Following the Lakers' win over the Suns in Game 6 to clinch the Western Conference title, the 2010 NBA Finals are set with a rematch from the 2008 series.
Utah Jazz vs Chicago Bulls - 1998
The 1998 Utah Jazz will go down as the best team the Bulls beat during their tenure as the greatest team in the NBA. John Stockton and Karl Malone were at their primes, and Utah was one of the hardest paces to win at in the history of the league.
After losing Game 1 in Utah, the Bulls took home court away from the Jazz in Game 2, then took a strangle hold on the series with a record-setting blowout in Game 3 in Chicago. Michael Jordan & Co. held the Jazz to a minuscule 56 points – the least ever for any finals team and the lowest point total since the inception of the 24 second shot clock.
The series was over in six in what was a perfect ending to Michael Jordan's career and the Bulls dynasty. Game 6 ended with Jordan stealing the ball from Utah's Karl Malone and then hitting a 20-foot jumper to seal the victory.
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Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons - 1988
Magic Johnson's dynasty with the Lakers was solidified in this series. The big, bad Pistons were a defensive stalwart in the NBA for years, and Lakers head coach Pat Riley had promised a repeat to the fans during last seasons victory parade.
After the Pistons stole Game 1 in L.A., the Lakers were in danger of heading back to Detroit - one of the toughest buildings to win at in the history of the NBA – down by two games.
The Lakers stormed back in Game 2 on the shoulders of James Worthy and managed to take the first game back in Detroit. With Magic battling the flu, the Pontiac Silverdome came alive for the next two games, sending L.A. back home down three games to two.
The final two games in L.A. were both classics. Isiah Thomas looked poised to take over the series, but Thomas rolled his ankle early in the second half in what turned out to be the turning point in the game, and the series.
Though Thomas scored 43 points in the game, but the Pistons came up one point short, and the series headed to a Game 7.
James Worthy had a monster game and, after the teams traded blows for four quarters, the game came down to one point with six seconds left.
Following a Lakers layup the crowd rushed the floor and L.A. started celebrating…with two seconds left on the clock. The infraction went unnoticed, and the Lakers won their second championship in a row.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics – 1984
It was the height of Larry Bird and Magic. Their rivalry went back to the NCAA Championship game, and as soon as they arrived in the NBA together, they were compared to each other from the outset.
This was finally the basketball matchup that fans wanted to see: The two best players on the two best teams.
Magic and Bird had won titles already in their young careers, and Boston and L.A. had both remained top teams in the league for the last five seasons. But this series really brought the fans back to the NBA.
Boston fans hated L.A. fans, Bird fans hated Magic. And likewise for L.A. fans and Magic supporters. The polarizing nature of these players and their cities made this an amazing matchup.
The Lakers opened the series with a shocker, beating the Celtics on their home court in Game 1. Boston needed overtime to hold off the Lakers in Game 2.
Game 3 was the Magic show, as his 21 assists led the Lakers to a 33-point victory.
Game 4 is when the series changed, and the Celtics started imposing their physical style of play on the Lakers. The animosity grew through the entire series, and was even dubbed an “all-out war” by Celtics guard M.L. Carr.
In Game 7 the Lakers rallied from a 14-point deficit to get within three with one minute remaining. But Cedric Maxwell sealed the win by stealing the ball from Magic.
This was the eighth time these teams had me in the finals with Boston winning all eight.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics – 1985
A rematch from a year earlier when Bird had gotten the better of Magic, this series was not only the meeting of the league's biggest stars, but the Bird–Magic rivalry had continued to blossom over the past season.
The Celtics were looking to repeat as champions for the first time in almost 20 years, and the Lakers were looking for nothing other than revenge.
The series started off horribly for the Lakers. In what would come to be known as the “Memorial Day Massacre,” the Celtics demolished the Lakers 148-114.
The Lakers bounced back with wins in Games 2 and 3 to put the Celtics' backs to the wall. Boston tied the series by winning Game four on a last-second buzzer beater by Dennis Johnson.
With the Lakers winning Game 5, the series went back to Boston and thoughts of the previous season's seven-game epic series were swirling around the Boston Garden faithful. This series may not have had the same physicality as the year before, but the intensity and level of play was better.
Game 6 ended up being more about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar than either Bird or Magic. Although this series helped grow that relationship for years to come, what makes this series one of the greatest ever is that it also featured an unbelievable performance by one of the greatest players ever.
New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers – 1970
The Los Angeles Lakers were in the finals for the third year in a row, and had an incredible trio of Hall of Famers in Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West leading the way. They had swept the Hawks to win the Western Conference Championship, and were up against a Knicks squad made up of lunchbox style, team-orientated payers instead of All-Stars and big names.
With home court on the side of the Knicks, the Lakers were fortunate to come out of New York City having stolen a game from the Knicks. The same pattern would continue throughout the series as each team traded wins on their way to Game 7. Apart from the fantastic play, this series will always be defined by Willis Reed.
Reed injured a muscle in his leg in Game 6 and needed to leave the game. He valiantly returned to play but was in visible discomfort. The Lakers rolled at home without Reed, and with the series tied he was all but ruled out for Game 7.
Then in the warm-ups of the final game, Reed jogged out of the tunnel and sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy. With the inspiring mood at home the Knicks dominated the Lakers, with Reed taking home the series MVP honors.
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