I sent this text to my friends, practically verbatim but with much more careless grammar, before the Bucks took on the ultra-depleted Nets on Tuesday afternoon.
"So, the Nets are missing Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, plus everyone who already opted out, against the Bucks," I said. "I wonder what the hell the spread is gonna be... they could legit win by triple digits if they went full-go."
My friend -- we'll call him Joey -- responded that at "even like +25 I wouldn't touch the Nets, lol."
And I have to think we were in the majority here, though we all speculated that the Bucks would eventually rest starters like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton after jumping out to a 30- or 40-point lead at the half. Even Vegas was with us, pegging the Bucks as 18.5-point favorites over their depleted Eastern Conference counterpart.
At least we were partially right in our prediction -- the Bucks' primary two stars did sit out for the second half -- and, as an added bonus, Brook Lopez got some rest. But the Bucks didn't have a 30- or 40-point lead at the half; they didn't have a lead at all, in fact.
What was to come in the latter half would be one of the most surprising upsets in NBA history. But does it top the list of the biggest point-spread upsets since 2000? Let's find out.
All info retrieved from Basketball Reference and Action Network.
5. Suns over Warriors, 115-111 | March 10, 2019
Last year's Phoenix Suns had the same talented young core as the current team, with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton leading the charge -- though Ricky Rubio, a key contributor, didn't arrive until the 2019-20 season. Still, they weren't expected to compete with the Warriors at any point in the season, especially after losing their first three meetings by an average of 17.67 points per contest. Thus, the spread may have even been a little generous, here, saying that they'd only lose by 16. But a 37-point, 11-assist double-double from Booker and some stingy defense, which resulted in the Warriors committing 17 turnovers to the Suns' 14, was enough to get a shocking win over Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and co.
4. Warriors over Jazz, 118-108 | April 11, 2009
Ten years prior to the aforementioned Warriors, who were on the receiving end of a staggering upset, there was an incredibly depleted Warriors team that did the upsetting. Entering this late season game against the 47-32 Jazz, the 28-51 Warriors were an objectively bad team even with their starters active. But in this particular game, the Warriors decided to rest Jamal Crawford, Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette, among others, leaving them with seven players -- all of whom played 28 minutes or more -- to face Deron Williams' and Carlos Boozer's talented Jazz. C.J. Watson, who averaged 7.2 points per game throughout his career exploded for 38 points, including a perfect 16-for-16 performance from the charity stripe, while Rob Kurz scored 21 points off the bench. Kurz played in 40 games in his entire NBA career, all in the 2008-09 season with the Warriors.
3. Celtics over Cavaliers, 111-108 | May 21, 2017
Though the Cavaliers entered the 2017 postseason as the second seed behind the Celtics, they were viewed by many as the favorites entering the Eastern Conference Finals, especially considering they had the best all-around player in LeBron James, the roster was in good health, and they had not lost a single game through the first two rounds of the playoffs. They continued to coast against the Celtics, winning the first two games -- in Boston -- by 13 and 44 points. So why, when they came home to Cleveland and had to play against the Celtics without leading scorer Isaiah Thomas, whose 28.9 points per game had led the team, would anyone expect them to lose?
Just ask Avery Bradley.
2. Lakers over Warriors, 112-95 | March 6, 2016
Any victory that came against the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, who historically posted a 73-9 record in the regular season, was obviously a surprising upset. But when an aging Kobe Bryant led his 12-51 Lakers to a victory over the juggernaut of the Western Conference, it was perhaps the greatest upset the game had ever seen. Kobe was one of seven Lakers to score in double figures, with Jordan Clarkson's 25-point effort leading the charge. Defense helped, too, as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined to go 1-for-18 from three-point range.
1. Nets over Bucks, 119-116 | August 4, 2020
This victory was on-brand considering how the rest of 2020 is going. We witnessed history on Tuesday, much to the chagrin of bettors who felt they were smart for taking the Bucks despite the huge spread they'd have to cover. But it was history nonetheless, as Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Garrett Temple, Chris Chiozza and other members of the Nets' patchwork roster somehow mustered a victory against one of the most dominant teams the NBA has ever put out onto a court. Unbelievable.