Euro 2020 Special

NBA: 3 Teams That Can Cause Some Massive Playoff Shocks

The 2020-21 NBA regular season was certainly not short of surprises, and there are sure to be even more in store once the playoffs begin.

Given their recent form and how the matchups have shaken out, three teams in particular seem to have a great chance of causing some shock results in the postseason.

SBOTOP breaks down all three teams in detail to see just why they have the potential to make the playoffs so much more interesting.

Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards are vying to maintain their remarkable NBA run this season
Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook drives the ball against Atlanta Hawks during a match at State Farm Arena

The Wizards’ late-season turnaround has been nothing short of amazing. They went on a remarkable run of NBA 2021 results – 17-6 in their last 23 games, with five of their six losses coming by four points or fewer – to finish eighth in the East.

The brilliant play of stars Russell Westbrook (23 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 14 assists over his last 23 games) and Bradley Beal (career-high 31.3 points per game) has been central to the Wizards’ success all season.

Beal returned in the Wizards’ regular-season finale against the Hornets after a hamstring injury, but he admitted that he is still not 100 per cent ahead of Washington’s play-in date with the Boston Celtics.

However, the Celtics have collapsed down the stretch and will be without All-Star Jaylen Brown, so the Wizards will like their chances of winning that game and claiming the No. 7 seed.

If the Wizards do get No. 7, they will face off with the No. 2 seed Brooklyn Nets, whom they have beaten in two out of their three meetings this season. Granted, Brooklyn did not have their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden together in any of those games.

But with Harden just working his way back from his own hamstring issue and Westbrook fully motivated to face his old Oklahoma City Thunder teammates, the Wizards could shock some people by giving the favoured Nets more problems than many might anticipate.

Miami Heat

The Miami Heat already produced a massive shock last season when they made it all the way to the NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble. And they can cause more chaos once again.

Despite their many issues for most of the year, they finished the season strong, going an impressive 12-4 in their last 16 games to seal the No. 6 seed.

Jimmy Butler, who starred in last season’s postseason run, has been even better this year, as has All-Star big man Bam Adebayo. Tyler Herro had a disappointing sophomore campaign, but he finally came on strong in the last few games.

The Heat are so dangerous because of their versatility and head coach Erik Spoelstra’s ability to adjust his tactics with each game. The Milwaukee Bucks found that out firsthand last year as they were ousted by the Heat in just five games despite being the No. 1 seed. And as fate would have it, the Bucks and Heat will meet again in the 3-6 first-round matchup.

The Bucks have tried to fix their flaws by bringing in Jrue Holiday and experimenting with different schemes in the regular season. But having said all of that, the Heat – with their talent, experience, and savvy – still pose a very real threat to shock Milwaukee and the other top contenders in the East.

Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James referred to last year’s championship triumph as one of the most difficult in NBA history. And if he and the Lakers are to successfully defend their crown, they will have to overcome an even tougher road to the title.

That’s because the Lakers – due to James and Anthony Davis missing a large part of the season with injury – finished in seventh in the West and will have to take on the Warriors in the play-in tournament.

The Lakers won their last five games of the season, and the NBA 2021 odds still favour them at 4.50 to win the title. No team has ever won the title as a seven seed or lower, so LeBron and the Lakers will have to make some history to defend their crown. But if any team is capable of achieving such a historic feat, it’s this one.

The Lakers still boast two of the top 10 players in the entire league in James and Davis, as well as a supporting cast that stepped up when needed last year.

Even without homecourt advantage, the Lakers will not fear any of the top seeds in the West – the Jazz, Suns, and Nuggets – and even the Clippers seemingly lost their last games of the season to avoid any chance of facing the Lakers in the first round. Since the Lakers are the Lakers, few people will be all that shocked if they do end up winning it all again. But given their unfavourable circumstances, going from the play-in tournament all the way to the title would still be quite a shock, not to mention one of the most impressive playoff achievements of all time.