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Biggest NBA Playoff Series Upsets: Miami Heat Knockout Milwaukee Bucks

Biggest NBA Playoff Series Upsets: Miami Heat Knockout Milwaukee Bucks article feature image

Pictured: Jimmy Butler shoots over Bobby Portis. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

“Heat Culture” does it again.

The Miami Heat have knocked the Milwaukee Bucks out of the playoffs, beating them in five games in the first round.

In Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 10-year NBA career, this is his fourth first-round exit. The superstar has advanced past the first round four times and missed the playoffs twice.

Here is some history behind the Heat’s historic series victory over the Bucks.

The Odds

The Heat opened the series with +750 odds to beat the Bucks, while Milwaukee was listed as a -1200 favorite to advance to the next round.

Since 1990, the Heat’s price of +750 makes their series win over the Bucks the fifth-biggest betting upset.

Biggest Playoff Series Upsets — Since 1990

1994 (8) Nuggets (14-1) over Sonics (Round 1)

2007 (8) Warriors (12-1) over Mavericks (Round 1)

2012 (8) Sixers (9-1) over Bulls (Round 1)

2020 (3) Nuggets (+850) over Clippers (Semis)

2023 (8) Heat (+750) over Bucks (Round 1)

1989 (7) Warriors (7-1) over Jazz (Round 1)

There’s another fun anecdote to the Heat’s victory. Looking at the list of six teams to lose at such a high price, the Bucks join the 2007 Dallas Mavericks as the only other team to be the victim of such a large upset and make an NBA Finals with their core.

Dallas made the NBA Finals a year prior to losing to the “We Believe” Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. Dallas would have to wait four more years before making and winning the title in 2011.

Title Favorite

Entering the 2023 playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks were favorites to win the NBA title and just got bounced in the first round.

How often do the favorites to win the title entering the playoffs lose in their first playoff series? Not very often.

The last time it happened was back in 2007, with the Dallas Mavericks losing to the Golden State Warriors. It has only happened two times prior to this season since the playoffs expanded from 12 to 16 teams. Going back to the expansion of playoff teams from 10-12 in 1977, those two teams are still the only to lose their first series.

Favorites Entering Playoffs — Lose First Series

2023 (1) Bucks (14-1) lost to Heat

2007 (8) Mavericks (12-1) lost to Warriors

1994 (8) Sonics (9-1) lost to Nuggets

The Bucks aren’t alone here. The last favorite entering the playoffs to even advance to the Conference Finals were the Warriors between 2015 and 2019. The current four-year drought without the playoff favorite advancing to at least the Conference Finals is the longest streak since expansion in 1977.

The Seed

The 8-seeded Miami Heat not only pulled off a massive upset, they did so entering the playoffs with the lowest seed (forgetting the play-in tournament for a second).

Since 1990, the Heat are just the sixth 8-seed to advance past the first round and the first to do so since the 2012 Philadelphia Sixers, who beat the Bulls. The others were the 2011 Grizzlies, 2007 Warriors, 1999 Knicks and 1994 Nuggets. Of those teams, only the 1999 Knicks won their next series (they advanced to the NBA Finals).

Ironically enough, in that span only three No. 7 seeds even advanced past the first round, with the last being the San Antonio Spurs in 2010. Of the eight 7 or 8 seeds to advance past the first round, that same 1999 Knicks team is the only to win their next series.

What makes this even more impressive is the Heat came out of the play-in tournament to take down the mighty Bucks. How have play-in teams performed in the playoffs prior to this season? In the eight playoff series involving a play-in team, all eight lost the series and no series went to seven games with just three of those eight series lasting six games.

The Heat

Nobody does the upset bid quite like the Miami Heat. Since Jimmy Butler arrived in 2019-20, they are now 3-3 in series as underdogs, including pushing the Celtics to 7 in the 2022 Conference Finals and pushing the Lakers to six games in the NBA Finals in the bubble.

Prior to Butler’s arrival, their last series win as an underdog came back in the 2012 NBA Finals against the Thunder and the Heat franchise has won just three series as underdogs between 1989 and 2018, equalling their current run.

In that 1989 to 2018 stretch, the Heat were 3-11 as series underdogs overall.

Since Butler’s arrival, the Heat are 19-14 against the spread as an underdog in the playoffs, the most profitable team in the NBA.

Historical odds history via Sports Odds History

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