Top Recent NBA Playoff Upsets


In the NBA, unlike some other major sports, playoff upsets are quite rare. It is not often that a lower seeded team wins an early playoff series, and if so, they are either favored or at least even with the higher team. This is what makes this list so much more unique than other sports, so here are the best NBA Playoff Upsets of the last decade.

Mavericks 2011 Finals Run

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12: (L-R) LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat and Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks look on in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Mavericks won 105-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann – Getty Images

It’s impossible to choose a single game, or even series, to highlight with the 2011 Mavericks. They were the 3 seed out west, but this team seemed far from a title favorite. Dirk had missed his two chances at a ring, losing to the Heat in 2006 and being upset by the 8th seeded Warriors the following season. They were an aging roster across the board, but somehow, they put together an incredible run to secure the championship. They shockingly swept the 2nd seeded Lakers in round 2, shooting the lights out from 3. They then stopped the team of destiny, the Thunder, in 5 games in the conference finals. The Finals themselves were remarkable, as the persistent Mavs knocked out the NBA’s newest Superteam, the Heat, in 6 games.


Sixers over Bulls, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 06: Jrue Holiday #11 and Thaddeus Young #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrate during the 89-82 win over the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell – Getty Images

Despite the injuries to the Bulls, this is still a shocking upset. The 8th seeded Sixers, led by Andre Iguodala were able to knock the Bulls out in 6 games, in a season where they were title favorites. Rose went down early in the series, which eventually doomed Chicago, but most still thought they would be able to win. The Sixers had just snuck into the playoffs, and expectations were very low. With Iggy, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, and Nick Young leading the way, the Sixers pulled off the stunner, and then took the Celtics to 7 games in round 2.

Grizzlies over Spurs, 2011

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 29: Tony Allen #9 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrates after the Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 99-91 in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 29, 2011 in Memphis, Tenness
Andy Lyons – Getty Images

Just to add to the drama of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies knocked the 1 seed Spurs out in 6 games in the first round. This was still an elite Spurs roster, but the Grit and Grind Grizzlies were able to come out on top. Conley, Randolph and Gasol were all around their primes, and this is one of the defining moments of their Grizzlies careers, as they knocked off a legendary team, with a big 3 and a hall of fame coach. Parker, Ginobili and Duncan all played in this series, which makes it even more surprising that the Grizzlies were able to pull this upset off.

Warriors over Nuggets, 2013

Denver point guard Ty Lawson.
Jed Jacobsohn – Getty Images

The beginning of a dynasty, kinda. The year after this, the Warriors lost in the first round, and the year after they were elite. However, this series and playoff run by the Warriors will always be remembered by true fans as the start of something great. Curry became a national star, shining on the playoff stage for the first time. Klay Thompson proved himself as an excellent shooter and defender, and Draymond proved himself as a stat stuffer and great defender. Many of the role players on this team were sacrificed in future years, but the performances by Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Jarrett Jack and Harrison Barnes this season were tremendous. The Warriors beat the 3 seed Nuggets in 6 games, winning their 3 home games, and took the Spurs to a tough 6 game series, proving that they belong.

Pelicans over Trail Blazers, 2018

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis reacts after making a 3-point shot during the first half of Game 4 of the team's first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in New Orleans, Saturday, April 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld)
Scott Threlkeld – Associated Press

With few true playoff upsets in the past 5-7 years, this one sticks out. The Trail Blazers had one of their best regular seasons in recent memory, finishing as the 3 seed out west, looking to make some serious noise in the playoffs. However, the 6 seeded Pelicans, led by MVP candidate Anthony Davis, had other ideas. Davis, along with Jrue Holiday, absolutely dominated the Blazers, winning in a clean sweep, with no games being extremely close. Lillard and Mccollum were out dueled by a perennially underrated duo in New Orleans, who gave the team their first series win since Chris Paul departed in 2011.


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