Basketball tournament upsets are not exclusive to the NCAA. NBA underdogs can go on deep playoff runs to take the NBA news by storm. The 1994-95 Rockets won the NBA championship as a sixth seed while the 1999 New York Knicks made the Finals as an eighth seed. With this season’s NBA playoffs essentially a free-for-all (especially out West), these “long shots” have a shot at making a run.
Believe-Land Part Two
Cleveland, short of a Super Bowl victory, will never equal the 2015 NBA Championship run LeBron James gifted the city. But this should not dissuade fans from believing in their current team. The fourth-seeded Cavaliers are 40-1 to win the NBA title and 16-1 to make the NBA Finals when betting online. They’re a distant fourth to Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia.
But did you know that Cleveland is 6-5 against this trio during the regular season? This includes being the only playoff team to beat Boston three times. The Cavaliers have the NBA’s best defense and have a bonafide closer in Donovan Mitchell, who averages 28.3 points in the postseason.
If defense wins championships as they like to say, the Cavaliers should be a popular NBA pick as an underdog. Maybe they won’t win the NBA title. But if they take out the Bucks in the semifinals and/or Boston or Philadelphia to reach the Finals, it would be quite the magical run.
Will Clippers End the Curse?
With NBA odds nearly as long as Cleveland’s at 35-1, a Clippers championship run would go down as legendary. Kawhi Leonard will lead the team without his running mate, Paul George, and already face steep basketball odds when they meet the stacked Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Clippers are +390 to win this series, which is less than a 20% chance they win.
But Leonard is no stranger to carrying a team past seemingly insurmountable odds. He led Toronto to its improbable 2019 title run and then toppled the “Heatles” dynasty in 2014. His Clippers may be without George, but this is a team much like his Raptors: filled with feisty veterans and a creative coach.
Those backing the Clippers should place money on them now. Their lines should shorten considerably if they upset the Suns. Every franchise’s drought ends at one point.
KAWHI LEONARD. 🔥🔥
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) April 6, 2023
The Kings of California
For the first time in NBA history, there are four California teams in the NBA playoffs. While most of the NBA predictions pick either the Warriors or the Lakers to make a run, the Sacramento Kings should not be slept on. The NBA’s most surprising team not only won the division amidst impossible odds (400-1 at one point!) but posted the best offensive rating.
This may be a young and inexperienced team but that doesn’t mean it can’t do damage in the playoffs. The Kings are +230 to win their first-round series against Golden State and are 20-1 to win the Western Conference.
Sacramento did go 1-2 against Golden State if we don’t count their final meeting, which did not include the Kings’ best players. But they are taking on a Warriors team that is 11-30 on the road with one of the league’s worst defenses. If Sacramento can upset Golden State, its players can only get more confident and make more noise down the stretch.