Identifying teams that have “choked” in the playoffs or finals is subjective and can vary based on individual perspectives. However, here is a list of ten notable NBA teams that faced playoff disappointments along with brief descriptions of their shortcomings:
2007 Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks, with a regular-season record of 67-15, faced a shocking upset in the first round of the playoffs, losing to the Golden State Warriors, an eighth seed, in a six-game series. The Mavericks struggled to contain the Warriors’ fast-paced style of play.
2016 Golden State Warriors: After setting a regular-season record of 73-9, surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, the Warriors faced a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, they were unable to secure another victory and lost the series in seven games.
1995-96 Seattle SuperSonics: The Sonics, led by stars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, won 64 games during the regular season. In the NBA Finals, they faced the Chicago Bulls but were unable to overcome Michael Jordan and his team, losing the series 4-2.
2009 Cleveland Cavaliers: Led by LeBron James, who won his first MVP award that year, the Cavaliers had the best regular-season record at 66-16. However, they were upset by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, falling short of expectations and failing to reach the NBA Finals.
2011 Miami Heat: After forming a superstar trio with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Heat faced high expectations. However, they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, despite holding a 2-1 series lead.
2018 Houston Rockets: The Rockets, led by James Harden and Chris Paul, had the best regular-season record at 65-17. They faced the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and held a 3-2 series lead but lost Games 6 and 7, failing to capitalize on their opportunity to reach the NBA Finals.
2002 Sacramento Kings: The Kings, led by Chris Webber and Mike Bibby, had a strong team and finished with a 61-21 regular-season record. However, they faced controversy and questionable officiating decisions in the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, ultimately losing the series in seven games.
1994 New York Knicks: The Knicks reached the NBA Finals but were unable to overcome the Houston Rockets, losing the series in seven games. Despite a strong effort, they fell short of capturing the championship.
2010-11 Chicago Bulls: Led by league MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls had the best regular-season record at 62-20. However, they were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Miami Heat, who were led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
2019 Milwaukee Bucks: With a regular-season record of 60-22, the Bucks were considered championship contenders. However, they faced a stunning defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Toronto Raptors in six games, despite having a 2-0 series lead.