College basketball fans were lucky to witness March Madness at its best this year. Seeing such lower level teams like VCU and Butler advance the Final Four. Well after all of the NBA’s first round series have completed their opening games. The NBA has seen the closest they may come to their own version of March Madness.
While the two worlds are completely different. If a team plays one bad game and loses in college basketball their season of course is over. The NBA, which thrives on large market teams for ratings will never let that happen.
Going into game two’s of the first round series already the top two seeds in the West and 3 higher seeded teams overall see themselves trailing 1-0 in their series. San Antonio and the Lakers both fell in-game 1 (Magic lost to 5th seeded Atlanta also) to the 7th and 8th seeds. While the top three seeds in the East (Bulls, Heat, and Celtics) all got wins in their game one match-ups, all three of them struggled and even trailed at one point by double figures in the game and trailed in the fourth quarter to their lower seeded opponents.
Is this all a reason or David Stern to start sweating? Not just yet. These results are the main reason Stern had the first round series switched to a best of seven from a best of five back in 2003. Since the switch a team seed 6 or lower has won a first round series seven times. The most recent coming last season when the 7th seeded Spurs knocked off a 2 seeded Dallas team 4-2.
In fact of the 7 first round series upsets since the change (do not consider a 5 beating a 4 an upset) four of those seven have occurred in the West. The East has not seen a first round upset since 2007 when the 6th seeded Nets beat the 3rd seeded Raptors 4-2. Only twice has a team seeded lower than 6th won a first round series since the switch. The before mentioned 2010 Spurs and in 2008 when the Golden State Warriors seeded 8th knocked of the top seeded Mavericks 4-2.
Do these stats and history now make Stern worry a little more about losing rating teams like the Lakers, Bulls, and Heat early now? The answer to that is still no cause as we are learning the only team that really chokes too much lower seeds in the first round is Dallas (sorry Mavs fans).
Fans love to see upsets. They loved the storylines surrounding Baron Davis and the Warriors in 2007. Fans may love to see the upsets happen but they don’t want to watch as much when the major market team with the superstar player isn’t playing.
So will the Grizzlies who won their first playoff win in franchise history (1-12 overall in playoffs) actually knockoff the Spurs? The Spurs were one of those seven upsets, losing as a three seed to sixth seeded Dallas in 2009.
Can Chris Paul continue the dominate performance he had in the game one upset for the Hornets over the Lakers for three more wins? The Lakers have never lost to a lower seed in the first round since the format change.
Do Heat and Bulls fans need to begin to worry after their top 2 seeded teams struggled despite wins in-game one? Only the Knicks in 1998 (7th seed) and 1999 (8th seed, strike year in ’99) has a seeded team lower than 6th won a first round series in the East.
While both the Knicks upsets came against the Heat. I do not feel they, nor any of the other top 4 seeds or David Stern have to really worry. I am sure when the smoke clears and it is all said and done. You will see the top 4 seeds in both conferences moving on.