OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors know all about playoff upsets. After all, the franchise pulled off one of the biggest stunners in NBA history just eight years ago.
This time, they'll be trying to avoid suffering the same fate they once handed out.
The Warriors enter the playoffs as the NBA's top seed after winning a franchise-record 67 games. Of course, it wasn't that long ago that Golden State downed Dirk Nowitzki and the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks — another 67-win team — in the opening round of the 2007 playoffs.
Now Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans will try to upend the Warriors when their first-round series starts Saturday. Atlanta (60-22), the top seed in the East, begins with Brooklyn.
Knocking off a No. 1 seed in the opening round is difficult, but it's certainly not unprecedented. Here's a look at some of the best eight seeds ever:
—1998-99 New York Knicks. The labor lockout shortened the season to 50 games, giving the reconstructed Knicks (27-23) little time to integrate newcomers Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby. But when the playoffs started, they matched up against the rival Miami Heat and looked like a different team. New York won a brutally physical series in a decisive Game 5 in Miami, when Allan Houston's runner with 0.8 seconds remaining bounced off the rim and the backboard before dropping through. The Knicks eliminated Atlanta and Indiana before San Antonio beat them in the NBA Finals.
—2006-07 Golden State Warriors. The playoffs are all about matchups, right? Perhaps no team proved that more than the "We Believe" Warriors (42-40), who were making their first playoff appearance since 1997. The Mavericks went 67-15 and Nowitzki won NBA MVP, but they never could solve Don Nelson's fast-paced small-ball system. Golden State beat Dallas in six games, becoming the first eight seed to win a best-of-seven series. The Warriors lost to Utah in the second round.
—1993-94 Denver Nuggets. Dikembe Mutombo grabbing the final rebound and falling to the floor in sheer joy as his teammates piled on him is one of the most indelible images in NBA history. The center's celebration came after the Nuggets knocked off a Seattle SuperSonics team that won a franchise-record 63 games behind Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Denver (42-40) overcame a 2-0 deficit to win the final three games. The Nuggets were the first eight seed to beat a No. 1 seed. They lost to the Jazz in the second round.
—2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies. Similar to the Warriors-Mavericks series in 2007, the Grizzlies (46-36) gave San Antonio all kinds of matchup problems. Memphis was younger, faster and more athletic than the Spurs, who were slowed by injuries. Tim Duncan sprained his left ankle in late March and Manu Ginobili hurt his right elbow in the final game of the regular season. Of course, Memphis was without Rudy Gay (left shoulder). The Grizzlies smothered San Antonio then lost to Oklahoma City in the second round.
— 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks. Sure, they never won a playoff series. But the Mavericks made their mark. Dallas took the top-seeded Spurs to seven games in the first round. San Antonio only lost four other games the rest of the postseason, dismantling Miami in the Finals for their fifth championship.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
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Posted on Thu, April 16, 2015
by ANTONIO GONZALEZ, AP Basketball Writer