FOUR UN­EX­PECTED RUNS TO THE CON­FER­ENCE FI­NALS AND BE­YOND

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NBA PALYOFFS - [PHOTO IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY TODD PENDLE­TON, THE OKLAHOMAN] BRETT DAW­SON, STAFF WRITER

The NBA Playoffs are built to min­i­mize up­sets. But oc­ca­sion­ally a team finds a way make an un­ex­pected run. A look at four teams in the past 20 playoffs that made un­ex­pected deep runs to the con­fer­ence fi­nals (and be­yond):

2012-13 IN­DI­ANA PAC­ERS

Reg­u­lar sea­son record: 49-32 (East­ern Con­fer­ence No. 3 seed). It’s not that the Pac­ers were a bad team. But In­di­ana was rel­a­tively young — its lead­ing scorer in the playoffs was a 22-year-old Paul Ge­orge — and 54-win New York was sup­posed to chal­lenge the Heat in the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals. In­stead, the Pac­ers knocked out the Knicks in six and took Mi­ami to seven games be­fore fall­ing.

2012-13 MEM­PHIS GRIZ­ZLIES

Reg­u­lar sea­son record: 56-26 (Western Con­fer­ence No. 5 seed). The Griz­zlies hardly were an up­start; they fell to the No. 5 seed on a tiebreaker and fea­tured Marc Ga­sol, Mike Con­ley and Zach Ran­dolph. Still, no­body ex­pected Mem­phis to reach the con­fer­ence fi­nals, given that Ok­la­homa City stood in its way in the sec­ond round. A firstround in­jury to Rus­sell West­brook opened the door, and Mem­phis stormed through it.

2001-02 BOS­TON CELTICS

Reg­u­lar sea­son record: 49-33 (East­ern Con­fer­ence No. 3 seed). On March 1, the Celtics were four games over .500. But Bos­ton got hot down the stretch of the reg­u­lar sea­son, and stars Paul Pierce and An­toine Walker cooked at play­off time, av­er­ag­ing a com­bined 39.6 points in a five-game con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal win against Detroit in which nei­ther team ever cracked 100 points.

1998-99 NEW YORK KNICKS

Reg­u­lar sea­son record: 27-23 (East­ern Con­fer­ence No. 8 seed). Yes, it was a lock­out year, but no­body saw the Knicks com­ing. Af­ter New York stunned top-seeded ri­val Mi­ami in the first round and swept No. 4 seed At­lanta in the sec­ond, New York lost cen­ter Pa­trick Ewing in Game 2 of the East fi­nals. Guards Al­lan Hous­ton and La­trell Sprewell took over to lead the Knicks to an up­set of In­di­ana. Of these four dark horses, only New York reached the NBA Fi­nals, where it lost to the Spurs.

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