5 Los Angeles Lakers
Coming off two straight championships, the Lakers had it all going into 2010-11. After Phil Jackson considered retiring, he eventually signed a one-year deal to make a run at the third three-peat in franchise history. The Lake-show would once again win the Pacific, Lamar Odom would win the Sixth Man of the Year award and L.A. looked poised to make another championship run. That is, until the wheels came completely off against the Mavs. The Lakers lost their way in the semis, and for some reason took it all out on little J.J. Barea. In any case, their tumultuous postseason ended with an embarrassing sweep that was appropriately defined by a shirtless douchebag walking off court after trying to kill a dude who could fit in his pocket.
4 Boston Celtics
2010-11 marked yet another season of Boston Celtic accomplishments. At the end of the regular season, the Celts were atop the Atlantic Division for the fourth year in a row. Sure, the second place team was a horrendous Knicks squad, but a win is a win. Their core of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and the always-unstable Kevin Garnett were all All-Stars on an East squad coached by their skipper Doc Rivers. Paul Pierce became the third Celtic to 20,000 points and the first to 75,000 flops. Unfortunately, none of this added up to another trip to the finals, as the C’s wound up just another victim of the scorching Heat.
3 Chicago Bulls
After just a .500 record the year before, the Bulls made a massive turnaround and it was truly a thing of beauty. Finishing the year at a league best 62-20, Chicago ran away with the Central Division title thanks in part to the Cavs going from first to worst after some pretty decent player apparently left them high and dry. Derrick Rose went from impressive young player to league MVP, and first year coach Tom Thibodeau took home coach of the year honors (though he did have to sacrifice his lovely singing voice in order to do so). Unfortunately for the Bulls, they ran into the buzz saw that was the postseason Heat, losing 4-1 in the Conference Finals and marking the first time since 1975 that the Bulls didn’t follow a division title with an NBA title.
2 Miami Heat
The “Big Three.” “Taking my talents to South Beach.” “Not one, not two, not three, not four…” In their first year together, the new core of the Miami Heat was defined by a series of sound bytes as annoying and omnipresent as those kids from Glee. But there was no denying the insane amount of talent on this team. Case in point, they won their division at 58-24 and critics were saying it wasn’t “good enough.” They took some time to get their chemistry down, but when the postseason started the Heat found their stride and shredded the competition, winning each of their first three series 4-1. But LeBron floundered in the Finals, and in the end the Heat was only second best, which was more than enough for all of their dissenters to smile and declare them a total bust.
1 Dallas Mavericks
No one thought much of the Mavericks going into the season. They hadn’t made it past the conference semis in four years and their core wasn’t getting any younger. In fact, in the offseason Jason Kidd had his name legally changed to Jason Has-Grandkidds. But that didn’t change the fact that Dirk and the Mavs could make buckets like Mark Cuban can make inappropriate statements – in bunches. Key additions like Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and JJ Barea made them far more formidable on defense than in years past, and after a second place finish in the Southwest the Mavs turned on the afterburners in the playoffs. They ran through the Blazers, Lakers, and Thunder with only three losses, and found themselves an unlikely opponent for Miami in the Finals, where people were giving them about as much a chance as critics gave NBC’s Animal Practice. But in a truly riveting Finals that included the biggest 4th quarter comeback ever, the Mavs came out on top 4-2, pulling off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history.
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