Never tell me the odds. One of the greatest parts of working in a career that (mostly) demands a high degree of statistical significance for your results is the quirky insight that one out of every ten or twenty times you're still just wrong. Dead stupid wrong. Bucking the odds with the occasional outlier is a geek's paradise in number watching. That said...
The Oklahoma City Thunder are officially blowing my ampersand-exclamation-point-asterisk-hashtag-ing mind right now. Never tell me the odds.
When the Thunder began their series against the Golden State Warriors last week, many betting sites were giving OKC pretty grim odds to get past the Warriors and into the Finals. The Thunder are making the oddsmakers look foolish, and the betting lines are changing rapidly to accommodate the surprise. Will the Thunder pull off the series win? Momentum is certainly currently on their side.
That's why they play the game. The old adage is true, and borne out of basketball, an old truism of Kentucky coach and hoops legend Adolph Rupp. Even when the odds are slim, there's always a chance that the long shot will pull it off. Some of the greatest stories in sports come from those moments that run the gamut from surprise to minor miracle.
Basketball has seen several unexpected outcomes as well, even in playoff series meant to blunt the effects of an outlier loss. The 1969 Boston Celtics set the underdog standard, beating what looked to be a superior Los Angeles Lakers squad in seven games. The 1977 Portland Trail Blazers cemented Bill Walton's legend by upsetting Dr. J's powerful Philadelphia 76ers squad. Denver's own Chauncey Billups led an underdog of his own, leading the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons to a surprise championship win over the boy-band version of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Your Denver Nuggets fully converted me as an NBA fan with their own playoff shocker, becoming the first team in league history to win a playoff series as an eight seed against the powerful Seattle Supersonics in 1994. Dikembe Mutombo was a beast against the Sonics, averaging 6.2 blocks per game in the five-game triumph. 31 blocks. Five games. Deke's wagging finger must have been tired by the time he collapsed to the floor with that ball, as he announced his presence with authority.
In their regular season history, the Nuggets have bucked the odds a number of times, recently becoming the only team in the league to defeat both the 72-10 Chicago Bulls and 73-9 Warriors squads in those respective seasons. Underdog regular season victories dot the landscape of the team's lengthy existence.
But how rare is bucking the odds in the playoffs for Denver? Since that top-10-list-worthy win against the Sonics, Denver has never won a playoff series in which they were not favored, only progressing out of the first round once, in 2008-2009. That Western Conference Finalist squad was a two-seed, finally dropping out against the top-seeded Lakers. In fact, the last time a Nuggets team won a series in which they were the lower seed was a three-game series win over the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 1983 playoffs. 34 years. Ugh. "Miracles" are as rare as the air when it comes to basketball in Denver.
The way the current roster is shaping up, this Nuggets squad will move forward, but in fits and starts. That makes it probable that when they land their next playoff berth, they'll do so as a lower seed. Assuming that's in the next few seasons, it will be interesting to see if that young squad can rise to the occasion, do something out of the norm, and beat the odds.
What have been some of your favorite Denver Nuggets underdog moments, Nuggets Nation? Of all of the moments we've come from out of nowhere, which are dearest to your hoops heart?