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Biggest Flameouts in NBA Playoff History

The Bulls playoff flameout against the Sixers is memorable, but is it historic?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    At one point in his career, Dirk Nowitzki was a perennial also-ran for an NBA Title.

    The Chicago Bulls became the fifth No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 8 seed in NBA history. That is a disappointment, to say the least. Most felt like this was the Bulls year, but an injury depleted roster and the reigning MVP of the League tearing his ACL nixed all of that.

    Was Chicago's Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers considered a flameout? Absolutely. But was it historic? What are the ten most memorable flameouts in NBA Playoff history?

    Check out our list. If you can think of any we missed, be sure to comment:

    Seattle Supersonics – '94
    Coming off losing in the Western Conference Finals the year before, the Seattle Supersonics went 63-19 during the '94 season and ran up against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. No problem, right? Wrong. Denver won the series in five games and the memory of Dikembe Mutombo lying on the floor holding the ball above his head with an ear-to-ear grin will live in our collective basketball hearts and minds forever.

    Portland Trailblazers – '00
    The 2000 Trailblazers squad had a good mix of young players and veterans (including former Bull, Scottie Pippen) and when they matched up against the Los Angeles Lakers in Western Conference Finals that year, they battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7 on the Lakers home floor. Portland had LA down by 15 points in the fourth quarter but would ultimately lose the game by five points. The Lakers went on to win the first of the three consecutive championships and for the Blazers, that game is still regarded by many as the biggest meltdown in NBA History.

    Orlando Magic – '03
    After winning Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead against the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs in 2003, Tracy McGrady uttered these famous last words, “It feels good to be in the second round.” The only problem? The series was best of seven, not best of five. The Pistons went on to win the next three games and made the Magic disappear. To date, McGrady still doesn't know what it feels like to be in the second round.

    Los Angeles Lakers – '04
    Kobe. Shaq. That's all you needed to know about the Los Angeles Lakers when they matched up against the superstar-less Detroit Pistons in the 20004 NBA Finals and because of that, nobody thought Detroit would stand a chance. Nobody except the Pistons, that is. With the series tied at 1-1, Detroit would go on to win the next three games in the series, the NBA Championship and the Lakers dynasty was officially dead.

    Los Angeles Lakers – '06
    2006 was the Lakers second season without Shaq and coming off a disppointing '05 campaign, Phil Jackson was back on the sidelines and Kobe was the man (he put up 81 points against Toronto in February of that year). The Lakers drew Steve Nash's Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs that year and the Lakers were up 3-1 in the series but ultimately lost in seven games. And guess who took the blame? Yup... Bean. That series would forever be remembered as the one where Kobe quit on his team.

    Dallas Mavericks - '06
    The Mavs went into the NBA Finals against the Heat in 2006 and won the first two games of the series at home. Dallas seemed to have all the momentum going into Miami for Game 3 and an improbable Dallas Championship seemed to be on the horizon. But the Heat – specifically, Dwyane Wade – literally “took” the next four games from Dallas to win the NBA Championship and the “Dirk Nowitzki is soft” narrative was born.

    Dallas Mavericks – '07
    After the disappointment in the Finals just a year prior, the Mavericks shook it off and went 67-15 in 2007 and were the No. 1 seed in the West, drawing the Golden State Warriors, the No. 8 seed in the first round of the playoffs. In what should have been an easy series for the Mavericks to win, the Warriors promptly dispatched the Mavs in six games and the “Dirk Nowitzki is soft” narrative would live on.

    Cleveland Cavaliers – '09
    66-16. That was the regular season record that LeBron James led his Cleveland Cavaliers team to during the 2009 season. It was the best record in the NBA and the best record in the history of the Cavs franchise. LeBron won his first League MVP and most expected Cleveland to be a sure fire lock to not only make it to the NBA Finals, but win a championship. It was their year. Cleveland swept the first two rounds of the playoffs but lost in six games to the Dwight Howard led Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    San Antonio – '11
    It seems that every couple of years, the Spurs put a team together that beats everybody yet goes unappreciated by the general basketball watching public. Mostly because they're boring and nobody truly believes in them until they actually win a championship. In 2011 after going 61-21 in the regular season, they drew the Memphis Grizzlies who were without one of their key players in Rudy Gay. In what should've been an easy first round victory for the Spurs, Memphis went on to pull the gigantic upset, defeating San Antonio in six games.

    Miami Heat – '11
    After Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh came together in the summer of 2010 to form the 'Big 3 of South Beach,' many expected them to win “not one... not two... not three...” NBA Championships. Miami ran roughshod over teams in the first three rounds of the NBA Playoffs (including the Chicago Bulls) and were the favorites to win against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. But LeBron froze up, Dirk finally came through and the “Dirk Nowitzki is soft” narrative died forever.