Top 5 NBA Conference Finals
Top 5 NBA Conference Finals
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors just completed a seven-game slugfest in the Western Conference Finals, with Golden State emerging for a rematch with Cleveland. It brought to mind the best battles the NBA has treated us to in the last 30 years, many tilts with long-term and historical implications. With respect to the 1993 East Finals with Chicago and New York and 2012 with Miami and Boston, here's our Top 5.
The Lakers weren’t yet champions, and Scottie Pippen was on a mission to prove he could win a ring without Michael Jordan. But the Lakers took a 3-1 lead on the combustible Trailblazers, before Pippen and Rasheed Wallace turned the tables for the next two games. Portland looked to complete the improbable comeback, leading by 16 in Game 7, but collapsed down the stretch, punctuated by 3-pointers and one iconic play (Kobe to Shaq alley-oop).
The Bulls were tired from losing to the Bad Boy Pistons the previous two years and thought they were ready to overtake the defending champions. A 2-0 Pistons lead led to a media boycott from Michael Jordan before Game 3, and he outdueled Isiah Thomas in Games 3 and 4 in Chicago, totaling 89 points to tie the series at two. The slugfest continued to a Game 7 in Detroit, where Scottie Pippen caught a migraine headache at the worst possible time, and Isiah nearly tallied a triple-double. The Pistons moved on and the Bulls went home disappointed once again, but they were coming.
The Bad Boys from Detroit weren’t yet fully bad, but they were young, brash and led by Isiah Thomas, stormed into a classic series with Boston and three-time MVP Larry Bird. Hard fouls were exchanged and punches were thrown as the Pistons challenged the old guard for seven games, each won by the home team. The Celtics were old and battered, and looked ripe after three blowout losses in Detroit. Adrian Dantley and Vinnie Johnson bumping heads in Game 7 was too much for the Pistons to overcome, but the series will forever be defined by those words from Johnny Most at the end of Game 5.
Another home-team series that saw the Bulls pushed to a seventh game for only the second time in their six championship runs. Seconds away from a 3-1 Bulls lead, Reggie Miller’s two-handed shove on Michael Jordan freed him up for a winning triple in Indianapolis, setting the stage for a classic finish. Jordan blew his chance at redemption by stumbling at the end of Game 6, but the Bulls rebounded from a double-digit deficit in Game 7, including trailing in the fourth at the United Center to keep their dynasty alive for one final run.
Without a doubt, the most controversial series in recent memory. Shaq and Kobe were headed for a three-peat, but Chris Webber and Mike Bibby’s Sacramento Kings had the Lakers’ number, blowing out the champs in Game 3 and taking a 24-point lead in Game 4. Then Robert Horry happened. Then in Game 6, the Lakers took over 20 free throws in the fourth, many of them questionable calls. In Game 7, the Kings choked it away late, sending the Lakers to immortality and the Kings to infamy.