The 2014 NBA Playoffs have seen some of the most interesting and competitive first-round match-ups in a long time. Overtime games have been plentiful and the potential for multiple upsets is great.
Here’s a look at the first-round match-ups that could result in a series win for the underdog.
No. 4 Houston vs. No. 5 Portland
This is easily the most entertaining playoff series going on right now with two overtime games in the three games played so far. Not that anyone expected for one team to sweep as the teams finished with the same regular season record. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone thought the road team would win every game of the series either.
The Rockets have had no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging an incredible 37.3 points per game in the playoffs, including a franchise-playoff record in game one with 46 points and 18 rebounds. With Damian Lillard also averaging 26.3 points per game in his playoff debut, James Harden has been a non-factor and Dwight Howard doesn’t seem like so much of a superstar.
With only three teams in NBA history winning a series after losing the first two at home, if Portland can win Sunday, I’d say an upset is in the making.
No. 2 OKC vs. No. 7 Memphis
OKC was one of the teams expected to contend for an NBA Championship. Now, the Thunder are simply trying to get through the first round. The most surprising team to be down 2-1 right now, Memphis has shown the scrappy, savvy team that it is.
The Grizzlies have taken the last two games of the series (both of which went into overtime), including game two in Thunder territory. After OKC was the only team to win on its home floor the first day of the NBA playoffs, Memphis switched to a smaller lineup, which has greatly bothered OKC. Point guard Mike Conley and forward Zach Randolph have led the Grizzlies offensively.
However, it is Memphis’ defense that will make the difference in this series. In game three, Durant and Westbrook each had 30 points, but they didn’t get a whole lot of help. Only three players were in double-figures for OKC compared to six for Memphis. Distributed production could lead to an upset over a team with a couple of the league’s best players.
No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 5 Washington
While an upset isn’t necessarily extremely surprising between a No. 4 and No. 5 matchup, not many expected an unexperienced playoff team like the Wizards to be contend with the veteran Bulls squad. Chicago was one of the best teams in the NBA since the New Year and Joakim Noah was unstoppable to end the regular season, putting up triple-double numbers at times.
Like the four-five seed match-up in the West, the visiting team has been the successful team as Washington took the first two games in Chicago. In both games, the Wizards came from behind, taking control in the fourth quarter. Different players have stepped up for Washington with Nene and Trevor Ariza leading the way in game one and Bradley Beal and John Wall giving solid performances in game two.
To take the series, however, Washington is going to need to find a way to not fall behind. The Bulls aren’t a team to take lightly and will continue to take advantage.
No. 3 Toronto vs. No. 6 Brooklyn
Let’s be honest. An upset in this series wouldn’t actually be that much of a surprise. Overall, Brooklyn didn’t have a good year, but that was because it can take a long time to put the pieces together on a team with many new players, especially when those new players are all used to being the team’s best player.
Now, the team has found a rhythm. And with championship experience under many of the players’ belts, it’s not astonishing that the Nets are up on a team with little postseason experience. In an Eastern Conference that was clearly weaker this season, Brooklyn peaked at the right time. They’re hungry and have the talent to keep this series short.