DAR Sports: The 10 Best NBA Semifinals

By @TrueGodImmortal 

If you've noticed, recently we here at DAR have been making a lot of lists. Whether the best movies, top producers, albums, or sports players, we've talked the best of the best. With the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs underway now, we wanted to take a look at the 10 best 2nd round series in the history of the NBA. Let's get into it.

*Boston Celtics vs Atlanta Hawks 
(1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals)

-Dominique vs Bird. The rivalry that they don't bring up as much as they should. Many would consider this series to be slightly boring so to speak, because nothing out of the ordinary occurred in the first 4 games. Bird and Dominique went back and forth through those games, but the real suspense came when the teams traded wins on the road to force a game 7. Dominique showed up and played out of his mind, finishing with 47 points in game 7, but Bird was ready for the challenge and he would score 20 in the fourth quarter to lead the Celtics over the Hawks. That game 7 is one of my favorite duels in NBA history. Bird vs Dominique in a straight up shootout.

*New York Knicks vs Chicago Bulls
(1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals)

-There's a lot of series that are infamous in NBA history. This is probably the most infamous one of all of the Semifinals. Jordan. Pippen. Grant. The Bulls had a solid three man punch against the physical Knicks and many expected the Bulls to cruise to victory but that was not the case. The Knicks took the series to 7 games, but in the end, Michael Jordan pulled off his usual feat, ending the Knicks hopes of an upset with a 42 point performance in a blowout victory. The Bulls advance.

*Houston Rockets vs Phoenix Suns 
(1995 Western Conference Semifinals)

-The Rockets were the defending NBA Champions. They hadn't faced a team quite like the Suns, who were determined to beat them and get back to the Finals. Unfortunately, the Suns couldn't hold onto the 3-1 lead they had and they would end up losing the series 4-3. The Rockets showcased why they were the best team in the NBA during the absence of Michael Jordan from the Bulls. Hakeem was magnificent in the series, and the Rockets defense slowed down the faster paced offense of the Suns, making the last three games easier for them to manipulate. The Rockets would go onto win the NBA Title yet again in dominating fashion.

*New York Knicks vs Indiana Pacers 
(1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals)

-One of the greatest series ever in the history of the game. Reggie Miller came with heroics in game 1 to give the Pacers a victory in the final seconds. It was an amazing meltdown for the Knicks and a career moment for Reggie Miller. The Knicks took game 2 and moved on to Indiana for game 3 and seemingly had the victory locked up, but the Pacers rallied to take a 2-1 lead and then won game 4. It looked like the Knicks were done, but Patrick Ewing saved the day in game 5 with a last minute jumper, and then the Knicks forced a game 7 with a game 6 win. Game 7 was a back and forth contest, and the Pacers fought with the Knicks all the way, until it came down to one last second shot, where Ewing missed a layup and the Pacers advanced to the next round.

*Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors 
(2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals)

-Allen Iverson. Vince Carter. Both in their primes. What more needs to be said about this? This series is controversial for a move that Vince Carter made in game 7, but regardless this series was one for the ages. Toronto stole game 1, but Iverson would answer back with a 54 point game to give the Sixers the win in game 2. Toronto fought back and Vince would put up a 50 point game of his own in game 3, and the series continued much like that throughout 7 games, as the Sixers barely escaped with the win and moved on to the next round.

*Minnesota Timberwolves vs Sacramento Kings 
(2004 Western Conference Semifinals)

-If you don't remember this series, allow me to refresh your memory: Kevin Garnett, the NBA MVP that season, was one of the best players in the world at the time. He carried the Timberwolves on his back for years, and never made it out of the first round... that was until he got a little bit of help. With Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell (both out of their primes but still viable) bringing veteran savvy to his team, the Wolves secured the no. 1 seed from the super team Lakers (the Malone, Payton, Kobe, Shaq era) and seemed poised to go far. However, they awaited a hungry Sacramento Kings team that just couldn't ever seem to win the big one. That would not change here, but the Kings gave the Wolves the fight of their lives, pushing them to a game 7 until Garnett took off and put up 32 points and 21 rebounds to close out the series.  This was a physical and hard fought series and it's easily one of the best 2nd round matchups we've seen.

*Cleveland Cavaliers vs Detroit Pistons 
(2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals)

-Before Bron was able to overcome the elephant in the room that was the Pistons and their Eastern dominance (they had back to back Finals appearances and won a NBA Championship), he would struggle against them. The year before Bron got through the Pistons, he would go down swinging in a 7 game series loss. The Pistons took a 2-0 lead to start the series off, but sure enough, Bron and the Cavs came fighting back. The Cavs took 3 games straight and had a 3-2 lead, but unfortunately for LeBron, the Pistons would steal game 6 and command game 7. For Bron, this was a learning experience and for the Pistons, this was a test that would ultimately come back to haunt them as they lost to the Miami Heat in the next round. It would have been fun to have seen the Conference Finals be Wade and Shaq vs LeBron and The Cavs however. That would have been amazing honestly.

*Dallas Mavericks vs San Antonio Spurs 
(2006 Western Conference Semifinals)

-There aren't many 2nd round series that could quite rival this one. With two top tier West teams going at it, the Mavericks stepped up and took a commanding 3-1 series lead on the Spurs. The Spurs fought back taking games 5 and 6, and nearly took game 7, which went into OT. The Mavericks pulled out the series win, but it's telling that the Spurs were able to take them to the limit after being on the ropes for most of the series. The Heat would also come back to defeat the Mavericks, utilizing this strategy that the Spurs employed it seemed later on in the playoffs.

*San Antonio Spurs vs Phoenix Suns 
(2007 Western Conference Semifinals)

-In what is an interesting saga, a great scoring guard on a Mike D'Antoni team who was also a MVP candidate comes into the 2nd round to battle a Coach Pop led Spurs. I'm not talking about this season. Instead, I'm talking 10 seasons ago when the Spurs took a 4-2 series victory over the explosive team of the Phoenix Suns. The Suns and Spurs rivalry was well documented during these days with many people believing that the Suns would eventually make the NBA Finals, but as always, there was a team in the way for Mike D'Antoni. The Spurs and the Suns had some heavy battles, but eventually, the Spurs would take the victory in 6 games. Fitting.

*Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers 
(2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals)

-The beginning of the big three had a huge obstacle to overcome: LeBron James. The truth is, LeBron was on his way to taking the title of being the best player in the world and he was ready to affirm that status by taking out the 66-16 Celtics team that seemed virtually unstoppable. It looked as if Bron and company might have been able to do just that, as they went into a pivotal game 5 tied up at 2-2. The teams would trade wins and a game 7 was forced. In a game 7, you usually don't bet against LeBron, and in today's game, I wouldn't. He went off, putting up 45 points, but it was not enough. Paul Pierce matched Bron with 41 points and being that Pierce also had Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett by his side, the Celtics would manage to close it out on the Cavs. The Celtics would go on to win the NBA Title. One has to wonder what would have come if the Cavs won this series. I guess we'll never know.



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