicking and overpaying their starting point guard. Then they lost their best perimeter player midway through the season.

Sounds like the recipe for a first-round sweep, doesn’t it? Except as we all know, that’s not what happened, as the Grizzlies dropped the Spurs in six games and became just the fourth 8-seed to topple a 1 since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984. Not many people saw this coming this side of Sir Charles, but compared to the other 8-1 conquests, just how big of a surprise was it?

Here’s how I’d rank them:

1. 2007: Warriors (42-40) over Mavericks (67-15), 4-2

The “We Believe” Warriors flat-out embarrassed the heavily-favored Mavericks in 2007. Though the Mavs were nearly unbeatable in the regular season, they played right into Golden State’s hands by trying to go small in the series rather than using their height to their advantage. Some believe Dallas was a victim of a bad matchup (the Warriors won the season series 3-0) and might have won the NBA title had they faced any of the other 15 playoff teams. But the Mavs’ loss, coming on the heels of a collapse in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Heat, cemented their reputation as playoff chokers, a moniker they are still struggling to shed.

2. 1994: Nuggets (42-40) over Sonics (63-19), 3-2

Best remembered for Dikembe Mutombo‘s “I can’t believe it!” moment at the end of Game 5, this series marked the first time an 8 beat a 1. Making it all the more impressive, the Nuggets lost the first two games of the series before winning three straight to close out the Sonics, including the last one in Seattle. Amazingly, Denver would go on to nearly pull off the same feat in the next round, falling behind 3-0 to Utah before winning three straight to force Game 7, where they were finally eliminated.

3. 2011: Grizzlies (46-36) over Spurs (61-21), 4-2

Eerily similar in tone to the Warriors-Mavs series, the Grizzlies came out and won Game 1 of the series and never really looked back. From early on, it was obvious the Grizzlies were younger, faster, and more athletic, and the Spurs had absolutely no answer for Zach Randolph inside. Did injuries play a role? Perhaps. But Memphis didn’t have Rudy Gay either, so seems like that’s a wash at best.

4. 1999: Knicks (27-23) over Heat (33-17), 3-2

Uggh. I get tired just thinking about these two teams brutalizing each other on the basketball court. This was the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, so the disparity between the two teams may not have been much, and indeed they were only separated by six games in the standings. Allan Houston famously won the series for the Knicks with his runner in the lane with 0.8 seconds remaining in Game 5. New York would validate their win with two more upsets, eventually becoming the only 8-seed to make the NBA Finals, where they fell to the first of Tim Duncan‘s title-winning Spurs teams.

That’s how I see it. Which do you rank as the biggest upset?

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Kevin Durant, how do you rate on the Horry Scale?

by Micah Hart

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, I must make one correction to the Internet this morning. I’ve seen it written in several places that this was the first GWBB of Kevin Durant‘s career, but that is a falsity. I know, because I was there.

Early in KD’s rookie season, before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City, (sorry to bring up painful memories, Seattle fans), the Sonics came to Atlanta to take on the Hawks. In a double-OT game, Durant hit a long turnaround three to give Seattle a 126-123 win. In fact (consults Internet), here it is:

So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the specifics of last night’s heroics.

Once again, the Horry scale examines a shot  in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Clippers-Nets game), and celebration, and give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys.

Let’s investigate:

Difficulty: I don’t know if it’s fair to judge Durant differently than other humans, but while I’d consider this a difficult shot for most players, I’ve seen him play long enough to know he can hit this shot in his sleep. I may even mean that literally. Taking Durant’s range out of the equation though, fallaway 3-pointers, especially from the deepest spot around the 3-point line, are pretty tough.

Game Situation: The Knicks and Thunder were tied at 98-98, and OKC inbounded the ball on their final possession with 6.5 seconds left. All in all, plenty of time to get a good shot off (almost certainly a better one than they ended up with), and no immediate consequences for a misfire.

Importance: I’ll say medium. The Knicks and Thunder have no rivalry to speak of, and play in separate conferences. However, the Thunder are in a dogfight with the Jazz for the Northwest Division title, and currently sit in a three-way tie for the third-best record in the West (both OKC and Dallas are 28-15, while New Orleans is 29-16, percentage points behind but still 8.5 games behind the Spurs). With a crowded, talented field in the Western Conference, home-court advantage could be a big chip come playoff time.

Celebration: Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said I thought Durant could hit shots like this in his sleep? Well, that’s pretty much his reaction to it as well. If I hit a shot like that, I’d at least do the “beat my chest three times” routine or pop my jersey, but Durant just walks confidently down the court, then grins sheepishly when his teammates get to him. No one seems all that surprised, or even particularly excited. I guess it’s like Joe Paterno said: “Act like you’ve been there before.”

Grade:

3 Horrys. A shot like this is slightly difficult to grade, as it’s hard for me to separate the shooter from the shot. But given that it was a tie game, and given the team’s somewhat muted reaction, I don’t think I can give it more than three, even though really, it was technically a more difficult make than many of the season’s previous Horry considerations.

What do you think?

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Sad Trombone Of The Week

by Kevin McCormack

In the spirit of elections, this week’s vote for the Sad Trombone of the Week is too close to call so we decided to open it up for a vote. Your nominees:  (And in case you need a refresher on what the STOTW is all about, click here.)

1) NBA poster legend Shawn Bradley, who managed to lose his bid for the Utah state legislature running under the Republican banner on a night when the GOP swept statehouses across the country. How does a Republican lose in Utah?

2) Madison Square Garden. Yes, beloved old Spike-Lee-sitting-courtside-at-The-World’s-Most-Famous-Arena Madison Square Garden. But asbestos debris? Really? C’mon MSG!

3) Squatch the mascot. Read this. Not sure whether to applaud the man or shed a tear. Either way, it’s awesome.

So who gets to hear the dulcet sounds of the trombone? Vote early, vote often.

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