Eighth Seed Upsets
May 1 -- The Golden State Warriors could be the first No. 8 seed to topple a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series as they take on the top-seeded Mavericks in Game 6 on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT. Only the Denver Nuggets (1994) and the New York Knicks (1999) have defeated a No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs as a No. 8 seed - and both did it in the old best-of-five format. Learn more about there historic playoff runs here:
1994: Nuggets Upset Sonics
When the Sonics handily won the first two games in Seattle, a sweep seemed a foregone conclusion. Dan Issel, the Hall of Fame center who was coaching the Nuggets, made the most of the situation. He told his players they had nothing to lose as the series shifted to Denver. "To be honest, we just wanted to get some playoff experience this year," he told the media, further easing the burden on his team.
It turned out to be quite an experience. The loose and lively Nuggets pounded the Sonics 110-93 in Game 3, then pulled out a 94-85 overtime win in Game 4. Suddenly the series was tied and going back to Seattle, where the Sonics won 39 of 43 outings in the 1993-94 regular season and playoffs. But that statistic was irrelevant when compared to the attitudes of the two teams going into the showdown.
"I can't deny the butterflies felt like rocks," said Sonics coach George Karl. Issel, meanwhile, looked at his team and suggested, "I don't think our kids knew they were supposed to be nervous."
Denver center Dikembe Mutombo put it this way: "I don't like to be rude, but these are the playoffs. Nobody invites you into their house. You just have to go in and get comfortable."
Not even Seattle's tenacious full-court press could rattle the Nuggets, who played like battle-tested veterans and committed just 11 turnovers. On offense they slowed the pace of the game and worked the ball into their big men, Mutombo, LaPhonso Ellis and Brian Williams. On defense they focused on stopping Seattle's stars. Gary Payton was ineffective after an early foot injury while Shawn Kemp could manage only 19 points, including just six in the second half.
Mutombo dominated the lane defensively, reserve guard Robert Pack scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, Ellis tallied 19 and Williams posted 17 points and 19 rebounds. Seattle's Kendall Gill forced overtime with a last-second layup at the end of regulation, but he only postponed the unthinkable. Denver edged Seattle 98-94 in overtime. When the final buzzer sounded, Mutombo grabbed the last rebound and fell to the floor, a look of sheer joy on his face as his teammates piled upon him in celebration.
No. 8 had beaten No. 1. Though the Nuggets would lose to Utah in seven games in the next round, they had carved their place in history.
1999: Unforgettable Run to the FinalsThe Knicks made two big trades, yet they barely made the playoffs. While there, they lost their captain to an injury. And they still found a way to become the first No. 8 seed in history to reach the NBA Finals.
Two weeks before the season, New York acquired Latrell Sprewell from Golden State for John Starks, Chris Mills and Terry Cummings. Months earlier, the Knicks got Marcus Camby in a deal that sent Charles Oakley to Toronto. After all the changes, the rotation took time to form and New York stumbled to a 27-23 record in the regular season.
New York was matched against top-seeded Miami in the first round. The series went to a deciding Game 5, won by the Knicks on Allan Houston's running one-hander with 0.8 seconds to play. The game-winner bounced off both the rim and backboard before dropping through.
New York swept Atlanta in the second round as Camby emerged as one of the most exciting players of the 1999 playoffs. Camby's playing time was erratic for most of the season, but there was no holding him back after he notched 11 points and 13 rebounds in Game 2 of the Atlanta series. For the remainder of the postseason, his rebounding, shot-blocking and highlight dunks energized the Knicks.
Patrick Ewing's season ended after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana. The Knicks captain had been playing despite a painful Achilles injury, but was relegated to the sideline after doctors discovered the tendon was partially torn.
The Knicks needed a magic moment in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, and they got it when Larry Johnson broke a 1-1 series tie with his game-winning four-point play. New York clinched in Game 6 despite losing Johnson to a knee injury in the first half. He was able to play in the Finals against San Antonio, but the injury limited his mobility.
Despite Sprewell's 35 points and 10 rebounds in Game 5, the Spurs wrapped up the title with a 78-77 victory. Sprewell (26.0 ppg) and Houston (21.6) formed a high-scoring duo in the Finals, but the Knicks missed Ewing in the paint and were no match for San Antonio's Twin Towers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. -- Courtesy Knicks.com
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