The 2021 NBA Playoffs first round will commence this upcoming weekend. And there are a few teams that exceeded expectations during the regular season.
Here’s a look at three potential upsets in the NBA Playoffs first round.
The Philadelphia 76ers claimed the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The last time they accomplished this feat was back in 2001.
Another team in the East that has raised some eyebrows is the New York Knicks. They haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2012-13 campaign and they finished as the No. 4 seed.
Now, let’s take a look at the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz finished with the best record in the league at 52-20. Let’s not forget about the Phoenix Suns. This ball club is making its first appearance since 2010. Kudos to them for finishing as the No. 2 seed in the ever-competitive Western Conference.
We have discussed the teams that surprised us thus far. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the NBA Playoffs first round matchups that may not play out the way some of us may think.
3. Milwaukee Bucks (3) vs. Miami Heat (6)
The Milwaukee Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA in 2019 and 2020. They followed that up with a third-best record in the Eastern Conference this season. While the Bucks have played well during the regular season over the past two years, they have come up short in the playoffs. In 2019, they were defeated in six games in the conference finals. And in last year’s postseason, they were eliminated in five games in the conference semifinals. The team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season was none other than the Miami Heat. Sure, the Heat have struggled at times this season and it would be easy to dismiss them in this matchup. However, let’s remember that this team was the fifth seed last season and dispatched the Bucks in five games. Who’s to say they aren’t capable of upending Milwaukee again?
2. Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Dallas Mavericks (5)
Similar to the Heat-Bucks series we just mentioned, these two teams also met in the NBA Playoffs last season. To be honest, the Mavericks gave the Clippers all they could handle before bowing out in six games. While the Clippers did win the series, the Mavericks proved to be a worthy opponent against a team that was favored to win it all. It should also be mentioned that both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis weren’t 100% either. Health shouldn’t be an issue this time around. And considering the Mavericks pushed the Clippers to six games a year ago, they have more than an outside chance of knocking off the Clippers this time around.
1. Phoenix Suns (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7)
The Suns find themselves in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. During their painful playoff drought, the Suns produced 40 wins just once. This season has been totally different, though. Phoenix finished with the second-best record in the west. They ranked seventh in points allowed (109.5) and ninth in defensive efficiency (111.3 points per 100 possessions). With the addition of Chris Paul and Devin Booker continuing to play at an All-Star level, the team’s turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable.
On the other side of this coin, we have the defending champions. This team has had its fair share of struggles, to say the least. Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis missed significant time during the home stretch of the regular season. As a result, the Lakers fell from the No. 4 spot down to the No. 7 spot. Despite finishing near the bottom of the conference playoff bracket, the Lakers are favored to win this series.
Conventional wisdom says the Lakers do in fact come out on top, and there’s no shame in picking the defending champ to win in a playoff series. At the same time, let’s keep in mind that James is still nursing an ankle injury. We also should not forget that this Lakers team doesn’t have the same makeup as the roster from last season’s championship run. That being said, the Suns have every right to believe they can win this series….and I’m predicting they will. Yes, even though they are the No. 2 seed, this is still an upset.
Embed from Getty Images