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Categories Betting 101 NBA

Lowest Seeds to Make the NBA Finals | NBA Finals Longshots

The NBA Finals are playgrounds for superstars. There is no room for longshots, scrubs, Cinderella stories or fluky hot streaks — only the elite survive. Except for the small handful of times where there was a tiny bit of room for them. Occasionally, a team that had a rough regular season can upset the apple cart and sneak its way in as an NBA Finals longshot. That is what we are interested in today: Here are the four biggest longshots to make the Finals of all-time, aka the lowest seeds to make a deep run.

Biggest NBA Finals Longshots of All-Time

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No. 6 Seed: 1981 Houston Rockets, Lost to Boston Celtics (2-4)

The fact that these Rockets made the Finals is a testament to one man: Moses Malone. Houston went 40-42 that year, but Malone averaged about 28 while the only other guy to average over 27 minutes a game, Robert Reid, averaged 16 and 32-year-old Calvin Murphy put up 16.7. Malone ended up finishing fourth in MVP voting.

To their credit, the Rockets’ run to the Finals included a huge upset of the defending champion Lakers and George Gervin’s Spurs before getting a lovely gift of the Kings in the Conference Finals, who were also 40-42. Alas, things ended when the Rockets faced the Celtics, who were just starting the Larry Bird era.

Houston gave it a crack, taking Games 2 and 4, but the Celtics were too deep — five players in double figures — and Bird too everywhere (15 and 15 average for the series).

No. 6 Seed: 1995 Houston Rockets, Defeated Orlando Magic (4-0)

Fourteen years later, the Rockets were again the Cinderella of the NBA Playoffs, only this time they A) were the defending champs, and B) finished off the story.

This was the brief two-year period where Hakeem Olajuwon was the face of the league, and his 1995 run was otherworldly. The Rockets added Clyde Drexler mid-season to turn around a disappointing season, which helped them get to 47 wins, but everything ran through The Dream. His 1995 playoff numbers: 33 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 4.5 assists on 53.1% shooting.

If he wasn’t scoring in buckets, the Rockets weren’t winning.

And yet, most of that is forgotten because the 1995 Finals instead became a referendum on the Shaquille O’Neal/Penny Hardaway Magic than it was a celebration of Olajuwon. Shaq and Penny were great in the series, but Hakeem was better — and Nick Anderson couldn’t make a free throw.

Each game was competitive, but the series was not. Rockets put the sweep in the books to repeat.

No. 8 Seed: 2023 Miami Heat, Lost to Denver Nuggets (1-4)

This was just last year, so I’ll keep it short: No one was beating Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in 2023. The Suns gave them the best series, the Lakers the best individual games, but this was all about anointing Denver.

Maybe if the Celtics completed the 3-0 comeback in the East Finals, things would have been different. But they didn’t, and the Nuggets ended the run of the second No. 8 seed to make it to the end.

No. 8 Seed: 1999 New York Knicks, Lost to San Antonio Spurs (1-4)

Until the Heat made their 2023 campaign, this Knicks trip to the Finals in 1999 seemed like somewhat of a fluke. For one, it was a 50-game, strike-shortened season in which Karl Malone won MVP by averaging 24 and nine and the Tim Duncan Spurs had the best record in Duncan’s second NBA season.

But hey, the Knicks knocked off the Heat in Round 1 thanks to an awesome Allan Houston floater, so credit to them.

And then Larry Johnson dropped the Grandmama on the Pacers, so credit to them.

The point is, the Knicks earned it. Duncan, David Robinson and Sean Elliott rolled them in a handful of thrilling 89-81 games in the Finals, but this wasn’t a fluke so much as lightning in a bottle.

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