The Trail Blazers will enter their series against the Warriors looking to become the sixth No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the NBA Playoffs. Oddly enough, Portland has two figures inside their huddle that have been on both ends of unlikely upsets: Coach Terry Stotts was on the Sonics’ staff when they fell to the Nuggets in 1994, while Evan Turner was a part of the 76ers team that took down the Bulls in 2012.
Joe Freeman of The Oregonian recently talked with both Stotts and Turner about their respective playoff experiences prior to Portland’s matchup with Golden State.
When recounting the improbable demise of the 63-win Sonics, Stotts pointed the the success that Denver had against Seattle, splitting the regular season series. And along with the pain of falling to a seemingly-inferior opponent, Stotts disclosed the feelings of the broader anguish that Seattle endured after losing in the opening round to an eighth seed.
"That was a lot bit of ignominy," Stotts said. "The one seed's an overwhelming favorite, we were obviously the best team in the league and Michael (Jordan) was out. It was a window for a championship. So for us, that year, it was particularly disappointing because of the championship window that was there."
The experience Turner had was obviously much different than the one that Stotts lived through, as the former lottery pick played an important role in the Sixers’ march past the top-seeded Bulls in 2012.
When talking with The Oregonian, Turner outlined the attitude that Philadelphia had going into the series against Chicago.
"For one, it takes toughness," Turner said. "Two, you've got to get a win on their home court. And then, three, you've just got to believe. You're going to go as far as what your team believes, and we didn't think we were going to lose at any point."
It is important to note that the Sixers’ upset over the Bulls is somewhat discounted by the fact that Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the series, but Turner goes on to defend that it was more than just a devastating injury that led to Philadelphia’s advancement.
"I just remember being confident going into the series," he said. "We had great battles against them in the regular season and matched up well against them. D. Rose going down, of course, jaded that victory. But in basketball, it's about matchups and confidence. Certain teams can be a kryptonite to certain teams. That's just how the game goes. Our whole mindset was just success."
According to most media outlets, the Warriors should easily dispatch the Blazers in the first round, but two members of the Blazers’ squad can tell you that predictions aren’t everything. With a little luck and hard work, Portland could join the Grizzlies and Sixers as the only eighth seeds to escape the first round in this decade.