Here are a few of the best bottom seeds we’ve seen since the NBA switched to eight playoff teams per conference for the 1984 Playoffs.
2010 Oklahoma City Thunder (lost 4-2 to the Lakers in first round)
Two young potential superstars…hit their stride in the second half of the season and actually finished with 50 wins…blew out the Lakers so thoroughly in Game 4 that some thought this series would go the distance…showed the next season w/ basically the same team that they were for real
2008 Atlanta Hawks (lost 4-3 to Boston in first round)
Struggled during the season, winning just 37 games, but beat the eventually champs all three times they played in ATL in the first round…had a lineup that included two future All-Stars…took a depleted crowd and turned it into an insane homecourt advantage…got beat by 34 points in Game 7
2007 Golden State Warriors (lost 4-1 to Utah in semis)
Pulled off the biggest upset ever, beating 67-win Dallas in the first round…late season trades revitalized the squad, giving them a lineup that included Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis and Jason Richardson (how is that a No. 8 seed?)…ended Dallas’ season with a 25-point Game 6 win
2006 Sacramento Kings (lost 4-2 to San Antonio in first round)
Bonzi Wells (23.2 points, 12 rebounds a night) and Ron Artest (17.4 points, 5.0 rebounds) murdered whoever the Spurs put on them…should’ve gone up 3-1 but blew a lead and lost Game 2 in OT before winning the next two at home…had 44 wins on the season
2003 Phoenix Suns (lost 4-2 to San Antonio in first round)
Another close escape by the Spurs, who would win it all…Phoenix had a starting lineup that included Stephon Marbury, Amar’e Stoudemire, Penny Hardaway and Shawn Marion, with Joe Johnson off the bench…won Game 1 on a Marbury buzzer-beater, then lost Game 6 in the final seconds…might’ve been San Antonio’s best team of their run
2002 Indiana Pacers (lost 3-2 to New Jersey in first round)
Classic Game 5, double overtime courtesy of a Reggie Miller buzzer-beater…Indiana had a very talented team, boasting four present or future All-Stars (Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, Brad Miller)…lost Game 3 by a single point
2000 Milwaukee Bucks (lost 3-2 to Indiana in first round)
Led by Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson & Ray Allen…eliminated by the team that would win the East, by one point in Game 5…they should’ve won that game, but Allen & Robinson combined to go 10-37 from the field…this Bucks team would be one sketchy loss away from the NBA Finals the next season…also started the legendary Darvin Ham
2000 Sacramento Kings (lost 3-2 to the Lakers in first round)
Possibly the most exciting No. 8 seed ever…J-Will, Vlade, C-Webb…led the NBA in scoring and won 44 games…blown out in Game 5 by 27, but still gave a 67-win future champ all they could handle at times
1994 Denver Nuggets (lost 4-3 to Utah in semis)
The No. 8 seed that started it all…beat a 63-win Seattle team in the first round that was destined for the Finals…won the series’ final two games in OT…a no-name squad: in Game 5, they were led by two bench players (Robert Pack & Bison Dele aka Brian Williams)
1993 L.A. Lakers (lost 3-2 to Phoenix in first round)
Won the series’ first two games in Phoenix…still had a number of 1980s holdovers that had won titles and been to the Finals…lost a Game 5 in Phoenix because Oliver Miller had 17 points, 14 rebounds & seven blocks
[Related: We Reminisce - The 1999 New York Knicks]
What did they all have in common? Other than being the lowest-seeded teams in the playoffs, not much. I did discover a few interesting things going back to find some competitive low seeds: Before the mid-1990s, they were hardly any. There were many more like the mid-’80s San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs made the playoffs three times in four years despite winning 41, 35 and 31 games. Disgusting. Just in the past five years, we’ve seen No. 8 seeds win 50 games or challenge championship contenders in the playoffs. Back in the day, a No. 1 seed meant three easy wins and rest. Now you better bring it.
Simply because they’re the only No. 8 seed to make the Finals, you can say the Knicks of 1999 were the best. But did they take advantage of an odd year when the East was so up in the air that there wasn’t much difference between the Knicks and their fallen first round giant, the Miami Heat?
Which team was the best? Which team was your favorite?
Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.