In 2003 the Suns and the Magic did something that had never been done before. Both teams as 8th seed beat the number one seeded Spurs and Pistons. 17 years later it has happened again. The Blazers and coincidentally the Magic did it on the same night against the number 1 seeded Lakers and Bucks. The Blazers win was impressive, but the Magic did something that has only been done 4 times throughout NBA history. During their game, the Magic destroyed the Bucks in game 1. The game was not close and throughout the entire game the Bucks made a little run the Magic answered back almost immediately. They did this without Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, and basically Evan Fournier for 3 and ½ quarters and still managed to win by double digits aka 12 points.
The Magic are not the only team to beat a number 1 seed by double digits in game 1 of the playoffs. It has happened 3 other times in NBA history. The most recent time was during the 2006–2007 season. After losing in the Finals to the Dwayne Wade led Heat, the Mavericks came back with vengeance and picked up right where they left off and dominated the West. They won an insane 67 games and only lost 15 games that season. The next closest team was the Suns who were 6 games behind them. The Mavs were cruising and were favorites to take home the championship going into the playoffs led by the MVP Dirk Nowitzki.
Their first playoff matchup was against the Golden State Warriors more specifically the ‘ We Believe’ Warriors. The Warriors came into the series on fire. Winning 16 of their last 21 games just to squeak into the playoffs as the 8th seed. They were playing with a chip on their shoulder. All the players, from Monte Ellis to Baron Davis had something to prove. Adding to this, the 2006–2007 series was the first time the Warriors made the playoffs since 1994.
Not only this, but the Warriors had Don Nelson as their coach. He previously coached the Mavs and knew Dirk's every single move. Even a player on the roster said this:
“He knew Dirk’s every single move pretty much, and we made him turn the ball over a ton because of that. He’d get the ball around the free-throw line, and the coach would say, ‘Ok, he’s about to spin,’ and he’d have us practice sending one guy over there when he turned and we’d be able to get that steal. It wasn’t just that play, there were a bunch like that. It helped us tremendously.”
This was a recipe for disaster for the Mavs and it showed in the first game. During that game 1, the Warriors player showed out. Baron Davis Dropped 33 points 14 asts 8 rbs, and 3 stls on top of that. Adding to that Stephan Jackson added 23 pts with 5 rbs. The role players in Al Harrington, Monte Ellis, and Barnes all stepped up on the defensive end as well.
This continued throughout the entire series, but the most surprising thing was how much the MVP Dirk Nowitski struggled. He went from being in the prestigious 50 40 90 club to shooting 38.3% from the field and only shooting 21.1% 3pt shooting percentage in the entire series. This ended with the Warriors beating the Mavericks in 6 games. The Warriors insane playoff run ended to the Jazz in the very next round.
The next 8th seed upset happened in the 1999 season. More specifically, the lockout season. The year that the Bulls officially disbanded and the East crown was finally up for grabs. During that season the Heat took the Easts crown in the regular season. They won 33 games and having tiebreakers over the Pacers and Magic earned them the number 1 seed in the East. Due to the lockout, there was not much of a difference between the number 1 seed and the 8th seed.
The Knicks who were supposed to take over the east since there was no more Jordan were supposed to be that team this season, but injuries to Patrick Ewing and Latrell Sprewell caused them to miss ⅖ of a shortened season. This caused them to be the 8th seed, even though they were only 6 games behind the heat.
Having beaten the Heat in the Playoffs years prior the Knicks were not phased at all and it showed during game 1 of the playoffs. The Knicks led by Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell’s 22 points blew out the heat in the first game of the series. Winning the game by 20 points.
Both teams went on to split the first 4 games. In 1999 the first round only went to 5 games, so it all came down to the final game where the Knicks beat the Heat 78–77 under Patrick Ewings 22 points and 11 rbs. After winning the first-round series the Knicks went on a run. They became the first and last 8th seed in NBA history to make a finals run, but couldn’t finish the job when they ran into the Spurs in the finals.
The third and final time this happened was just the season before. In the 1998 season, the Jazz ran through the regular season after losing to MJ and the Bulls in the finals. They won the tough Western conference who had three different 60 win teams. They seemed poised for another final run, but it was delayed because they came across the aging Houston Rockets.
During the first-round matchup, the Rockets turned back time though winning game 1 by 13 points led by Clyde Drexler and Hakeem giving them a combined 38 points. The Rockets went on to lose the series in 5 games, but an 8th seeded Rockets still beat the Jazz who represented the West in the finals.
The Magic or Blazers did not replicate these teams shocking playoffs runs, but the fact that both these teams took a game off of Lakers and Bucks is still very impressive. With both the East and West getting stronger each year, it is very likely we see another upset like this in the near future.