All NBA fans look forward to watching the NBA Finals every year. Of course, we all know that the series doesn’t always live up to the hype. Other years, the Finals are sometimes overshadowed by an amazing series in the Conference Finals. But whether the opening act is better than the main course or not, we wanted to come up with a list of the best Conference Finals series in NBA history.
Lakers vs Trail Blazers, 2000
The Lakers eventually won the NBA title this year and looked unstoppable at times with Shaq and Kobe at their best. However, Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, and the Trail Blazers didn’t make it easy. Portland managed to win two games at the Staples Center during the series and came back from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7.
Things got crazy in Game 7 with the Trail Blazers leading by 15 points with 10:30 left. But the Lakers played their best basketball down the stretch, outscoring Portland by 18 points in the fourth quarter to escape with an 89-84 win in Game 7.
Bulls vs Pacers, 1998
This year was “The Last Dance” for Michael Jordan and the Bulls. But before their showdown with the Jazz, Reggie Miller and the Pacers gave them everything they could handle. This series was ultra-competitive from start to finish, although neither team was able to break serve with the home team winning all seven games.
However, six of the seven games were decided by six points or less, always coming down to the fire. In the end, the Bulls kept Miller from scoring in the fourth quarter of Game 7, helping them eke out the series win.
Kings vs Lakers, 2002
In the last year of their three-peat, the Lakers didn’t have an easy time winning the Western Conference. Behind the likes of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic, Sacramento had the best offense in the NBA, arguably having a deeper lineup than Los Angeles. All but one of the games was decided by single digits with Games 4 and 5 being decided by a single point.
It was actually the Lakers who faced elimination in Game 6 but won behind 41 points from Shaq to force a Game 7. The final game went to overtime, but with Shaq and Kobe combining for 65 points, the Lakers survived before sweeping the Nets in the Finals.
Warriors vs Thunder, 2016
It’s hard to find a more entertaining Conference Finals in recent memories. Both teams were loaded with elite players and seemed to be on fire offensively all series long. Behind Kevin Durant, the Thunder went up 3-1.
But Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did enough to lead the Warriors to three straight wins, spoiling perhaps Oklahoma City’s best chance to win a title.
Celtics vs 76ers, 1981
It will be hard for any series in any round to top this one. The series included legends like Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale on the court. It was like a heavyweight boxing match that unfortunately only lasted seven rounds.
The 76ers won Game 1 by one point and Game 4 by two points to take a 3-1 lead. But the Celtics responded by winning Games 5, 6, and 7 by a combined five points. Bird hit the game-winner in Game 7 to win the series before taking out the Rockets in the NBA Finals.