NBA Playoffs 2011: Final Report Cards for All 16 Playoff Teams

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IJune 14, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: Final Report Cards for All 16 Playoff Teams

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  NBA Commissioner David Stern presents the Larry O'Brien trophy to the Dallas Mavericks founder Don J. Carter next to team owner Mark Cuban after the Mavericks won 105-95 against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at Am
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    And that folks was your 2010-11 NBA season. I hope you're ready for a few months worth of baseball highlights on ESPN.

    And what a season it was. It has been one of the most entertaining years in recent memory with the Big Three of the Miami Heat leading the way for a new era in the Eastern Conference and the Dallas Mavericks finally declaring themselves champions of the basketball world after over a decade's worth of postseason failure.

    With a rematch of 2006, Dallas was able to exact revenge on the Miami Heat with a 4-2 series win.

    They didn't need a player to lead their team back from any sort of hole, much like Dwyane Wade did in 2006, but they instead got a well-balanced attack from just about every player that stepped on the court wearing a Dallas uniform.

    Leading up to the 2011 NBA Finals had a few quality series to look for as well with storylines such as the Memphis Grizzlies becoming the fourth eighth seed in NBA history to take out a first seed and then nearly becoming the first eighth seed since 1999 to advance past the second round. The Los Angeles Lakers attempt at a three-peat coming up well short was also one of top stories of this year's postseason.

    Consider this year's postseason as a changing of the guard amongst former Eastern and Western Conference powerhouses. Teams that had dominated their conferences in Boston, Los Angeles and San Antonio all suddenly began to look human for the first time as none of these particular teams were able to advance past the semifinals.

    Instead of seeing those teams, we were witness to the young, athletic and upstart teams of the league running away with their conferences. Out East, the Heat and Chicago Bulls were making noise as the two top teams in the conference, while Oklahoma City and Memphis began to make their impressions felt out West. All in all, it has come as a relief to see some new faces in this year's postseason as we begin to witness the latest generation of the NBA take over.

    This year's postseason has featured inspired play from all sides of the nation that resulted in the eventual championship win for the Dallas Mavericks. We'll take a look at Dallas, Miami and every other postseason team's progression through this year's playoffs and just how well they fared by giving them a grade.

Atlanta Hawks

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    ATLANTA, GA - MAY 12:  Harry the Hawk, mascot of the Atlanta Hawks, against the Chicago Bulls in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Phillips Arena on May 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Defeated No. 4 Orlando Magic 4-2

    Semifinals: Lost to No. 1 Chicago Bulls 4-2

    The Atlanta Hawks were able to surprise the NBA consensus with a definitive series victory over the division rival Orlando Magic and then pushing the No. 1 seed Chicago Bulls to the brink before falling short in six games. They won Game 1 of that series in Chicago, but then lost four of their final five, including a 20-point defeat at home to give the series to the Bulls.

    Atlanta was manhandled by Dwight Howard in the first round as they allowed him to average 27 points and 16 rebounds per game, but were able to keep the rest of the team in check. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson came up huge in the series with Crawford hitting a number of timely shots off the bench while Johnson attempted to back up his $120 million contract with 43 percent shooting from deep over the entire postseason.

    They gave a triumphant effort in their semifinals series against Chicago, but came up short despite stealing home-court advantage. They were abysmal on their home floor as they finished 1-2 against Chicago with both losses coming by 17 points or more. The shooting touch of Crawford and Johnson faded and it was Derrick Rose taking over in the end to lead the Bulls to a victory.

    A decent postseason for Atlanta, but this is not what they re-signed Joe Johnson for. He only averaged 19 points per game on 44 percent shooting for the entire playoffs and was still not able to prove himself the leader that the team envisions he could become.

    Unless the Hawks begin to make some moves, they've reached their peak and it's not too high.

    Grade: B-

    Top Highlight: Josh Smith finishes off the alley-oop.

Boston Celtics

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 11:  Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers reacts on the sideline during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on May 11, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO US
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Defeated No. 6 New York Knicks 4-0

    Semifinals: Lost to No. 2 Miami Heat 4-1

    A postseason that started out so promising came to a crashing halt for the Boston Celtics as they finished off the playoffs with a disappointing outing against their conference rivals in the Miami Heat.

    Boston had beaten the Heat in last year's postseason 4-1 and had won the regular-season battle this year 3-1. It was highly believed that Boston would be the team that would stop Miami in their tracks.

    It appeared that way as the Celtics took advantage of a few injuries to key New York Knicks. They won their two games at home by a combined five points and then decimated the Knicks at Madison Square Garden with a 17-point Game 3 victory and a 12-point closeout victory in Game 4. The Knicks didn't have any answer with Amar'e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups sidelined by injuries.

    Their battle against the Heat was expected to go a full seven games where physicality was sure to rear its ugly head. Sure there were testy moments, but the Heat just proved to be too much for the aging veterans of Boston. Miami used its athleticism to wear out the Celtics in the fourth quarter of every win as Boston couldn't keep up with LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

    Consider this a failure of a postseason for the Celtics. Even with an injury to Rajon Rondo, the Celtics are a much better team than this and they have won plenty of games in the past without their All-Star point guard.

    This could also represent one of the last times that Boston could actually make a significant push for a title considering that their three core players are all a few years away from possible retirements.

    Grade: C-

    Top Highlight: Ray Allen delivers the dagger.

Chicago Bulls

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 26:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives for a shot attempt against Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illi
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    How They Fared 

    First Round: Defeated No. 8 Indiana Pacers 4-1

    Semifinals: Defeated No. 5 Atlanta Hawks 4-2

    Conference Finals: Lost to No. 2 Miami Heat 4-1

    From the start of the postseason, the Chicago Bulls just didn't look like the same team from the regular season. The team that had just won the regular-season title with 62 wins was struggling in every single game they played against a 37-win Indiana Pacers team that they had beaten three out of four times during the regular season. They struggled in the first four games, but had a huge showing in Game 5 to put Indiana away.

    They would lose their first game against Atlanta, but would bounce back by winning four of the next five games in decisive fashion to set up a Conference Finals matchup with a Miami Heat that they beat all three times during the regular season. It started out well as they won Game 1 by 21 points, but it was all downhill from there as the Heat eventually found out how to defend the league MVP in Derrick Rose.

    Basically, the Heat played off of him. They dared him to take jump shots and they restricted any access into the paint. When the game was on the line and the Bulls were attempting to stage comebacks, the Heat would answer by having LeBron James defend Rose. Derrick responded to this by making 1-of-15 shots when he was being defended by James.

    This was a huge eye-opener to the Bulls as they now see that they desperately need a scorer that can help Rose. Luol Deng provided some support, but Carlos Boozer was a no-show as he hardly made his impact on offense felt, while also allowing Chris Bosh to go off on offense.

    Derrick also needs to limit his jump shot as he attempted six three-pointers per game in the postseason despite only converting on 25 percent of them.

    Grade: B

    Top Highlight: Derrick Rose goes spin cycle on the Pacers.

Dallas Mavericks

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks holds up the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy after Bill Russell presented it to him following the Mavericks 105-95 win against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Air
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Defeated No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers 4-2

    Semifinals: Defeated No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers 4-0

    Conference Finals: Defeated No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1

    NBA Finals: Defeated No. 2 Miami Heat 4-2

    Be honest, who wrote this team off after they blew that 18-point lead against the Portland Trail Blazers? I'm sure a few more hands would raise if I asked if you still thought they were contenders after they fell in a 2-1 deficit in their first-round series.

    Time and time again, we doubted the Mavericks this year and they proved us wrong and they finally have the hardware to now show that they are the NBA's top team.

    After over a decade's worth of postseason disappointment, it all added up into one unbelievable postseason journey.

    After struggling with Brandon Roy's heroics in Portland, they began to prove their legitimacy as a title contender with a clean sweep over the defending two-time champion Los Angeles Lakers. In the deciding game, the Mavs bench outscored the entire Lakers team 86-84. Dallas would only add to their resume as they used three come-from-behind victories to top the young, upstart Oklahoma City Thunder in only five games.

    They once again faced possible defeat after the Heat took a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4. With the game on the line, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry expelled a decade's worth of heartache into the next three games. They got into LeBron James' head and their zone defense was the difference-maker as they won three consecutive games to gain their revenge on the same Heat team that had beat them in 2006.

    A deserved championship for the veterans of Dallas. Players like Nowitzki, Terry, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler have waited too long for this opportunity and they were able to take advantage. Now we can look at Dirk's legacy in a positive light rather than focusing on the negatives that had overshadowed his accomplishments for so long.

    Grade: A+

    Top Highlight: The Dallas Mavericks finally take home the trophy.

Denver Nuggets

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 27: Nene Hilario #31 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket against Kendrick Perkins #5 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 27, 2011 at the Ford
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1

    Truly a disappointing ending to what was a surprisingly impressive season. After trading Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups away, the Denver Nuggets were just as good without their two biggest stars.

    With role players like Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Ty Lawson stepping up alongside new floor leader Nene Hilario, it wouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone if the 50-win Nuggets could pull the upset on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    They hardly provided any resistance as they dug themselves into a 0-3 hole to start the series. They would pull out a three-point victory in Game 4 and would see the series end in Oklahoma City after losing by three points. The Nuggets had six players averaging over 10 points per game, but when it came down to it, they needed players like Anthony and Billups to step up and lead the team.

    Instead, they had a number of role players who had never had the chance to lead a team before. In close-game situations, the Nuggets didn't have that one player that they had relied on for the past seven seasons in Carmelo Anthony. This Denver team today is a lot more well-rounded and multi-dimensional, but they lack the leadership qualities that a team needs to be successful in the postseason

    Over the offseason, it's going to be key for the Nuggets to either trade for a big-name player that could lead the team or begin to develop one of their newly acquired players into the face of the franchise. With Nene Hilario as a free agent, he could possibly be used as a sign-and-trade for a player that could potentially lead the Nuggets deep into the postseason.

    Grade: D+

    Top Highlight: Danilo Gallinari taking a sheet.

Indiana Pacers

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 26: Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the Indiana Pacers looses control of the ball under pressure from Joakim Noah #13 and Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at the
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 1 Chicago Bulls 4-1

    The eighth-seeded Indiana Pacers might have lost in five games to the Chicago Bulls, but those five games were nothing to be discouraged by. Aside from Game 5, they held a late lead and pushed MVP Derrick Rose and the 62-win Bulls to the brink of a loss. If not for some faulty play down the stretch, the Pacers could have very easily pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history.

    The Pacers found out a lot about themselves this series with young guns in Tyler Hansbrough and Darren Collison helping Indiana and their attempt at an upset bid. Before Collison suffered an injury, he was basically playing Rose to a standstill while Hansbrough was giving Carlos Boozer all he could handle. With two unexpected sources of offense, the Pacers were able to push Chicago to the final seconds of four out of the five games.

    However, there leaves a lot to be desired from these Pacers. They have a terrific scorer in Danny Granger, quality defenders in Brandon Rush and Dahntay Jones and young players about to break through in Hansbrough and Paul George, but they still require at least one other scoring threat if they want to improve from this season.

    They need to begin to develop Hansbrough and George in order to begin making pushes for more postseasons in the future.

    Grade: C+

    Top Highlight: "Psycho T" rips and dunks on Carlos Boozer.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 08:  Guard Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after a three-point shot by Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2011 at American Airl
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Defeated No. 7 New Orleans 4-2

    Semifinals: Lost to No. 3 Dallas Mavericks 4-0

    I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that this probably wasn't the type of postseason that the Los Angeles Lakers had in mind.

    They started out the gate slow with a nine-point home loss to the New Orleans Hornets before taking the next two games to regain home-court advantage. They would then win two of the next three games to make yet another trip to the Western Conference semifinals where they were slated to take on a Dallas Mavericks team that had just struggled with Portland and had its fair share of postseason disappointment in the past.

    The first two games were controlled by Dallas the entire way as they won by two in Game 1 and by 12 in Game 2, both games coming at the Staples Center. A comeback would have been difficult, but we have seen Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers pull off bigger in their time together. Once the Mavericks sealed control of the series with a six-point victory in Game 3, it only got uglier for the Lakers.

    Fighting for their playoff lives, the Lakers lost Game 4 by 36 points. The entire Mavericks bench outscored the Lakers 86-84 and the entire team hit 20 three-pointers with nine coming from Jason Terry and six from Peja Stojakovic. Truly a depressing end to the career of coach Phil Jackson who announced his retirement shortly after the travesty of a game.

    It's going to be an extremely interesting offseason for the Lakers as they look towards the future with their new coach in Mike Brown. Could that have been the last legitimate chance for Kobe Bryant to secure his sixth title? Will the Lakers make a push for Dwight Howard? Is Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum on the outs?

    It's going to be a long offseason in Laker Land.

    Grade: D

    Top Highlight: Kobe Bryant slams it over Emeka Okafor.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 15:  Forward Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, O
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Defeated No. 1 San Antonio Spurs 4-2

    Semifinals: Lost to No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 4-3

    The Memphis Grizzlies are giving $80 million over five years to Rudy Gay. He played a total of zero minutes in the postseason, yet the Grizzlies had their best postseason in franchise history.

    Not only were they able to secure their first postseason win, but their first series win as well. For only the fourth time in NBA history, a No. 8 seed was able to top a No. 1 seed. The Grizzlies' athleticism and size were too much for the aging veterans of the San Antonio Spurs to handle and it showed as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol decimated Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess on the boards.

    They stole home-court advantage in Game 1, lost Game 2 and then won both games in Memphis with a Randolph game-winner supporting one win and an 18-point victory in Game 4 to give the Grizzlies a 3-1 series lead that San Antonio would never recover from.

    The same Spurs team that had won 61 games during the regular season was exposed against a Grizzlies team without arguably its best player on the floor.

    Memphis getting past San Antonio was only the beginning; this team actually had championship hopes. Against an equally athletic team in Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies stole home-court advantage away with a Game 1 victory and actually went up 2-1 in the series before dropping Game 4 that needed three overtimes to finish. They would then lose both games at OKC to drop the series in seven games.

    With the Western Conference powerhouses beginning to show their age (San Antonio and Los Angeles), a young, athletic team like Memphis could very well easily find themselves at the top of the West in the near future fighting it out with Oklahoma City or the Los Angeles Clippers. The progression of young players like Gasol, Conley and Gay has been staggering and they've put the other 14 Western Conference teams on notice.

    Grade: A-

    Top Highlight: Darrell Arthur does it on both ends.

Miami Heat

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat reacts while taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Defeated No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers 4-1

    Semifinals: Defeated No. 3 Boston Celtics 4-1

    Conference Finals: Defeated No. 1 Chicago Bulls 4-1

    NBA Finals: Lost to No. 3 Dallas Mavericks 4-2

    At the beginning of the postseason, Miami wasn't even supposed to get past Boston in the semis. Once they got past them, there would be no possible way for the Heat to beat out the MVP and the Chicago Bulls. It was only after they did both that we actually began to ponder the thought that maybe this Heat team really is good enough to win.

    Now that the Heat lost the NBA Finals to a better Dallas Mavericks team, we're considering this a failure? What happened to the talk of this team not even getting past Boston?

    Aside from a few games in the Finals, the Heat were devastating their opponents. Behind the combined efforts of the Big Three, they were able to rid themselves of the athletic Philadelphia 76ers in five games before their matchup with the Celtics in the semis. They won the first two games at home, dropped Game 3 in Boston and then used a few unbelievable fourth quarters to put the Celtics away in five games.

    Their conference finals matchup against Chicago turned out being one of the easier series for the Heat once they got past their Game 1 debacle. Behind LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat were able to beat the Bulls in four consecutive games.

    Their defensive plan on Rose worked to perfection as they dared him to shoot and cut off any lane to the basket. Derrick was basically deemed as a non-threat in fourth-quarter situations once James defended him.

    The only series we'll look at, however, is the Heat's series against the Dallas Mavericks. After a Game 1 victory and the first 40 minutes of Game 2, the Heat looked out of it. Most of all, James looked completely out of it especially after his eight-point performance in the Heat's Game 4 loss.

    LeBron's fourth-quarter performances that won the Heat their series against Boston and Chicago were a thing of the past and he suddenly appeared human.

    With no answer to Dallas' zone defense, James suffered and the Heat lost in six games. It was a disappointing end, but it was only the first season that these three players have played together. In time, LeBron will become the player that he envisions himself to be.

    Grade: B+

    Top Highlights: LeBron James throws down on Ian Mahinmi.

New Orleans Hornets

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 28:  The New Orleans Hornets huddle before a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2011 at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE T
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers 4-2

    It's a shame that the New Orleans Hornets' postseason run came to a quick end because Chris Paul was playing some of the best basketball of his career.

    In six games, Paul averaged 22 points on 55 percent shooting, 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals per game. He also hit 48 percent of his three-pointers as he did all in his power to complete the upset over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. With no David West by his side however, he didn't have the mid-range threat to look to and the Hornets suffered without their No. 2 scorer.

    Even without West, the Hornets gave a valiant effort. They took Game 1 at the Staples Center by nine points, but quickly lost it in Game 3 when they lost by 14 points. Paul and the Hornets would go on to lose two of the next three games as their season would come to a close at home with an embarrassing 18-point defeat.

    There still remains many questions to be answered within the New Orleans Hornets organization. They still have no owner and are in the midst of a free-agency class that doesn't offer Chris Paul any reason to re-sign upon his 2012 free agency. With talks of Paul possibly leaving for a team that can actually surround him with talent, it's going to be up to the Hornets organization to get some quality players to keep Paul around in hope of future postseason success.

    Grade: C

    Top Highlight: Carl Landry slams on Lamar Odom and loses his mind.

New York Knicks

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  (L-R) Amar'e Stoudemire #1, Carmelo Anthony #7, Ronny Turiaf #14 and Landry Fields #6 of the New York Knicks look on against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 3 Boston Celtics 4-0

    It's tough to judge just how well the New York Knicks played the Boston Celtics considering Amar'e Stoudemire was hobbled for most of the series and Chauncey Billups only played one game, but the Knicks looked like the inferior team in just about every game.

    The Knicks were considered an upset special against the veterans of Boston and they even held their own in the first two games on the road, only losing by a combined five points. The Celtics needed late-game heroics in both games, but not in the next two where they won Game 3 by 17 points and Game 4 by 12. New York hardly provided any resistance as they allowed Boston to obtain big leads early in both games.

    Anthony was the only healthy member of their Big Three and while he did provide a fantastic individual performance in Game 2 where he scored 42 points, he still shot a dismal 38 percent and turned the ball over more than three times per game. Carmelo had his best game when Amar'e and Chauncey were both sidelined and it was a clear sign that he needs to begin being a team player if he wants this latest installment of a Big Three to work.

    Stoudemire shot 38 percent for the series and averaged 15 points per game after averaging 26 points per game during the regular season. He was hurt in Game 2 and he proved to be no match for the defensive prowess of Kevin Garnett.

    It's painfully obvious that the Knicks need a bench. Toney Douglas and Landry Fields are fine role players, but they're not the role players that are going to put this Knicks team over the top. Over the offseason, New York will need to look for pieces to strengthen their bench in order to provide some support for the Big Three.

    Grade: D-

    Top Highlight: Amar'e Stoudemire slams it over Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stand next to each other on the court in the fourth quarter while taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Defeated No. 5 Denver Nuggets 4-1

    Semifinals: Defeated No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies 4-3

    Conference Finals: Lost to No. 3 Dallas Mavericks 4-1

    The Oklahoma City Thunder's postseason run was the perfect definition of why having young athletic players on your team is a huge positive as well as a negative.

    With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka forming their own version of the Big Three, they were able to use their athleticism to rid themselves of the Denver Nuggets in only five games before taking on the equally big and athletic Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder needed all of their athleticism in the team's triple-overtime Game 4 win and eventually won the series because of the win in Game 4 that prevented a 3-1 series deficit.

    Once the Thunder met up with the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals, however, we saw just how much of an impact inexperience can play during a team's postseason run. They split the two games in Dallas and had prime opportunities in every single game the rest of the way to take control of the series. They went into each fourth quarter with a lead and saw themselves on the losing end of each game because of their inability to make shots or stops down the stretch.

    The Thunder performed admirably this season, but so much more was expected.

    One of the main problems that surfaced was the offensive balance between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. All too many times during the Thunder's series with Dallas was Westbrook attempting to be the type of scorer that Durant is. Rather than looking for Durant in late-game situations, it was Westbrook taking the big shot and coming up short as seen by the team's five-game series loss.

    Either Westbrook becomes a point guard and allows Durant to be the main offensive threat or this team could be in trouble from the inside.

    Grade: B

    Top Highlight: Kevin Durant annihilates Brendan Haywood.

Orlando Magic

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    ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 28:  A fan of the Atlanta Hawks holds up a sign against the Orlando Magic during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expr
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 5 Atlanta Hawks 4-2

    The Orlando Magic really want to keep Dwight Howard. Losing in six games to the Atlanta Hawks didn't help.

    Howard was nothing less than phenomenal in the few games he played in this year's postseason, as he averaged 27 points on 63 percent shooting to go along with 16 rebounds and two blocks per game. He started off the series with 46 points and 19 rebounds in a game where his Magic lost by 10 points at home. He would have 21 and 15 in the team's Game 3 loss, 29 and 17 in their Game 4 loss and then capped it off with a 25 and 15 in the Magic's final game of the season.

    You could not ask for more from the league's top center. He did everything he statistically could and his teammates, aside from Jameer Nelson, did absolutely nothing to help him. They still rocketed nearly 30 three-pointers per game and still preferred the low-percentage shot from deep rather than looking for the high-percentage shot down low from Howard.

    Orlando finished last amongst postseason teams in three-point percentage. Nelson, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu all averaged more than four three-point attempts per game and not one player shot better than 32 percent from deep. It was a travesty from the Magic who could have very well easily found themselves contending for a title if they stopped taking three-pointers and worked the ball inside.

    I don't care for the Magic and even I get frustrated watching this team play. They possess possibly the most dominant force in the league and they do everything in their power to work the offense away from him. If they want to get to a postseason again in the near future, they'll feed Howard and actually create an offensive system that doesn't require something as simple as shooting from deep and praying it goes in.

    Grade: F

    Top Highlight: Dwight Howard rejects Etan Thomas.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    MIAMI, FL - APRIL 27:  Andre Iguodala #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers walks off the floor during game five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on April 27, 2011 in Miami, Florida.
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 2 Miami Heat 4-1

    A valiant effort from the Philadelphia 76ers by pushing the Miami Heat to the brink in just about every game, but they just didn't have the talent or offensive firepower to match up with the Heat.

    In fact, the Sixers had a quality chance to push the Heat to six or seven games if not for the lack of offense from Andre Iguodala. The usual scoring leader for Philadelphia only averaged 12 points on 42 percent shooting and was dared to take jump shots on most occasions. It wasn't until he made a few jump shots at the end of Game 5 that we saw Andre have an actual offensive impact in the game.

    Elton Brand supported the cause for most of the way averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game. The former Los Angeles Clippers star had disappointed the Sixers since joining the team with a myriad of injuries significantly affecting his time on the court. It was a bright spot for the Sixers to see Brand play so well after an already successful regular season.

    Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young off the bench provided the support for the Sixers to stay in most of their games against Miami. Young averaged 12 points per game, but was eventually put on hold once the Heat found out that Joel Anthony was the better defensive matchup rather than Chris Bosh. Williams only shot 33 percent from the field, but he hit a few big shots, including a game-winner in Game 4.

    An impressive showing for the most part, but it's obvious that Andre Iguodala isn't the answer for Philadelphia if they want to be over the top. They have the young pieces to have a great team for the future, but they should look for a pure scorer to help the team on the offensive end.

    Grade: C-

    Top Highlight: Thaddeus Young hits the ridiculous lay-in.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 28: (L to R) Gerald Wallace #3, head coach Nate McMillan and Wes Matthews #2 of the Portland Trail Blazers gather during a time out in the fourth quarter of Game Six of the Western Conference Quartefinals in the 2011 NBA Playsoffs on
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 3 Dallas Mavericks 4-2

    You have to feel for the fanbase of the Portland Trail Blazers.

    They already don't have a center and they might just lost their All-Star shooting guard. To make matters worse, that same All-Star shooting guard appeared ready to come back after leading his team back from an 18-point deficit to tie the series with 24 of the biggest points of his career.

    Following those 24 points, Brandon Roy scored a combined 14 points over the next two games with both games being Portland losses. In the only games where Roy scored in double-digits, the Blazers came out on top.

    As good as LaMarcus Aldridge has been all season long as the new team leader, the Blazers needed Brandon Roy out there to hit the big shots down the stretch. The Trail Blazers fell short in the team's four losses to Dallas because Roy wasn't contributing significantly on offense. He was providing the electricity and the motivation that the Blazers needed to pull out wins. With confidence flowing through him, the team was able to secure some confidence of their own.

    The Blazers gave the Mavericks all they could handle, but they were no match for the extremely motivated Dirk Nowitzki. Portland got 21 points and eight rebounds from Aldridge and 15 points and nine rebounds from the recently acquired Gerald Wallace. They also got significant help from Wesley Matthews who averaged 13 points per game.

    If the Blazers can get Roy and Greg Oden back from their injuries, they could become immediate championship contenders. They have the athleticism, defense and offensive firepower if they can get those two back from their heart-breaking injuries.

    Grade: C-

    Top Highlights: Brandon Roy and the four-point play.

San Antonio Spurs

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    MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 29:  Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball while defended by Tony Allen #9 of the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 29, 2011 in Memph
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    How They Fared

    First Round: Lost to No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies 4-2

    An absolute embarrassment for the San Antonio Spurs after one of their best regular seasons in franchise history. They started the season 35-3 and ended 61-21 to end up with the first seed in the Western Conference.

    They had a date with the Rudy Gay-less Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. Couldn't be too hard, right?


    The San Antonio Spurs were the ones looking like the eighth seed by the end of the series. The Spurs were no match for the size of the Grizzlies as Marc Gasol's post game was too much for Tim Duncan to handle and Zach Randolph's work under the glass went unmatched by DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess and any other big man that attempted to limit Randolph on the boards.

    Manu Ginobili came back from his injury to score 21 points per game to go along with four points and four rebounds per game and they got quality help from Tony Parker, Duncan and George Hill, but they just couldn't find an answer under the glass for Gasol and Randolph. The Spurs' age showed, while the Grizzlies' size and athleticism were the keys to their monumental upset.

    This could mark the end of an era for the Spurs as they expect Duncan and Ginobili to retire in the near future with Parker also on the verge of being traded. The Spurs have young talent in Hill, Blair and Gary Neal, but they're going to need far more help if they want to become the dynasty that Duncan, Ginobili and Parker built up since the late-1990s.

    Grade: D-

    Top Highlight: Gary Neal keeps the Spurs' season alive.