The Boston Celtics, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, are down 0-2 to the Chicago Bulls. It’s only the second time in NBA history that the top seed in a conference has gone down 2-0 to a No. 8 seed.
We all suspected that the Celtics might not be the strongest No. 1 seed we’ve ever seen headed into the postseason, but this is still a stunning result. Chicago finished 41-41, sneaking into the playoffs late in the season. But for most of the year, after struggling to make Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo coexist together, Chicago suddenly looks as good as it has all season. On Tuesday, they waxed Boston again, finishing with a 111-97 blowout figuring six Bulls in double figures.
The other instance of a top seed falling down 0-2 (in the 16-team playoff format) came in 1993, when the No. 1 seeded Phoenix Suns fell down 2-0 against the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a five-game series back then, but Charles Barkley led the Suns to three straight wins to advance to the next round. Phoenix ended up going to the Finals that year, falling to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the midst of their first threepeat. However, Phoenix clearly proved that you can’t count out No. 1 seeds, even if they struggle initially.
Still, Boston certainly isn’t in a good situation, and its 2-2 split against the Bulls in the regular season is rather telling. The Celtics can clearly play better, but Chicago has the best player on the floor (Jimmy Butler) and the best rebounder (Robin Lopez, with five offensive rebounds on Tuesday).
Boston wouldn’t be the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round, either, if that were to happen. The Dallas Mavericks infamously lost to the Golden State Warriors in 2007 after winning 67 games in the regular season. But even if Boston wouldn’t be viewed quite the same as Dallas was, that’s still not a list it’d like to be on.