How many times has a No. 7 seed upset a No. 2 seed in the NBA playoffs? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
How about the Minnesota Timberwolves?
The Western Conference’s No. 7 seed pulled off by far the most stunning Game 1 result of any first-round series in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
Led by Anthony Edwards’ 36-point performance in his playoff debut, the Wolves took down the No. 2 Grizzlies 130-117 in Memphis. The Grizz posted the NBA’s second-best record in the regular season, yet they suddenly find themselves down in the series to a franchise that’s been a stranger to postseason success for a long time.
It’s been nearly two decades since the Timberwolves last won a playoff series, with 2003-04 being the last time they advanced past Round 1. Heck, this is just their second postseason appearance since then.
But now Minnesota is just three wins away from making NBA history.
Has a No. 7 seed ever upset a No. 2 seed in the NBA playoffs?
The Timberwolves wouldn’t be the first seven seed to knock off a two seed, but the first-round upset would put them in rare company.
Since the playoff field expanded from 12 to 16 teams in 1984, just five No. 7 seeds have made it past Round 1.
The 1986-87 Seattle SuperSonics were the first seven seed to accomplish the feat. After a regular season where they posted a losing record of 39-43, the SuperSonics eliminated the No. 2 Dallas Mavericks in four games. Seattle lost to Dallas by 22 points in Game 1 before reeling off three straight wins.
In the 1988-89 season, Chris Mullin and the No. 7 Golden State Warriors swept Karl Malone, John Stockton and the No. 2 Utah Jazz in three games. The Warriors then repeated history two postseasons later, with the No. 7 Run TMC Dubs disposing of the David Robinson-led No. 2 San Antonio Spurs in four games.
The 1997-98 New York Knicks are the lone No. 7 seed to go the distance in a first-round series and win the decisive final game. Allan Houston powered the Knicks to a series-clinching Game 5 win over the Miami Heat after New York was down 2-1 in the series. The following season, the Knicks pulled off another Round 1 upset of the Heat in five games, except this time New York was an eight seed. The No. 8 Knicks went all the way to the Finals, where they fell to the Spurs in five games.
Speaking of San Antonio, the 2009-10 Spurs were the most recent seven seed to make it to Round 2, eliminating the Mavs in the first round in six games. Dirk Nowitzki and Co. bounced back from the defeat the following year by winning the Finals.
Of the five seven seeds to emerge from the first round, the SuperSonics are the only ones that went on to win another series in the same postseason. Seattle beat Hakeem Olajuwon’s No. 6 Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals before being swept by the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers in the West finals.
The 1988-89 Warriors, 1990-91 Warriors and 1997-98 Knicks all lost in five games in the conference semifinals, while the 2009-10 Spurs were swept.