It has been said by most basketball experts that the teams everyone remembers are the ones who play for the NBA championship. Nobody remembers who played in the Western or Eastern Conference Finals or the earlier rounds of the NBA playoffs. In this article ten of those teams that have been forgotten will now be brought back to center stage.
10. 1975-76 Golden State Warriors (59-23, Coach Al Attles)
The Warriors entered the 1975-76 Season as the leagues defending champions and by seasons end they held a great deal of favor to repeat as champions. They won 59 games (they won 48 in ’74-75) and held home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference. Led by Rick Barry, Phil Smith, and Jamaal Wilkes, they dispatched Detroit in six games and were heavily favored to beat the Phoenix Suns and return to the NBA finals. Instead the barely over .500 Suns pulled one of the greatest playoff upsets in NBA History, and shocked the Warriors at home in game seven to move onto the NBA finals.
9. 1976-77 Denver Nuggets (50-32, Coach Larry Brown)
With the heavy compensation and the overall belief that the four ABA teams absorbed by the NBA were inferior not much was expected from Denver, San Antonio, Indiana, or New Jersey. In their first NBA season the Denver Nuggets turned the league and the Western Conference upside down. Led by David Thompson and Dan Issel the Nuggets won 50 games, the Midwest Division, and finished second in the Western Conference. They were seen as an immediate contender to the NBA title but then ran into the league’s Cinderella team in the Portland Trailblazers led by Bill Walton. In a hard fought six games series the Blazers sent the Nuggets home, but Denver’s impact showed that the ABA teams belonged in the NBA.
8. 2004-05 Phoenix Suns (62-20, Coach Mike D’Antoni)
Coming into the 2004-05 season the Suns had a solid three player core of Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, and Amare Stoudamire. They were expected to compete for the playoffs but most experts felt the Pacific Division still belonged to the Sacramento Kings. The Suns won the Pacific Division with the highest scoring team in the NBA and with a great deal of honors. Steve Nash won MVP, Mike D’Antoni won coach of the year, and Amare Stoudamire and Shawn Marion were named All-Stars. The Suns advanced to the Western Conference Finals and were immediately ran off the court in five games by San Antonio. However this season started an offensive culture in Phoenix that endured for six total seasons, three Western Conference Finals appearances, and tons of points scored.
7. 2003-2004 Minnesota Timberwolves (58-24, Coach Flip Saunders)
Since their first playoff appearance together in 1997; Kevin Garnett and coach Flip Saunders were known for regular season consistency and playoff disappointments. That all changed in 2003-04. With Kevin Garnett leading the way and winning the leagues MVP award the Timberwolves won their first division titles, playoff series, and had the best record in the NBA. Even though it seemed that Garnett was a one man show he had a great deal of help from a deep roster, namely Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell. Despite the success the Timberwolves lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers and havn’t been back to the playoffs since.
6. 1993-94 Seattle Supersonics (63-19, Coach George Karl)
This team became synonomous with one word: IMPLOSION. The 1993-94 Supersonics had the leagues best record, had two All-Stars in Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. They set several league marks, and were considered the team to beat by most experts and fans. They they became the first #1 seed to lose to a #8 seed when the Denver Nuggets beat them in the first round of the playoffs in five games. All of the success of the season was forgotten in the ruin of that upset. However the Supersonics are no longer the only #1 seed to lose in the first round, it has happened three times since.
5. 1981-82 Boston Celtics (63-19, Coach Bill Fitch)
This particular edition of the Boston Celtics was the first team that most experts and fans felt would be the overwhelming favorite to be the league’s first repeat champion since the 1969 Celtics. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish had another year together. Cedric Maxwell was in his prime, and the drafting of Danny Ainge to a loaded backcourt appeared to put the Celtics over the top. However the Celtics fell behind 3-1 to Philadelphia again in the playoffs and rallied but this time Philly would come out on top in game seven in Boston. Two years later the core of this team would help Boston win the NBA Title.
4. 2006-2007 Dallas Mavericks (67-15, Coach Avery Johnson)
After a heartbreaking loss in the 2006 NBA Finals the Mavericks ran over the rest of the NBA during the 2006-07 season. Dirk Nowitzki won league MVP and everyone around the league and in the media felt that the Mavericks would hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy at season’s end. However a ghost from the Mavericks past would come back to haunt them. Don Nelson, the man who resurrected the Mavericks franchise, was now coach of the #8 seeded Warriors. With Nelson’s knowledge of the Mavericks and with nothing to lose the Warriors eliminated the Mavericks in the first round. A great regular season forgotten with that loss.
3. 1972-1973 Boston Celtics (68-14, Coach Tom Heinsohn)
After the 1969 NBA Finals the Boston Celtics became irrelevant in a league dominated by new teams and champions that finally had a chance now that Bill Russell was retired. However they were not irrelevant for long, the Celtics returned to the top of the NBA standings with a bang by winning a franchise record 68 games in 1972-73. Tom Heinsohn was the coach of the year and league MVP Dave Cowens teamed up with John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, and paul Silas to form a strong foundation that many felt would lead them to the 1973 NBA Finals. However this Celtics team never made it that far, as the first team in NBA History to win at least 67 or more games and not make the Finals. They were upset by the eventual champion New York Knicks.
2. 1992-1993 Seattle Supersonics (55-27, Coach George Karl)
Before the WWE’s Montreal Screwjob in 1997 there was game seven of the 1993 Western Conference Finals in the NBA. The 1992-93 Supersonics finished with the leagues fourth best record. They were a young team mixed with some older veterans and they emerged as the biggest threat to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference. After acquiring Sam Perkins at the trade-deadline they made a run to winner take all game seven in Phoenix for the Western Conference Title. Phoenix was awarded 64 free-throws to Seattle’s 36 attempts and most felt that the league handed the Western Conference title to Phoenix conisdering how evenly matched these teams were through the first six games.
1. 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings (61-21, Coach Rick Adelman)
One of the finest offensive teams ever assembled. Led by Chris Webber and Vlade Divac led the Kings to the NBA’s best record and many felt that the Kings would un-seat the Lakers as the Western Conference Champion. Through six games (depite a massive free-throw disparity in the fourth quarter of game six) the Kings looked like the better team and game seven would be the end of the Laker’s reign. However the damage done from game six, and some questionable game seven calls doomed the psyche of the Kings and they fell to the Lakers and into the abyss of time. However this team’s tragedy magnified the league’s alleged problem with officiating which keeps this team talked about from time to time.