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.
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