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Friday, May 4, 2007
Is Warriors over Mavs greatest upset ever?

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Don't you wonder what Mark Cuban woke up thinking today?

His team won 67 games, tied for sixth-most in NBA history.

Of the 10 teams that won the most games in an NBA season, only the '73 Celtics and '07 Mavs failed to win the NBA title.

But Cuban's Mavs lost in the first round to a team with 42 wins, the largest upset in terms of win differential in NBA playoff history.

Oh, and the Warriors hadn't won a playoff series in 16 years.

But is it the greatest upset in postseason history? Here are eight more of the biggest from the NBA, NHL and MLB -- leaving out one-game sports like the NFL or NCAA tournament (one-game upsets are obviously easier to pull off than an entire series).

2006 NHL Playoffs: No. 8 Edmonton (95 points) over No. 1 Detroit (124 points)
The setup: The Red Wings won the President's Trophy for the league's best record, outscored their opponents by nearly 100 goals, had the league's best power play in the regular season and the NHL's best road record. The Oilers weren't an easy eighth seed, but were just +5 in goal differential.

What happened: The Wings won the opener, but Edmonton won Game 2 and then took Game 3 in double-OT. After the Wings tied the series, Edmonton shocked Detroit at Joe Louis Arena with three second-period goals to win Game 5, 3-2. Game 6 was an ever bigger shocker: the Oilers talled four goals in the third period for a 4-3 victory.

The aftermath: In the upset-filled Western Conferences playoffs, the Oilers beat the No. 5 Sharks and No. 6 Ducks to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost in seven games to Carolina.

2001 ALCS: New York Yankees (95-65) over Seattle (116-46)
The setup: Sure, the Yankees were three-time defending World Series champs, but the Mariners had the greatest regular season in MLB history and had won 21 more games than the Yankees. They led the AL in most runs scored and fewest runs allowed while the Yankees were fifth in offense and third in defense.

What happened: Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina stopped Seattle at home in the first two games, 4-2 and 3-2, as the Mariners had just 10 hits combined. Back in New York, Seattle won Game 3 14-3 and led Game 4 1-0 in the eighth inning. But Bernie Williams homered off Arthur Rhodes and Alfonso Soriano's two-run HR off Kaz Sasaki in the ninth won it. The Yankees won Game 5 in a blowout, 12-3.

The aftermath: The Yankees lost the World Series to the Diamondbacks. The Mariners won 93 games in 2002 and 2003 but missed the playoffs both seasons.

2000 NHL Playoffs: No. 8 San Jose (87 points) over No. 1 St. Louis (114 points)
The setup: The Blues won the President's Trophy behind the league's stingiest defense and MVP Chris Pronger. The Sharks squeezed into the playoffs with a miniscule +11 goal differential and had gone 0-4-1 against St. Louis.

What happened: After dropping the opener, San Jose reeled off three straight victories. The Blues tied the series with 5-3 and 6-2 victories, but Sharks goalie Steve Shields tightened up in Game 7, and the Sharks scored two first-period goals in a 3-1 victory.

The aftermath: San Jose lost to Dallas in five games in Round 2.

1994 NBA Playoffs: No. 8 Denver (42-40) over No. 1 Seattle (63-19)
The setup: With Michael Jordan on sabbatical, the playoffs were wide open -- although the Sonics entered with the league's best record and best point differential (+9.0 per game). The teams had split four games during the season, however.

What happened: Seattle easily took care of business in the first two games of the best-of-5 series, winning 106-82 and 97-87. Denver cruised in Game 3, but Shawn Kemp's two missed free throws down the stretch in Game 4 allowed the Nuggets to send the game to OT, where they prevailed 94-85. In Game 5 back in Seattle (where the Sonics had gone 39-4), Denver reserve guard Robert Pack scored 10 of 23 his points in the fourth quarter to force another OT game. Sonics fans remember the final sight of the game -- Dikembe Mutombo grabbing the final rebound, falling to the floor and letting a roar heard all the way to Denver. The Nuggets had become the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1.

The aftermath: The Nuggets stretched 53-win Utah to seven games in the next round before losing. Seattle would suffer another first-round upset the following year to the Lakers.

1988 World Series: Los Angeles (94-67) over Oakland (104-58)
The setup: Second-year slugger Mark McGwire and 40-40 man Jose Canseco had turned the A's into the Bash Brothers. Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley led the pitching staff. The A's were second in the AL in runs and first in fewest runs allowed. The Dodgers had upset the 100-win Mets in the NLCS but their best hitter, Kirk Gibson, was out with an injury, and the lineup looked feeble.

What happened: Gibson's pinch-hit home run off Eck won the opener and Orel Hershiser pitched a three-hit shutout in Game 2. The A's won Game 3 on McGwire's bottom-of-the-ninth homer, but Tim Belcher beat Stewart in Game 4, setting the stage for another Hershiser CG victory in the series clincher.

The aftermath: The Dodgers haven't won a playoff series since. The A's won the 1989 World Series but suffered another upset loss to the Reds in the 1990 Series.

1982 NHL Playoffs: Los Angeles (63 poins) over Edmonton (111 points)
The setup: The young Oilers had the best record in the Campbell Conference, winning 48 games and scoring 417 goals (fourth-most all time). The Kings were 24-41-15. The Oilers had Gretzky, Messier and Kurri. The Kings had Mario Lessard in goal.

What happened: The Kings won the opener 10-8 (yes, 18 goals). Gretzky's OT goal gave Edmonton a 3-2 win in Game 2. And then came the "Miracle on Manchester," one of the great comebacks in sports history. The Oilers led 5-0 after two periods. They were laughing at the Kings on the ice. But the Kings chipped away, twice scoring on 4-of-4 situations. It was 5-3 with five minutes left when Edmonton's Garry Unger was assessed a five-minute major for high-sticking Dave Lewis in the face. (Lewis was given two minutes for roughing.) The Kings scored on the 4-on-4 to make it 5-4. The Forum was going nuts. Amazingly, Steve Bozek tied it with five seconds left. The OT winner from rookie Daryl Evans came 2:35 into the extra session. The Oilers bounced back to win Game 4, sending the series finale back to Edmonton. But home-ice advantage did not pay off: the Kings won 7-4.

The aftermath: The Kings lost to Vancouver in five games in the next round. The Oilers, of course, would learn from their disaster: they would reach the Cup finals in 1983 (losing to the Islanders) and then win four titles in five years.

1981 NBA Playoffs: Houston (40-42) over Los Angeles (54-28)
The setup: The Lakers were the defending champs and although they had won six fewer games than the season before, were heavy favorites against the Rockets, who featured Moses Malone but not much else.

What happened: Since the Lakers finished behind the Suns, they had to play the tricky best-of-3 first-round series. Houston surprised in the opener, winning 111-107. The Lakers drew even back in Houston, 111-106, but Game 3 turned into a defensive struggle and the Rockets prevailed, 89-86. (FYI: How much as the NBA changed? The Lakers made 17 3-pointers all season.)

The aftermath: The Rockets beat the Spurs in Round 2 and then Kansas City (which was also 40-42, but had upset the Suns) to become the only team with a losing record to ever reach the NBA Finals. The Celtics won in six games.

1954 World Series: New York Giants (97-57) over Cleveland (111-43)
The setup: Led by 23-game winners Early Wynn and Bob Lemon, the Indians dominated the AL, dethroning the five-time World Series champion Yankees, with a 2.78 staff ERA. The Giants beat out Brooklyn by five games to win the NL pennant.

What happened: In Game 1, Willie Mays made his famous catch; the Giants would win 3-0 in the 10th on Dusty Rhodes' pinch-hit, three-run homer. The Giants won Game 2 3-1 as Johnny Antonelli went the distance despite allowing eight hits and six walks. The Giants completed the sweep with 6-2 and 7-4 victories.

The aftermath: The Giants haven't won a World Series since -- in New York or San Francisco. And neither has Cleveland.