Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Ranking The Last 25 NBA Finals
#25 - LAKERS VS NETS (2002): To me, this was the worst Finals. It wasn't just that this was a sweep (though it factors), it is just that this series felt like a formality while you were watching it. Sure, three of the games were close, but it just didn't feel like the Lakers even took this series seriously.
#24 - PISTONS VS LAKERS (1989): This should have been epic. The Lakers surged into the Finals after sweeping their first three series. The Pistons had the best record in the league and we were staring at a rematch of one of the greatest Finals in history. Well, that crashed when Byron Scott missed the entire series with a hamstring injury, then Magic Johnson getting hurt early in Game 2 and missed the rest of the series. The Lakers were game, but with just Michael Cooper as their backcourt veteran, they were no match for that Isiah Thomas-Joe Dumars-Vinny Johnson backcourt.
#23 - SPURS VS CAVALIERS (2007): Neither team was great (Spurs finished 3rd in the West; Cavs won just 50 games) but this was a three-time champion Spurs against soon-to-be-legend LeBron James and his Cavaliers. The Spurs handled the Cavs in the first two games, then eeked out the final two games in Cleveland. This was a ratings nightmare. Despite having King James in it, nobody watched.
#22 - PISTONS VS LAKERS (2004): This felt like a "5-game sweep" as the Pistons dominated the heavily favored Lakers and let Game 2 get away on a Kobe Bryant three-pointer with two seconds left. The Pistons were a bland, hardworking bunch with no superstars. The Lakers, however, were a complete spectacle all season long (the addition of Karl Malone and Gary Payton, Kobe's rape trial, Shaq's threats to leave) and it all crumbled during and following this series. That's what people remember.
#21 - SPURS VS KNICKS (1999): The Asterisk Championship for the Spurs. The NBA's lockout meant the season was only 50 games long. It was the year after Michael Jordan retired. And the Spurs played the Knicks in the Finals ... the only #8 seed to make it to the Finals. The Knicks were bad, not scoring more than 89 points during the series and scoring 77 points or fewer in three of the games. San Antonio wasn't much better, scoring over 89 just once. Other than the closeout game, none of these games were particularly close.
#20 - LAKERS VS MAGIC: This was a close series of sorts, though the Lakers won it in five. Game 4 was the classic. The Lakers made a huge comeback which included a huge Derek Fisher three-pointer to send the game into OT. There, the Lakers dominated and took a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Lakers cruised to a title three days later.
#18 - LAKERS VS SIXERS (2001): The Lakers went 15-1 in this postseason, though their only loss was in Game 1 to Philadelphia. That Game 1 was epic, as Allen Iverson scored 48 pts and Shaq scoring 44. Both Shaq and Iverson had big series, but the Lakers pretty much skated to their second straight championship.
#17 - BULLS VS SUPERSONICS (1996): This was the 72-win Bulls with the new Jordan dynasty. I thought this would've been a great series, but the Bulls blew out to a 3-0 series lead. Seattle did salvage the next two at home before the Bulls finally put the Sonics out of their misery.
#16 - ROCKETS VS MAGIC (1995): Shaq vs Hakeem in the Finals. Wow. Nick Anderson's missed free throws kept open a window for Hakeem to tip in the game winner of Game 1. Anderson was mud after that. This series was a sweep, but three of the games were very close. Hakeem's tip in, Horry's three to win Game 3 and a huge fourth quarter run to close out the series.
#15 - HEAT VS THUNDER (2012): What was billed as the future of the Finals, LeBron James and Kevin Durant met on the biggest stage with a title on the line. After an impressive Game 1 win, the Thunder would go on to lose every game the rest of the way. The Big Three got their championship together ... so haters would have to hate harder and LeBron fans felt validated.
#14 - SPURS VS PISTONS (2005): This, along with the Lakers-Celtics series in 2010, is the only matchup of teams on this list that had won a championship recently. This did go 7 games, though this was filled with bad games. There was a 31-pt win, a 21-pt win, a 17-pt win, a 15-pt win and a 9-pt win. There was that great Game 5 -- a swing game with the series tied 2-2 -- when Robert Horry willed an overtime win and the series lead. Game 7 was close, with the game tied heading into the 4th quarter.
#13 - LAKERS VS PACERS (2000): This was the Lakers first championship in the post-Magic Johnson era. Of their three-peat, this was the best series, though uneven. Games 1, 3 and 5 were blowouts (the Lakers lost Game 5, where they could've won the title, by 33 points). The memorable game was pivotal Game 4. The game went into overtime with 21-year old Kobe Bryant hitting clutch shots (Shaq had fouled out) to give the Lakers a big 3-1 series lead. The Pacers nearly sent it to a 7th game, but the Lakers made a late run to clinch the title.
#11 - MAVERICKS VS HEAT (2011): This series will be best remembered as the one where LeBron James just didn't show up for the Heat late in games. It was a 2-2 series before Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry carried the Mavs the rest of the way.
#10 - PISTONS VS BLAZERS (1990): While only a five-game series, four of them were nail biters. After a Pistons win in Game 1, Portland stole an overtime game to even the series. After blowing out Portland in Game 3, the Pistons eeked out a 3 and 2 point win the capture their second title. This was also sad as this was the last game with the NBA of CBS, which I personally grew up on.
#9 - CELTICS VS LAKERS (2008): This was a both a surprise and pleasant matchup of the two NBA glamor franchises. The Celtics were back from the dead after getting their Big 3 together. The Lakers made a steal of a trade for Pau Gasol to get back. But the Celtics were ready. A hard fought series that saw Paul Pierce wheelchaired off the court only to come back two minutes later and hit a couple of threes. And then the Celtics clincher happened: a 39 point beatdown of the Lakers.
#8 - HEAT VS MAVERICKS (2006): This was the first non-Lakers/Spurs Finals since 1998 and the first to see new blood in the Finals since 1971. A weird series. The Maverics owned the first two games in Dallas. Miami ... namely Dwyane Wade ... owned the rest of the series. Games 3, 5 and 6 were nail biters that featured phantom fouls, an illegal timeout and a parade of Wade free throws. Oh, and Dirk Nowitzki kicking the ball into the stands. It was great theater and Miami's first NBA Championship.
#7 - BULLS VS JAZZ (1998): This series is always remembered for Jordan's final shot. It was also a series filled with close games. Game 1 went into overtime, Game 2 was won by the Bulls by 5 and Games 4 through 6 were won by 4, 2 and 1, respectively. But this also had the dud of Chicago's 96-54 blowout of Game 3. That was one of the ugliest Finals game I had ever witnessed. The Jazz set a record for lowest point total for any NBA game since the shot clock (the record has since been broken). The Bulls also held a 3-1 series lead before Utah saved face in Chicago. Then Jordan's shot in Game 6.
#6 - BULLS VS BLAZERS (1992): People remember Jordan shrugging off those six first half three-pointers. But this was a good series. It was tied 2-2 when Jordan erupted for 46 points in Game 5 to take control of the series.
#5 - BULLS VS JAZZ (1997): I am actually ranking this series higher than the 1998 edition. The teams had better regular season records, both teams cruised into the Finals and the series was closer. In this one, the Bulls won the first two games in Chicago while the Jazz won the next two in Utah. With the series tied 2-2, Chicago won Game 5 ... aka the Jordan Flu Game ... to take the series lead back to Chicago. The Jazz had a big lead late in Game 6 before Steve Kerr hit the go ahead shot late and Scottie Pippen made a key defensive play to seal the deal.
#4 - ROCKETS VS KNICKS (1994): This was a very defensive Finals that may be best remembered for a weird Game 5 that saw NBC cut to coverage of O.J. Simpson in his white Ford Bronco. This was billed as the Hakeem vs Ewing series (these two met in the 1984 NCAA Tournament Final), but Olajawon totally outplayed his counterpart. It all ended with a wild Game 7 that saw John Starks go 2-of-18 from the field. As an aside, this series had a weird feel. It was the first NBA Finals that didn't have the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons or Bulls in it since 1979.
#3 - LAKERS VS CELTICS (2010): This, along with the 2005 Spurs/Pistons series, is the only on this list to feature the last two champions facing off. This one was wild. Though no game outside of Game 7 to be a nail-biter, this was a physical, chippy series. We saw Ray Allen hit an NBA Finals record 8 three-pointers in Game 2 ... and then couldn't drop it in the ocean over the next few games. Boston actually held a 3-2 lead before losing the series in 7.
#2 - BULLS VS SUNS (1993): Jordan vs Barkley. That epic triple-OT Game 3. Jordan going for 55 in one game. John Paxson's game winner. Epic series. By the way, Michael Jordan averaged 41 points per game for this series. Unreal.
#1 - LAKERS VS PISTONS (1988): The oldest series on this list was also the best. It went the full 7 games. The Lakers would get the NBA's first repeat since the Celtics of the 1960s. Game 5 at the Pontiac Silverdome had over 40,000 fans there. And the classic Game 6 where Thomas scored 25 points in the 3rd quarter, Magic had 19 assists and about 100 scuffles. A classic series ended with a tough as nails closeout Game 7 with the Lakers holding on for the title.
Brought to you by the Sportz Assassin at 1:26 AM