The Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs and were able to make history as a result. While the Lakers were viewed as very capable of beating the Grizzlies in round one, there was not a lot of precedence for this to actually happen.
Los Angeles is only the sixth No. 7 seed in NBA history to defeat a No. 2 seed in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Of the five No. 7 seeds before LA, only one was in a seven-game series. The NBA changed the first round of the NBA Playoffs to be best-of-seven (it was originally best-of-five) in 2003.
That means that the Lakers are only the second No. 7 seed to advance to round two in the last 20 years. That alone is impressive but the Lake Show might end up breaking down more doors as well as there is a natural question that is now rising.
What is the farthest a 7 seed has ever advanced in the NBA Playoffs? Can the Lakers top it?
Four of the five No. 7 seeds to upset a No. 2 seed in the first round went on to lose the next series. The 1989 Warriors, 1991 Warriors, 1998 Knicks and 2010 Spurs all advanced to round two only to see their seasons end there.
Worse off, those teams did not do well at all in the second round. The Spurs were swept by the Phoenix Suns while the other three teams all lost their series in five games.
The lone outlier is the 1987 Seattle Supersonics. That team finished with a losing 39-43 record and played woefully down the stretch, going 14-21 after the all-star break. Their top scorer was Dale Ellis and their head coach was Bernie Bickerstaff, father of current Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, J.B. Bickerstaff.
Waiting for them in the second round was Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets, who were the preseason favorites to win the title in the West. Houston had a disappointing season with a 42-40 record and that disappointment continued as the Supersonics won the series in six games. 49 points and 25 rebounds from Olajuwon were not enough in Game 6 as the Sonics won 128-125.
Thus, the 1987 Supersonics have the honor of being the No. 7 seed to advance the farthest, making it to the Western Conference Finals that season. There, they were swept by Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.
If the Lakers can get past the Warriors they will be just the second No. 7 seed to ever accomplish that feat. If they can win a game in the Western Conference Finals they will officially be the most successful No. 7 seed in NBA Playoffs history.
Of course, that is not enough for the fanbase, who views this Lakers team as a legitimate contender that could potentially make the NBA Finals.