The 8-seed upsetting the 1-seed is a rare occurrence in the NBA. It’s happened four times.
The first was back in the early nineties, when George Karl’s exciting Sonics team was ousted by the upstart Denver Nuggets. The second was during the last lockout-shortened season before this, when the Knicks as an 8-seed went all the way to the NBA Finals. The third was five years ago, when the “We Believe” Warriors ran the Mavericks out of town in 5 games. And the most recent was just last year, when the Grizzlies went grinding and took the Spurs out in 6 games.
If the Sixers pull this one out, they’ll join this short list. But at a time when “asterisks” are being thrown around like food in a middle school cafeteria, the Sixers won’t be joining the rest as fond memories. The 8-seeded Sixers won’t become iconic or even favorably remembered. They won’t be immortalized like the others, because their victory would be overshadowed. And rightfully so.
The other teams earned the victories by getting hot at the right time or having a favorable match up. The “We Believe” Warriors and 2010-11 Grizzlies severely outplayed their opponents. From what I’ve heard, so did the Knicks and Nuggets. The Sixers really don’t really have that going for them. They limped into the playoffs, had team chemistry problems, and were considered a heavy underdog coming into the postseason. They played like it too in game 1, until the first of the dominoes that has shaped this series fell. Derrick Rose‘s injury toward the end of Game 1, of course, tipped the scales closer to the Sixers. Still most believed, like myself, that the Bulls would win the series. Then the Sixers stomped the Bulls on the road in Game 2, against a supposedly still superior team. They came home all tied up, stealing home court. Still, most were wondering when Chicago would recover. They only played one bad quarter, really. It looked like they might win Game 3 too, until Joakim Noah injured his ankle while attempting a layup on the fast break. As you may know, they fell apart soon after the injury and now trail in the series going into Game 4.
As I mentioned in the game 3 recap, it was the Sixers’ responsibility to pounce while the Bulls were down. For that, they should be given credit. But the series will always be remembered, even if the Sixers win, as the one where the Bulls got unlucky and subsequently fell apart. Is that fair to the Sixers? Probably not. But it’s not fair to the Bulls how they got into this situation either.
The narrative now is that the Sixers SHOULD beat the Bulls. It won’t be seen as an accomplishment. But for every Sixers rotation player besides Elton Brand, a series win is more than they’ve ever accomplished before. And they won’t care what anyone thinks. Maybe we as fans shouldn’t care much either.