The first-round series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat took another stunning turn on Monday night as Jimmy Butler brought in a career-high 56 points and the Heat staged a 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Game 4 to finish a 3- 1 lead.
Suddenly, the Heat are just one win away from knocking out a Bucks team that won 58 games in the regular season and earned the No. 1 overall in the playoffs. That’s certainly no guarantee now that Giannis Antetokounmpo has returned from his back injury, but with Butler playing at this level, the Heat have a real chance to make history.
If the Heat completes the upset, they will become only the sixth No. 8 to win a first round series since the league expanded the playoffs to 16 teams during the 1983-84 season, and the fourth to do so in a best series. -of-seven match. In addition, they would become the first team to be on both sides of such an upset; they lost as the No. 1 seed in 1999.
With the Heat poised for a historic feat, here’s a look back at the previous No. 8 seeds to pull off this feat.
1994: Denver Nuggets over Seattle SuperSonics, 3-2
It took ten years for the first No. 8 seed to win a series, and the Nuggets did it in the most dramatic way possible. They fell 0-2 to a SuperSonics group that had won 63 games and would make the Finals a few years later, losing both games by double digits. The rise of the Sonics seemed like a mere formality at the time.
Instead, the Nuggets shot 60 percent from a field in a dominant Game 3 win at home, then stole Game 4 in overtime despite only shooting 36.9% from the field. Even then, the consensus was that the Sonics would settle things in Game 5 in Seattle, where they went 37-4 that season. Not so; the Nuggets won in overtime, 98-94, thanks to eight points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks from Dikembe Mutombo.
During the lockout-shortened season in 1999, the Heat went 33–17 and won a three-team tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed. While the conditions were unique in this postseason, the Heat were still expected to win the series, especially with home field advantage.
However, the Knicks set the tone with a 20-point victory in Game 1. From there, the teams traded double-digit wins until the winner-take-all Game 5, which was at stake. With the Knicks trailing in the closing seconds, Allan Houston set up a runner that hit the front of the rim, bounced off the backboard and fell through the net to win the series.
The Knicks eventually became the first and still only No. 8 to advance to the Finals, where they fell to the San Antonio Spurs in five games.
After a Finals loss in 2006, the Dallas Mavericks won 67 games in 2007, which was the best record in the league with six games and still tied for the seventh-best all-time regular season record. Although they were a title favorite, they had a potentially tough first-round game against a Golden State Warriors team that had won 16 of their last 21 games and had inflicted two of their biggest regular season losses on the Mavs.
It turned out that Baron Davis and Co. really had the number of the Mavs. The Warriors won Game 1 on the road and went on to win all of their home games thanks to a rowdy Oracle Arena crowd. Even more impressive is how easy they made it look; three of their four wins were in double digits, including a 25-point blowout in Game 6.
The “We Believe” Warriors eventually fell to the Utah Jazz in the second round in five games, but will forever be remembered in the Bay Area.
The Western Conference was incredibly tough in the early 2010s, as evidenced by the fact that the Grizzlies won 46 games and were only ranked No. 8; that would have been good for the No. 4 seed in the West this season. Still, the Spurs were dominant for much of the regular season en route to 61 wins and expected to challenge for a title.
Instead, they witnessed the birth of the “Grit-N-Grind” Grizzlies, who simply refused to lose in an extremely small series. The Grizzlies won Games 1 and 3 by three points and five of the six games were decided by single digits. This was the first playoff series win for the Grizzlies in franchise history and the start of their best era.
In the early 2010s, the Chicago Bulls rose as title contenders for the first time since Michael Jordan’s retirement. With Derrick Rose leading the way, they made it to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals and earned the No. 1 seed in the East in the lockout-shortened 2012 campaign.
Heading into the 2012 playoffs, another showdown with the Miami Heat appeared to be on the cards, but Rose tore his ACL in the final minutes of Game 1 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Though the Bulls held on to win that game, they fell out in six games and never reached those heights again.