The Late 2000’s
2005-06 Detroit Pistons
Playoff Finish: Eastern Conference Semifinals (Lost to Heat, 2-4)
2006-07 Phoenix Suns
Playoff Finish: Western Conference Semifinals (Lost to Spurs, 2-4)
2006-07 Dallas Mavericks
Playoff Finish: First Round (Lost to Warriors, 2-4)
2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers
Playoff Finish: Eastern Conference Finals (Lost to Magic, 2-4)
I first want to give a shout out to the Detroit Pistons. They surprised everyone and won the championship in 2004, then went to the Finals again in 2005. However, the 2006 team may have been their best one. They won 64 games while finishing in the top-5 in both offensive and defensive ratings. They also had four All-Stars in Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace. That’s only happened a handful of times in NBA history. Even though this wasn’t a year they won it all, it was probably their best team.
Now we come to the 2006-07 season, which had a couple disappointing teams. The most infamous team that year was the Mavericks, who won 67 games that year behind MVP Dirk Nowitzki, and then lost in the first round. They seemed dialed in after blowing a 2-0 lead in the Finals the previous year, but immediately drew a bad matchup against the Warriors in the playoffs. Don Nelson, that Warriors coach and former Mavs coach, was familiar with the Mavericks’ style of play. This helped the Warriors exploit his old team, leading to a huge upset. Of course Dallas would eventually get that championship, but with an arguably weaker roster.
It almost pains me to talk about this Suns team. After reaching the Western Conference Finals the previous year without Amar’e, they were among the favorites to win it all that year. All they had to do was get through the Spurs, again. Nevertheless, as usual, fate seemed to be against them. In Game 1 Steve Nash received a cut on his nose and was unable to play late in the fourth quarter, leading to a loss at home. The Suns split the next two games to stay in the series.
Then came the infamous Game 4 in San Antonio. Once the Suns essentially clinched the game, Robert Horry knocked Nash into the scorer’s table. This caused a bit of a scuffle. Most importantly, Stoudemire and Diaw took a couple steps off the bench before returning, somehow resulting in the league suspending them for a critical Game 5 at home. The league also suspended Robert Horry for two games, but he wasn’t nearly as important to the Spurs as Amar’e was to the Suns. Phoenix put up a good fight in Game 5, but ultimately couldn’t overcome the loss of their second best player. The Suns then lost Game , and the series, in San Antonio.
This was probably the worst Suns loss, and possibly the worst sports loss I’ve ever personally experienced. Most people considered this series to be the NBA Finals that yea as the Spurs won the championship easily after this. The Suns were probably better than the Spurs that year. If Nash hadn’t cut his nose, they probably would have won Game 1. If the league hadn’t suspended Amar’e and Diaw (a rule they no longer enforce), Phoenix probably would have won Game 5 instead of losing by three. Similar to the Kings-Lakers series, Tim Donaghy claims that referees who preferred the Spurs influenced this series as well, but I won’t go into that. Suffice to say, the Suns deserved this one.