Often, the best series in the NBA playoffs come before the Finals.
It certainly looks like that will be the case in this year’s postseason as the clash between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals has the potential to be epic.
The Warriors are attempting to reach the Finals for the fourth straight year and snatch a third title, while the Rockets had an NBA-best 65 wins this season and are led by their own superstar core of James Harden and Chris Paul.
That got us thinking, what have been the best conference finals we’ve seen in playoff history?
Check out our list below, which features some all-time battles.
You can’t get a closer series than the one this rivalry produced in 1981, which saw five of the seven games decided by two points or less, including the final four. Trailing 89-82 late in the fourth quarter of Game 7, Boston fought back to win the series after falling into a 3-1 hole.
While Lakers fans will remember this for being a thrilling series in 2002, it’s a sore spot for Kings fans who rightly took umbrage with what seemed like one-sided officiating. Nevertheless, it was highly entertaining as LA came back from 3-2 down to win in overtime of Game 7 en route to a three-peat.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers, 2000 Western Conference Finals
Before they claimed their first title of this century, the Lakers were on the ropes in 2000, down 15 points in Game 7 to a Portland team that had erased a 3-1 series lead. Just when it seemed like LA were going to blow it, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal responded with a monster fourth quarter to advance.
Reggie Miller and the Pacers nearly ended Michael Jordan’s second three-peat bid in 1998 during a back-and-forth series. After the Bulls won the first two at home, Miller was spectacular in Game 3 and 4, hitting a game-winner in the latter. When it got to Game 7, however, Jordan wouldn’t be denied.
Boston Celtics vs Detroit Pistons, 1987 Eastern Conference Finals
Physical doesn’t begin to describe how much of a slugfest this series was in 1987. Boston would go on to win in seven games, but one of the most iconic moments in playoffs history came in Game 5 when Larry Bird stole Isiah Thomas’ inbound pass and found Dennis Johnson for the game-winner.
Houston grabbed the lead early on, but Utah pulled back and held the lead going into the final quarter in the do-or-die clash.
The Rockets will be looking to see off the Warriors in the next round, having seen their play-off dreams cut short by Golden State in two of the last three seasons.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, @CP3 becomes the first player in a playoff game with:
🏀 40+ points
🏀 10+ assists
🏀 0 turnovers
Highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/54EkqXUh7M
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) May 9, 2018
Draymond Green was within one assist of a triple-double in the 113-104 victory, scoring 19 points and having 14 rebounds.
Curry scored 28, with Kevin Durant having 24 and Klay Thompson 23, while Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 34 points and 19 rebounds and Jrue Holiday hit a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
The Toronto coach spoke highly of James after the Raptors’ season ended in Game 4 to Cleveland on Monday.
“You’re looking at probably one of the guys that’s going to go down as one of the greatest ever,” Casey said. “It’s a match-up nightmare for anybody.”