The Miami Heat, as a #8 seed, pulled off a remarkable upset and knocked out the #1 Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Heat needed only five games to dispatch the top-seeded Bucks and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals. They also became the first Play-In Tournament team, since its inception in 2021, to win an opening-round series.
The short-handed Heat were missing two key players, yet still buried the Bucks. Shooting guard Tyler Herro fractured his right hand while diving for a loose ball in Game 1. Backup guard Victor Oladipo sustained a postseason-ending knee injury in Game 3.
We just play hard,” said Heat star point forward Jimmy Butler. “We know what we’re capable of. We don’t listen to the outside noise, and we will not listen to any outside noise.
The Bucks were a huge favorite to win the opening-round series at -1200 odds. No other first-round series had a bigger favorite than the Bucks.
The Heat were installed as a +750 underdog after they secured the #8 seed via the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. Oddsmakers set the series spread at -2.5 games, which suggested the Bucks would send the Heat packing in five games.
Jimmy Buckets Led Heat to Back-to-Back Comebacks
Butler spearheaded consecutive comeback victories after the Heat fell behind by double digits in the fourth quarter in the last two games.
Butler exploded for 56 points in a Game 5 victory on Monday night in Miami. He followed up that franchise record-setting performance with 42 points in an overtime win in Game 5.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra wanted to use Butler as a decoy in the final play of regulation to send Game 5 into overtime. However, Butler persuaded his coach to give him the ball.
Jimmy looked me dead in the eye and he just said, ‘No. Let me be that guy,’” said Spoelstra.
Butler caught a near-perfect inbound pass from teammate Gabe Vincent and knocked down a game-tying shot with 0.5 seconds on the clock to send the game into overtime. The Heat erased a 16-point deficit to force overtime after the Bucks went ice cold in crunch time.
Last postseason, the Bucks were eliminated in the conference semifinals after forward Khris Middleton sustained a knee injury in the opening round. Fans strongly believed that a healthy squad would have successfully defended its NBA championship to win back-to-back titles.
The Bucks headed into this year’s postseason with a healthy team until disaster struck in Game 1. Bucks power Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo injured his back and played only 11 minutes in the loss. He missed the next two games before returning in Game 4. Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and hauled down 20 points in the Game 5 loss.
The Bucks began the postseason as the consensus favorite at +265 odds to win the championship this season, which would have given them their second title in the last three seasons.
Heat Becomes Sixth Team to Upset #1 Seed
The Heat became only the sixth #8 seed to knock a #1 seed out of the playoffs. They also made NBA history as the first #8 seed to pull off an upset in just five games during a seven-game series.
The first two times a #8 seed knocked out a #1 seed occurred during an era when the opening round of the NBA Playoffs was only a best-of-five series. The NBA extended the first round to a seven-game series in 2003.
In 1994, the #8 Denver Nuggets upset the #1 Seattle SuperSonics in five games. The Sonics won 63 games during the 1993-94 season and the best team in the West was powered by Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and Detlef Schrempf. The Nuggets only won 42 games that season, yet snuck by the Sonics in one of the greatest playoff upsets in NBA history.
Following a lockout-shortened season in 1998-99, the #8 Knicks picked off the #1 Miami Heat in the opening round. The Knicks prevailed in five games one year after the two teams squared off in a postseason brawl in the opening round of the 1998 playoffs.
In 2007, the #8 Golden State Warriors upset the #1 Dallas Mavericks in six games in the opening round. The Mavs had won the championship in the previous season and were denied back-to-back titles with their opening-round exit.
In 2011, Zach Randolph and the #8 Memphis Grizzlies stunned the #1 San Antonio Spurs in six games.
During the 2012 NBA playoffs, the #8 Philadelphia 76ers upset the #1 Chicago Bulls in six games after MVP Derrick Rose blew out his knee in Game 1.
1990s Flashback: Heat and Knicks
The #5 New York Knicks will square off against the #8 Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting this weekend. The Heat and Knicks will rekindle a bitter rivalry that began back in the mid-1990s when head coach Pat Riley left Gotham to become the new head coach of the Heat.
The Knicks only needed five games to defeat the #4 Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round. They won three games in a row to clinch their first playoff series since 2013.
The Knicks begin the Eastern Conference semifinals as a -140 series favorite. The Heat head into the second round as a +120 underdog to win and advance to the conference finals. In Game 1 at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks opened as a -4.5 favorite.
The Knicks and Heat were long shots to win the 2022-23 NBA championship when the regular season ended in early April. The Heat were initially +25000 odds, and the Knicks were +12000 odds to win the title, according to DraftKings. You can currently back the Knicks are +2000 odds to win the championship while the Heat improved to +3500 odds.
FiveThirtyEight updated its playoff predictions and the Heat have a 12% chance to advance to the 2023 NBA Finals with a 5% chance to win the championship. The Knicks only have an 11% chance to win the Eastern Conference and lock up a spot in the NBA Finals, and they have just a 4% chance to win the title.
The Knicks are currently +650 odds to win the Eastern Conference, but they opened at +4000 odds when the playoffs began.
The Heat were +6000 odds to snag the Eastern Conference title at the onset of the playoffs, but they improved to +900 odds after their opening-round upset.
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