There have only been four 8-over-1 upsets in NBA postseason history, but a Derrick Rose ACL tear has brought Philadelphia to the verge of No. 5 tonight. Unfortunately for Philly fans, this series will be remembered most for the injury to the Chicago star guard as much as anything the 76ers do. That can’t be said for the other four upsets in playoff history, when a few huge moments changed everything.
If you’re a fan of Memphis (2011), Golden State (2007), New York (1999) or Denver (1994), chances are you hold these moments in your franchise’s history closer to you than a tourist with his passport. But for everyone else, it’s a look back at playoff history and a chance, for Chicago fans, to know they’re not alone.
MEMPHIS vs. SAN ANTONIO (2011)
Memphis had reason to believe it could win the franchise’s first playoff game after leading the league in steals and paint scoring in the regular season. Tony Allen had the biggest steal percentage all season, and Zach Randolph was the league’s best in offensive rebounding percentage. This wasn’t a team of scrubs. It just happened to be one of the most piecemeal surprise teams, ever. The studious Shane Battier with Z-Bo’s whips? Tony Allen and Marc Gasol? It was a weird stew that the Spurs, 15 games up on the Grizz to finish, couldn’t digest.
The series-clinching Game 6 win put it away, and was huge for the second reason that Gary Neal and his buzzer-beating three had just punched Memphis in the gut to force overtime (a Spurs win) in Game 5. But before the series got to six, Game Three was enormous. Every upset series needs the second win, a confirmation victory. The first could be by chance. A second is something different. Game Three, after Memphis’ lead dwindled from 11 to a tie, was broken by Z-Bo in his first three of his playoff career in the game’s final minute. A series-changing, and defining, bucket.