NBA Tournament of Champions: 65-Team Tournament of Every NBA Championship Team

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2012

NBA Tournament of Champions: 65-Team Tournament of Every NBA Championship Team

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    The 2012 NBA Finals are set up now that the Miami Heat have taken down the Boston Celtics, and soon enough either Miami or the Oklahoma City Thunder will end up the 63rd championship team in NBA history, 66th if you count the BAA.

    So, with the series set to kick off Tuesday evening, it seemed like the perfect time to let you guys know something.

    Recently, I've come across a time machine with which I've decided to go back to every year in NBA history (even the BAA years, why not?)  and grab the title-winning team from that season.

    What are we going to do with all of these anachronistic basketball teams, you ask? What else would we do but hold a super-huge mega-tournament, fellows?

    So, in order to use my newly found time machine for good, I've decided to bring them all back to today, televise every single game and pound out once and for all who is the best team of all-time. Before we do that, however, we might as well make a few predictions and play out the tournament ourselves, right?

The Rules, Rankings and Completely Outlandish Scenarios

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    Okay guys, now that we've got you all excited and ready to go, let me go ahead and slow things down and figure out how this is going to work out.

    First of all, we're going to make about 74 assumptions. Obviously, we've got ourselves a time machine that allows us to go back and bring each team to present-day as soon as they've hoisted the title above their heads.

    Each team is going to be allowed sufficient time to rest, recuperate and heal their injured, which means each team will be allowed their full playoff roster and any players who played in at least a third of the team's games (which would mean teams like 2011's Dallas Mavericks would have a completely healthy Caron Butler).

    The seeding is based on combined regular season and playoff record. For example, the 1996 Bulls went 72-10 in the regular season and 15-3 in the playoffs, so their combined record is 87-13. Any tiebreakers in seeding are based on playoff record.

    Now, I wanted to handicap the seedings a bit based on what era they played in, so I added or subtracted a percentage point or two depending on when they played.

    Handicapping goes as follows: Any team in the 1950s is subtracted three percent, 1960-1967 is subtracted two percent, 1968-1979 get to stand pat with no additions or subtractions, 1980-1993 teams gain two percentage points, 1994-1998 gain one point, 1999-2005 teams stand pat and teams from 2006 until 2011 gain one point.

    The tournament will be played as follows: The first round will be a best-of-three series; the second round is best-of-five; everything from then on out is a best-of-seven series. Teams will alternate home games for the best-of-three series, with a 2-2-1 pattern for a best-of-five series and a 2-2-1-1-1 for a best-of-seven series.

    Rules of the game will be based on who the home team is. For example, if the 1971 Bucks face off against the 2001 Lakers, there would be no three-point line for the Bucks' home games but a three-point line for the Lakers' home games.

    That seems to be all the housekeeping we need to do, so let's stop wasting time and get this going.

The 1996 Chicago Bulls Division

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    (1) 1996 Chicago Bulls vs. (16) 1947 Philadelphia Warriors/1948 Baltimore Bullets

    (8) 2002 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (9) 2010 Los Angeles Lakers

    (5) 1988 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (12) 1953 Minneapolis Lakers

    (4) 2009 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (13) 1975 Golden State Warriors

    (6) 1990 Detroit Pistons vs. (11) 2004 Detroit Pistons

    (3) 1985 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (14) 1995 Houston Rockets

    (7) 1999 San Antonio Spurs vs. (10) 1994 Houston Rockets

    (2) 1989 Detroit Pistons vs. (15) 1955 Syracuse Nationals

Play-in Game: 1947 Philadelphia Warriors vs. 1948 Baltimore Bullets

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    '47 Warriors: 35-25 regular season, 8-1 playoffs

    '48 Bullets: 28-20 regular season, 8-3 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Joe Fulks (Phi) vs. Kleggie Hermsen (Bal)

    That's right, the showdown everyone has waited for. Big man Fulks (6'5") faces off against bigger man Hermsen (6'9"). Fulks was the NBA's scoring champion for two years before George Mikan took over the domination. Fulks is one of the many disputed granddaddies of the jump shot, plus his elite athleticism allowed him to get to the rim at will.

    Seeing as how we've got 65 NBA Champions dating back to 1947, we need a one-game play-in game for the opportunity to be slaughtered by the 1996 Chicago Bulls.

    At the end of the day, I've got to give the nod to Fulks and the Warriors, as Fulks has the ability to have a scoring outburst on any day in a do-or-die game. (He once scored 63 points in a game before the shot-clock era.)

(1) 1996 Chicago Bulls vs. (16) 1947 Philadelphia Warriors

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    '96 Bulls: 72-10 regular season, 15-3 playoffs

    '47 Warriors: 35-25 regular season, 8-1 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Scottie Pippen vs. Joe Fulks

    I would say the two-headed monster that was Luc Longley and Bill Wennington need not play in this series, seeing as how the biggest guy on the '47 Warriors is 6'7". Throw Scottie on the hot-scoring Fulks and the guy doesn't score more than 12 points.

     

    X-Factors: Dennis Rodman.

    Quite honestly, Dennis Rodman should play center in this game and never journey more than four feet from the rim—he'll get 20 rebounds a game.

    A blowout in Game 1 reminiscent of the 1992 Dream Team playing Angola leads to an interesting Game 2, in 1947 rules with no three-point line and no shot clock, in which Dennis Rodman dominates. No contest.

     

    Series Result: Bulls sweep Philly.

(8) 2002 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (9) 2010 Los Angeles Lakers

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    '02 Lakers: 58-24 regular season, 15-4 playoffs

    '10 Lakers: 57-25 regular season, 16-7 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Kobe Bryant vs. Kobe Bryant

    The first showdown of the same player from different years is a good one. The wily older Kobe of 2010 faces off against the younger, more explosive Kobe of 2002.

     

    X-Factors: Robert Horry

    Horry is liable to hit any big shot in any big situation. Never discount the '02 Lakers down by fewer than four points with the final possession.

    It's unfortunate that these two teams end up meeting in the first round, meaning we only get a three-game series from the two of them. 

    At the end of the day though, the two Kobes will probably cancel each other out, leaving the biggest matchup to worry about between Shaq and Andrew Bynum.

    In the 2010 Finals, the Lakers ended up winning over the Celtics in Game 7 because of Kendrick Perkins' absence. The '10 Lakers might win one game, but the '02 Lakers and Shaq are going to be too much for the '10 Lakers to overcome.

     

    Series Result: '02 Lakers over '10 Lakers two games to one.

(5) 1988 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (12) 1953 Minneapolis Lakers

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    '88 Lakers: 62-20 regular season, 15-9 playoffs

    '53 Lakers: 48-22 regular season, 9-3 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: George Mikan vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Two of the most storied big men in Lakers' history face off in a series that will show why Mikan dominated in the 1950s and Kareem dominated in the 1970s and '80s.

     

    X-Factors: Verne Mikkelson.

    Believe it or not, a Mikkelson in his prime could probably keep up with James Worthy, defensively at least. Sure, Mikkelson isn't going to be as fast as Big Game James and nowhere near as athletic, but he's a big, physical guy. It probably won't make a difference at the end of the day, however.

    The '88 Lakers could beat the '53 Lakers two out of three times with just Magic Johnson and the four guys at the end of their bench.

    At least we'll get an interesting pre-shot clock game out of this series.

     

    Series Result: '88 Lakers sweep '53 Lakers

(4) 2009 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (13) 1975 Golden State Warriors

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    '09 Lakers: 65-17 regular season, 16-7 playoffs

    '75 Warriors: 48-34 regular season, 12-5 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Rick Barry vs. Lamar Odom

    This is probably the only matchup in which the Warriors will have the advantage over the Lakers. Even better, Barry had such a good outside shot that he'll probably be able to be even better with a three-point line.

     

    X-Factors: Los Angeles' big men.

    With Lamar Odom as the third-tallest guy in their starting lineup, the Warriors are going to have all kinds of trouble dealing with the height of the '09 Lakers.

    Barry is going to have to score out of his mind if he wants his team to have a chance in any of these games. Clifford Ray and Derrick Dickey are going to get torn up by the likes of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, and the Lakers could probably take out the Warriors even without Kobe Bryant.

     

    Series Result: '09 Lakers sweep '75 Warriors

(6) 1990 Detroit Pistons vs. (11) 2004 Detroit Pistons

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    '90 Pistons: 59-23 regular season, 15-5 playoffs

    '04 Pistons: 54-28 regular season, 16-7 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman vs. Ben and Rasheed Wallace

    How exciting is this matchup going to be? Laimbeer and Rodman are going to try to rough up a few rough guys in their own right. Rasheed's amazing offensive repertoire could give the Wallaces and the '04 guys the edge here.  

     

    X-Factors: Isiah Thomas.

    In order to kill the body one must chop off the head, which in this case would mean Thomas. Chauncey Billups has his hands full with Isaiah, without a doubt.

    This is probably going to be our closest series so far, and once again I'm depressed that we only get to see this one in a best-of-three format.

    Isiah's Bad Boys are probably the tougher team, but both teams play such similar offensive games that it's hard to say exactly who would come out on top with this one.

    The Bad Boys delayed the start of the Bulls Dynasty, but the Wallace Pistons ended the powerful Lakers' Dynasty, so it's hard to say who had a harder road to their title.

    At the end of the day, the '90 Pistons have the best player on the floor, which should give them the edge in this one.

     

    Series Result: '90 Pistons over '04 Pistons two games to one.

(3) 1985 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (14) 1995 Houston Rockets

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    '85 Lakers: 62-20 regular season, 15-4 playoffs

    '95 Rockets: 47-35 regular season, 15-7 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    What else would you expect? This matchup is going to be one for the ages with the crafty, explosive Olajuwon taking on the equally crafty, but far less explosive Abdul-Jabbar.

     

    X-Factors: Robert Horry, once again, and Michael Cooper.

    Each team has a crafty forward to throw some defense and hot shooting at the other, which should make for an interesting final few minutes should either of them get the ball or end up defending the guy with the ball.

    This seems like it would be an incredibly close matchup, as the Rockets match up incredibly well with the otherwise powerful Showtime Lakers.

    Hakeem and Kareem are going to have their numbers, and I don't think it's crazy to think that James Worthy and Clyde Drexler will more or less cancel each other out.

    What remains to be seen is what the guard combination of Vernon Maxwell (vastly underrated in his day), Kenny Smith and the tenacious young Sam Cassell can do with Magic Johnson. It's hard to believe that the Rockets' guards would be able to stop Magic, who is probably the best player on the floor in this star-studded series.

    The two teams would likely split the first two games, with the third game in Los Angeles being the deciding contest.

     

    Series Result: '85 Lakers beat '95 Rockets two games to one.

(7) 1999 San Antonio Spurs vs. (10) 1994 Houston Rockets

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    '99 Spurs: 37-17 regular season, 15-2 playoffs

    '94 Rockets: 58-24 regular season, 15-8 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Hakeem Olajuwon vs. David Robinson

    Historically speaking, Olajuwon dominates Robinson. Can the explosive big man do it as a younger man to the much older, wiser Robinson?

     

    X-Factors: Otis Thorpe

    Can the Rockets' efficient big man keep pace with Tim Duncan, or at the very least can he contain the young man?

    It seems impossible for Robinson to contain the Olajuwon of 1994. His playoff performance in that year was legendary, putting up nearly 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks a game in the run to the title, along with a dominating performance over Patrick Ewing, who peaked in the six-game series with just 23 points.

    Olajuwon, paired with Thrope and the rest of the incredibly smart Rockets happen to be one of the few teams in the past 20 years who could match up with the basketball brilliance of the Spurs, and it doesn't hurt that they're catching the first Spurs championship team, which is harder to get a read on with 1999 having been a lockout season.

     

    Series Result: '94 Rockets upset '99 Spurs two games to one.

(2) 1989 Detroit Pistons vs. (15) 1955 Syracuse Nationals

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    '89 Pistons: 63-19 regular season, 15-2 playoffs

    '55 Nationals: 43-29 regular season, 7-4 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Dolph Schayes vs. whichever player guards him

    The Bad Boy Pistons could easily throw three to five different guys on Schayes and stop him with any of them.

     

    X-Factors: Nobody—this one's over before it starts.

    With the first year for the shot clock coming in the 1955 season, we don't have to worry about any strange games in the middle (although there's still a lack of a three-point line).

    Whatever the rules, the '89 Pistons thrash this '55 Nats team, especially with Dolph Schayes giving up four inches to Bill Laimbeer. Hell, the '89 Pistons can do what the '96 Bulls did against the '47 Warriors and put Dennis Rodman on Schayes and let him deal with the insane leaping ability of a young Rodman.

     

    Series Result: '89 Pistons sweep '55 Nats.

Second Round: (1) 1996 Chicago Bulls vs. (8) 2002 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan

    C'mon, you knew when we started this thing that this is the matchup that you wanted to see the most. Young Kobe Bryant takes on Michael Jordan at the peak of his leadership skills.

     

    X-Factor: Shaq on Chicago's bigs

    Luc Longley was the most average, if not below-average of centers in 1996, so you can imagine that throwing him up against one of the greatest centers of all time would be a difficult matchup. At least Bill Wennington can stand there and be wide.

    There's a lot of things going on in this matchup. Michael Jordan, given the opportunity to shut down his contemporary equivalent, should rise to the opportunity, but at the same time Kobe would probably step up his game with the opportunity to show up the GOAT.

    We know about Shaq dominating the bigs, but what we haven't looked at is Scottie Pippen, who will have to deal with a Rick Fox/Samaki Walker combination, which he should be able to dominate.

    So, in the end this will come down to who has the better bench, which would be the Bulls, and which superstar has the bigger will to win, and who would argue that that's not MJ?

     

    Series Result: An exciting, tantalizing series, but the Bulls win in four games.

Second Round: (5) 1988 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) 2009 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Kobe Bryant vs. Byron Scott

    On the surface, this one seems like a blowout, but this was actually Byron Scott's best year ever. The spry young Scott actually led the Lakers in scoring 1988, shot 53 percent and thrived as the two-guard to Magic's point play. Plus, the man can play some defense.

     

    X-Factor: '09 Lakers' Bench

    The bench struggles of today's Lakers is very well noted, but the effectiveness of the '09 Lakers bench was underrated.

    Between Lamar Odom and his work as one of the best bench players in the league, Luke Walton (don't laugh, dude played 15 minutes per game in the playoffs and scored 10 points in the deciding game of the Western Conference Finals, along with some good D) and the alternating bothers that were Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar, the Lakers bench had some impressive games.

    Kareem is 40 years old in 1988, but I still think he's able to shut down and frustrate a young, inexperienced Andrew Bynum. Magic is going to tear Derek Fisher apart, and Kobe is going to find a struggle or two with Byron Scott.

     

    Series Result: This one goes the distance, but the '88 Lakers take down the '09 Lakers.

Second Round: (6) 1990 Detroit Pistons vs. (3) 1985 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Isiah Thomas vs. Magic Johnson

    The mean, sneaky and rough Isiah Thomas takes on the slick, flashy and brilliant Magic Johnson. Possibly the best point guard matchup of this entire tournament right here.

     

    X-Factor:  Bill Laimbeer

    Can the younger, more physical center for the Pistons slow down the 1985 Finals MVP? It seems possible, especially with the whole physical nature of the Pistons lineup.

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is obviously the focal point of this series, but with Laimbeer, James Edwards (an underrated and often forgotten offensive machine for the Bad Boys) and Dennis Rodman clogging the lane, Kareem is going to have to rely on that mid-range game quite a bit more often. Can he still do it? Probably.

    Magic and Isiah are both going to end up running their team's game, which means the game will come down to, most likely, the middle of the lineup. Mark Aguirre and Joe Dumars up against James Worthy and Byron Scott is probably the most intriguing matchup of this series.

     

    Series Result: This one's going the distance, no doubt about that. However, the stars of the Lakers are going to be too much for the Pistons. '85 Lakers in five over the '90 Pistons.

Second Round: (2) 1989 Detroit Pistons vs. (10) 1994 Houston Rockets

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    Key Matchups: Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Bill Laimbeer

    Just like the '85 Lakers vs. '90 Pistons series, Bill Laimbeer is going to have to take on the opposition's best player. The finesse mixed with the power of Hakeem might just be too much for Laimbeer to deal with on his own.

     

    X-Factor: Isiah Thomas

    It's weird to think of Isiah as an X-factor, but the fact is that Houston is going to have to use Kenny Smith and Sam Cassell to slow Isiah down. That doesn't seem very likely.

    The Pistons are going to rough this Rockets team up. There's no doubt about that one. Houston is going to have to rely on shots falling and cunning and guile to beat the Pistons, and that probably won't happen.

     

    Series Result: Detroit takes this one in four games. Their rough-and-tumble play is too much for Hakeem's Rockets.

Sweet 16: (1) 1996 Chicago Bulls vs. (5) 1988 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: James Worthy vs. Scottie Pippen.

    The ultimate No. 2 man takes on the ultimate No. 3 man. Will Worthy's big-game tendencies be able to overtake Scottie's immaculate defense and ability to do exactly what his team needs him to do in every single game?

     

    X-Factor: Steve Kerr

    The 1996 Chicago Bulls get the luxury of the fifth-most efficient three-point shooting season of all-time, whereas the Lakers' best three-point shooter, Byron Scott, shot just 34 percent.

    The Lakers are going to struggle all the way trying to keep up with Michael Jordan, but the fact that their two best players also happen to be the Bulls' two worst positions has to count for something.

    Magic Johnson dishing the ball around to Byron Scott and James Worthy is going to be tough to stop, but if there's one team that can do it, it's any of MJ's Bulls teams (does that make sense at all?).

     

    Series Result: Chicago wins this one in six games. Scott may be able to run with Kobe for a bit, but there's no way he's going to be able to keep up with Jordan.

Sweet 16: (2) 1989 Detroit Pistons vs. (3) 1985 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Isiah Thomas vs. Magic Johnson

    The poor 1985 Lakers had to deal with the 1990 Detroit Pistons—now they have to go up against the tougher, more offensively efficient 1989 Detroit Pistons.

     

    X-Factor: Vinnie Johnson (Det) and Bob McAdoo (Lal)

    Johnson and McAdoo are some amazing sixth men for the Pistons and Lakers, respectively. Both players, just a year apart, fill a huge role when it comes to scoring, but McAdoo was just a tad more efficient.

    The Pistons are going to, once again, punch the Lakers in the mouth, and it's a different type of mouth punching than the Pistons from 1990. They're quicker, more agile and more efficient scorers.

    The Lakers, meanwhile, are going to have to make up for the toughness that Detroit brings with finesse (which they'll have plenty of) and fast breaks, which Detroit will probably minimize in this series.

     

    Series Result: These two behemoths are going to throw haymakers back and forth, and this one is most likely going seven games. The winner, however, is going to depend on who forces their style of play, which Detroit is better at. Pistons in seven games.

Elite Eight: (1) 1996 Chicago Bulls vs. (2) 1989 Detroit Pistons

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    Key Matchups: Joe Dumars vs. Michael Jordan

    Joe D played on Michael Jordan in their series back in 1989 and he was able to do a good job with the young, sometimes hot-headed Jordan. Though, MJ was able to have three 30-plus point games (along with a 47-point game in Game 4). What he does with the older, more cunning, more competitive Jordan may decide this series.

     

    X-Factor: Steve Kerr, again

    Having Steve Kerr is possibly the biggest advantage the Bulls have over the Pistons. Sure, Detroit allowed teams to shoot just over 28 percent from downtown, but the superb ball movement that the '96 Bulls had with the Triangle is going to get Kerr open looks, and he's going to sink them.

    The 1996 Chicago Bulls are the best team of Jordan's second stint in the NBA, and it's going to be hard to slow this team down.

    The big thing that Detroit could do against the Lakers was slow down Kareem with their bigs, but Chicago runs through guard and forward play, which is going to keep Laimbeer and the other Detroit bigs running to help game after game.

    The toughness is going to affect the Bulls, but will it be enough? Probably not, as the Bulls, who have a Dennis Rodman of their own, are going to be able to at least compete with the level of toughness that Detroit exudes.

     

    Series Result: Bulls put the series away in six games and move into the Tournament of Champions Final Four.

1986 Boston Celtics Division

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    (1) 1986 Boston Celtics vs. (16) 1958 St. Louis Hawks

    (8) 2011 Dallas Mavericks vs. (9) 1970 New York Knicks

    (5) 1980 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (12) 1976 Boston Celtics

    (4) 2008 Boston Celtics vs. (13) 1979 Seattle Supersonics

    (6) 1960 Boston Celtics vs. (11) 1963 Boston Celtics

    (3) 1967 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (14) 1954 Minneapolis Lakers

    (7) 1964 Boston Celtics vs. (10) 1962 Boston Celtics

    (2) 1987 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (15) 1952 Minneapolis Lakers


(1) 1986 Boston Celtics vs. (16) 1958 St. Louis Hawks

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    '86 Celtics: 67-15 regular season, 15-3 playoffs

    '58 Hawks: 41-31 regular season, 8-3 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Kevin McHale vs. Bob Pettit

    Kevin McHale is going to finesse the hell out of Pettit, then he's going to bowl right through him. After shutting him down, the Hawks'll have no way to get within 20 points of the '86 Celtics.

     

    X-Factors: Bill Walton

    The Celts could use Bill Walton and Larry Bird as the guards in this series and they'd still beat down the '58 Hawks.

    No chance for the Hawks in this one—there's just too much time between these teams and too many basketball innovations.

     

    Series Result: Celtics sweep Hawks.

(8) 2011 Dallas Mavericks vs. (9) 1970 New York Knicks

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    '11 Mavericks: 57-25 regular season, 16-5 playoffs

    '70 Knicks: 60-22 regular season, 12-7 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Willis Reed vs. Tyson Chandler

    The heart and soul of the Knicks' offense takes on the heart and soul of the Mavericks' defense. Chandler made a name for himself as the heart of this Mavericks team's defense and then the Knicks the following season, but can he shut down the'70  Knicks' offense?

     

    X-Factor: Cazzie Russell

    Could the Knicks' back-up shooting guard benefit with the addition of a three-point line? Possibly.

    The '70 Knicks were always used to the fast-paced style of the '70s, but the slow, methodical Mavericks are going to do their best to slow down and beat the Knicks on a possession-by-possession game.

     

    Series Result: Each team wins their first home game, but Dallas ends up getting the benefit of home-court advantage and their era's rules, taking Game 3 and the series.

(5) 1980 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (12) 1976 Boston Celtics

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    '80 Lakers: 60-22 regular season, 12-4 playoffs

    '76 Celtics: 54-28 regular season, 12-6 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Dave Cowens vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Kareem still during his peak takes on one of the most maddeningly competitive centers of all time. Cowens willed his teams to win just by working hard and making sure other players wanted to win half as much as he did, but Kareem's 1980 season was his final MVP year, in which he averaged a double-double and shot 60 percent.

     

    X-Factor: Jamaal Wilkes

    One of the more underrated members of the early '80s Lakers teams, Wilkes averaged 20 points, six rebounds and three assists for the 1980 Lakers.

    The '76 Celtics are going to have a tough time dealing with the efficiency of the '80 Lakers, who had five players who averaged at least eight points a game and shot over 50 percent. The team as a whole led the league in 1980 with an impressive 52.9 percent shooting display.

     

    Series Result: There's no way Cowen's Celtics get swept, but dealing with Abdul-Jabbar at his peak is going to be tough for any team. Lakers win two games to one.

(4) 2008 Boston Celtics vs. (13) 1979 Seattle Supersonics

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    '08 Celtics: 66-16 regular season, 16-10 playoffs

    '79 Supersonics: 52-30 regular season, 12-5 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Gus Johnson vs. Ray Allen

    Before he became an important member of the '80s Celtics, Dennis Johnson was with the Supersonics, and 1979 happened to be his breakout year. Johnson's defensive prowess matches up against Ray Allen in one of his final, exceptionally mobile years.

     

    X-Factor: The three-point line

    The 1979 Sonics won the title despite the fact that they didn't yet have the three-point line to use to their advantage, which would have greatly improved their offensive output.

    Between Downtown Freddie Brown, who could shoot the lights out, Gus Williams, who would change his game to prolong his time in the NBA at the end of his career, Joe Hassett, who was born about a decade too early and Jack Sikma, who turned into a three-point shooting center at the end of his career himself, the Sonics have quite a few players who could benefit from that long-range shot.

    These Supersonics played very much like a modern team. They had the pieces to spread the floor and get the Celtics into a situation to lose this series.

    Given the time to get used to the three-point line, learn the modern game with the line and study up, the Sonics are going to make this tough.

     

    Series Result: Seattle upsets the '08 Celtics in Game 1 on the road, but Boston takes their game on the road, finishing off Seattle at home in Game 3. Ubuntu prevails.

(6) 1960 Boston Celtics vs. (11) 1963 Boston Celtics

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    '60 Celtics: 59-16 regular season, 8-5 playoffs

    '63 Celtics: 58-22 regular season, 8-5 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Bill Russell vs. Bill Russell

    This is a matchup I was waiting for. There were so many championship Russell teams that it was bound to happen. We've got a 25-year-old Russell taking on a 27-year-old Russell. No doubt this will be exciting.

     

    X-Factor: '63 Sam Jones

    Sam Jones peaked in 1963, leading the Celtics in scoring, shooting an impressive 47 percent despite the fact that he was just 6'4".

    The '63 Celtics and '60 Celtics are essentially the same team when it comes to their roster. Splitting hairs, '60 Russell is probably slightly better than '63 Russell statistically, but Russell's game was never really defined by stats, rather by teamwork and effort.

    The series is going to hinge on Sam Jones, as his explosion in '63 essentially gives those Celtics another weapon.

     

    Series Result: '63 Celtics upset '60 Celtics in three games.

(3) 1967 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (14) 1954 Minneapolis Lakers

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    '67 Sixers: 68-13 regular season, 11-4 playoffs

    '54 Lakers: 46-26 regular season, 6-4 playoffs

     

    Key Match-ups: Wilt Chamberlain vs. George Mikan

    If you think there's any way Mikan slows down Chamberlain, then you're crazier than I. Chamberlain shot an unimaginable (during that time period) 68 percent.

     

    X-Factor: It's still Wilt Chamberlain

    The Sixers could play with four guys on the court as long as one of them was Chamberlain and still win this series in two games.

    The 1967 Philadelphia 76ers are widely considered to be one of the best teams of all time, if only for the fact that they were the team to finally take down the Celtics, who had won nine of the ten last titles.

    This team'll thrash the '54 Lakers.

     

    Series Result: Sixers sweep Lakers.

(7) 1964 Boston Celtics vs. (10) 1962 Boston Celtics

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    '64 Celtics: 59-21 regular season, 8-2 playoffs

    '62 Celtics: 60-20 regular season, 8-6 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Bill Russell vs. Bill Russell

    Another Bill-on-Bill game with the game relying on what happens with the big men down low.

     

    X-Factor: John Havlicek

    The young forward was drafted by the Celtics in 1962 (following the 1962 season, that is) and quickly became the Celtics' leading scorer in his second year in the league.

    Another Celtics-Celtics matchup to fill us full of warm fuzzies. 

    Havlicek's appearance with the team in '64 makes them noticeably better, and harder to defeat.

     

    Series Result: '64 Celtics win two games to one.

(2) 1987 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (15) 1952 Minneapolis Lakers

27 of 70

    '87 Lakers: 65-17 regular season, 15-3 playoffs

    '52 Lakers: 40-26 regular season, 9-4 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: George Mikan vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Who are we kidding? This isn't going to be a good matchup—Abdul-Jabbar is going to dominate Mikan.

     

    X-Factor: Michael Cooper

    The Sixth Man of the Year Award winner from 1987 is probably better than anybody on the 1952 Lakers.

    There's going to be a pre-shot clock era game to keep us entertained in Game 2. Otherwise, there's no reason to keep an eye on this series.

     

    Series Result: '87 Lakers sweep '52 Lakers.

Second Round: (1) 1986 Boston Celtics vs. (8) 2011 Dallas Mavericks

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    Key Matchups: Kevin McHale vs. Dirk Nowitzki

    Dirk is going to be dragging McHale all over the place on offense, but on the other end McHale is going to wear Dirk out trying to move left and right to contain him. This should be an amazing display of basketball between the two of them.

     

    X-Factor: Caron Butler

    Butler played the majority of the season for the Mavericks, which means they'll get him for the tournament. Can the Mavs use Butler to throw another defender at the daunting offensive juggernaut that is the '86 Celtics?

    Larry Bird and Co. are going to do their best at making the Mavericks run this way and that on defense, get Tyson Chandler out of position and trick him into coming out to guard Bill Walton. This should keep them uncertain and off-balance all series long.

     

    Series Result: '86 Celtics beat '11 Mavericks three games to one.

Second Round: (4) 2008 Boston Celtics vs. (5) 1980 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Match-ups: Kevin Garnett vs. Jim Chones

    The fierce and enigmatic emotional leader of the Celtics takes on the tricky Jim Chones.

     

    X-Factor: Magic Johnson

    Johnson is just 20 years old at this point, but as everyone knows he became a man quickly in Game 6 of the NBA Finals after beating the 76ers without the help of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    The '08 Celtics feature a team that has come together just as recently as the '80 Celtics. Rajon Rondo is going to defend rookie Magic Johnson well, but he's still going to have troubles keeping Magic in front of him.

     

    Series Result: '80 Celtics take down '08 Celtics three games to two.

Second Round: (3) 1967 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (11) 1963 Boston Celtics

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    Key Matchups: Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell

    They battled for a decade, but this is the first time we've seen them match up against each other in our tournament. Russell was great at giving Russell the first three quarters, keeping the game close and then slowing him down and even stopping him in the fourth.

     

    X-Factor: Sam Jones

    Jones is going to draw Hal Greer in this series, the 76ers' second-leading scorer. Jones' defensive prowess was able to shut down Greer twice in their series in 1967, so a younger, quicker and stronger Jones should help them slow him down even more.

    On the flip side of the 76ers facing off against the Celtics in 1967, the Celtics faced off against the Warriors (Chamberlain's team) nine times in 1963, beating them nine times. Chamberlain was allowed his points while the Celtics would shut down his teammates, which is probably the same way the '63 Celtics will face this challenge. 

     

    Series Result: This one is going the distance, as the Celtics are going to show why team ball is good enough to beat superstar ball. A huge upset as the '63 Celtics take down the '67 76ers in five games.

Second Round: (2) 1987 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) 1964 Boston Celtics

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    Key Matchups: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Bill Russell

    Russell is going to throw everything into keeping Abdul-Jabbar, who is now old, hobbled and weak, but still a good scorer. Kareem is 39 and nearly out of the league, but Russell in '64 is in his prime.

     

    X-Factor: James Worthy

    Big Game James was the leading scorer for the Celtics back in 1987, which was the year that he took home the Finals MVP Award. His peak during those two months allowed the Lakers to get past the slightly hobbled '87 Celtics.

    Russell may be able to take control of the post in this series, throwing his body around on an older Kareem, but the entire Celtics team is going to have trouble dealing with the Lakers, who happen to be one of the greatest teams of all time.

     

    Series Result: Russell is able to help the Celtics take a game, but the '87 Lakers are just too much for the team from farther in the past. Lakers win three games to one.

Sweet 16: (1) 1986 Boston Celtics vs. (5) 1980 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Robert Parish vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    These two are the same age in this matchup, so what we're getting is a younger Kareem coming up against a more experienced Parish. Wait, that didn't make any sense.

    Basically what I'm saying here is that Parish of 1986 has had the luxury of seeing more of Kareem than Parish of 1980 ever did, and while he's older and probably a bit slower and less springy, he should still get something out of his age to help him against the dominant Kareem of 1980.

     

    X-Factor: Bill Walton

    Enough can't be said about what Bill Walton brings to this Celtics team. We've talked about "glue" guys for years. Well, Walton in his 1986 form is probably the ultimate glue guy.

    The '86 Celtics are without a doubt the greatest incarnation of Larry Bird's Celtics, while the same can't be said for the 1980 Lakers and Magic Johnson.

    Not only is this Larry Bird's best playoff year (nearly averaging a triple-double for the playoffs), it's Danny Ainge's best (15.6 points, four rebounds and five assists, 43 percent shooting from downtown), it's one of Kevin McHale's best (25 points and nine rebounds, 58 percent shooting) and it's right smack-dab in the middle of Dennis Johnson's playoff peak.

    They go up against a good Lakers team, there's no doubt about that, but they're just not going to beat these Celtics.

     

    Series Result: '86 Celtics take down the '80 Lakers four games to two.

Sweet 16: (2) 1987 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (11) 1963 Boston Celtics

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    Key Matchups: Bob Cousy vs. Magic Johnson

    Johnson in an MVP year hooks up with old Bobby Cousy in his final year with the Boston Celtics. There's no way the old man is going to be able to stay in front of Magic enough to efficiently defend him.

     

    X-Factor: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    In the second round, the aging Kareem had to go up against a Bill Russell that was a year older than this Bill Russell. While Russell is going to give him some troubles, Kareem should still clean up.

     

    Series Result: Lakers win four games to one.

Elite Eight: (1) 1986 Boston Celtics vs. (2) 1987 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Dennis Johnson vs. Magic Johnson

    The '87 Lakers met a banged-up version of the Celtics in the NBA Finals, and Dennis Johnson actually did a pretty darn good job of matching Magic game-for-game, save a terrible Game 6. Should '86 Johnson do the same things, things could get interesting in this series.

     

    X-Factor: Kevin McHale

    In what was probably the most impressive feat of mind-over-matter in NBA history, McHale basically laced up his sneakers for six games against the Lakers in 1987 with a broken foot. It's hard to argue that things couldn't have gone differently should he have been completely healthy.

    If I may borrow a term from Stephen A. Smith for a second, quite frankly, this is the best matchup we ever could have hoped for from this tournament.

    With the addition of a healthy Bill Walton, Kevin McHale and Scotty Wedman (who retired six games into 1987 after averaging eight points a game for the Celtics the year before), it's hard to argue for the Lakers in this series.

     

    Series Result: Without trying to make it seem as if the Celtics are going to dominate this series, they're going to do more than the '87 Celtics did to the '87 Lakers. It'll be a tough one, but the '86 Celtics win four games to three.

The 1972 Los Angeles Lakers Division

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    (1) 1972 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (16) 1978 Washington Bullets

    (8) 2003 San Antonio Spurs vs. (9) 2005 San Antonio Spurs

    (5) 1998 Chicago Bulls vs. (12) 2006 Miami Heat

    (4) 1981 Boston Celtics vs. (13) 1968 Boston Celtics

    (6) 1982 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (11) 1959 Boston Celtics

    (3) 1992 Chicago Bulls vs. (14) 1969 Boston Celtics

    (7) 2007 San Antonio Spurs vs. (10) 1973 New York Knicks

    (2) 1983 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (15) 1957 Boston Celtics


(1) 1972 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (16) 1978 Washington Bullets

36 of 70

    '72 Lakers: 69-13 regular season, 15-3 playoffs

    '78 Bullets: 44-38 regular season, 14-7 playoffs

     

    Key Match-ups: Wilt Chamberlain vs. Wes Unseld

    Unseld is an amazing defender, but even at 31 he's still no match for the 35-year-old Chamberlain.

     

    X-Factor: Gail Goodrich

    Completely underrated member of the Lakers over the course of his career

    Quick note: Having played just nine games with the '72 Lakers, Elgin Baylor is unfortunately ineligible for the tournament

    The '72 Lakers drew the short straw and didn't get a cupcake BAA team in the first round. That being said, it's still the '78 Bullets.

    Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Bob Dandridge are good players, but they're no match for the Chamberlain-West-Goodrich trio.

     

    Series Result: '72 Lakers win two games to none.

(8) 2003 San Antonio Spurs vs. (9) 2005 San Antonio Spurs

37 of 70

    '03 Spurs: 60-22 regular season, 16-8 playoffs

    '05 Spurs: 59-23 regular season, 16-7 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Stephen Jackson vs. Manu Ginobili

    Two shooting guards with different, yet similar games. Action Jackson is a shooter who can drive to the hole while Ginobili is a driver who can shoot.

     

    X-Factor: The three-point line

    The '03 Spurs had a variety of shooters, as did the '05 Spurs. The '03 version shot just over 35 percent, while the '05 version shot just over 36 percent. The battle in the trenches is going to open up the battle for the three-point line.

    These teams are so close that it's basically a coin flip to see who wins this series.

    The '03 Spurs get to say they have David Robinson, but it's a 37-year-old Robinson who looked like he was running with boots on. Even Rasho Nesterovic can D him up.

     

    Series Result: The teams split the first two games and play down to the wire in the third, '05 Spurs end up taking the game and the series.

(5) 1998 Chicago Bulls vs. (12) 2006 Miami Heat

38 of 70

    '98 Bulls: 62-20 regular season, 15-6 playoffs

    '06 Heat: 52-30 regular season, 16-7 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Michael Jordan vs. Dwyane Wade.

    We've seen Kobe take on MJ—now we have a guy who plays possibly a bit more like Jordan. Dwyane dragged Shaq's carcass through the Finals in 2006, so he should be able to drag them into a fist-fight with the Bulls.

     

    X-Factor: Udonis Haslem

    Haslem was just a young buck with the Heat in '06, still learning his craft but still was a dangerous player. It'll be tough for the Bulls to put Luc Longley on Shaq without Dennis Rodman there to help bail him out, and with Haslem on the floor, Rodman is going to have to venture out more often, leaving Shaq to dominate Longley.

    Despite the troubles down low, we're still talking about a Chicago Bulls team featuring Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The main thing that could burn this Bulls team is youth, but with this Heat team featuring more old guys than not, Chicago shouldn't have too many problems.

     

    Series Result: Bulls win two games to one.

(4) 1981 Boston Celtics vs. (13) 1968 Boston Celtics

39 of 70

    '81 Celtics: 62-20 regular season, 12-5 playoffs

    '68 Celtics: 54-28 regular season, 12-7 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Larry Bird vs. John Havlicek

    Celtics fans should be salivating at the chance to see The Legend take on Hondo. Bird is still a young'un at this point, while Havlicek is in his prime. This should be a fine matchup.

     

    X-Factor:  Kevin McHale

    Big McHale is coming off the bench to bang around and unleash those low-post moves.

    The '68 Celtics is a good old Celtics team, but they're going to have trouble getting through any championship team of the 1980s, especially this younger, quicker '81 Celtics team. They probably won't get swept, however.

     

    Series Result: '81 Celtics win two games to one.

(6) 1982 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (11) 1959 Boston Celtics

40 of 70

    '82 Lakers: 57-25 regular season, 12-2 playoffs

    '59 Celtics: 52-20 regular season, 8-3 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Bob Cousy vs. Magic Johnson

    Two of the premier point guards in NBA history go one-on-one. Finesse from the '80s matches up with finesse from the '50s.

     

    X-Factor: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    The '82 Lakers have a guy a full five inches taller than the tallest guy on the '59 Celtics. He's going to have trouble with a physical Russell, but the size difference is going to be too much for big Bill.

    The difference in eras leads to a big blowout in this series.

     

    Series Result: '82 Lakers sweep '59 Celtics.

(3) 1992 Chicago Bulls vs. (14) 1969 Boston Celtics

41 of 70

    '92 Bulls: 67-15 regular season, 15-7 playoffs

    '69 Celtics: 48-34 regular season, 12-6 playoffs

     

    Key Match-ups: John Havlicek vs. Michael Jordan

    Sam Jones is historically the Celtics shooting guard here, but there's no way the 35-year-old Jones can keep up with Jordan at his physical peak. Hondo is going to have to stick MJ.

     

    X-Factor: Horace Grant

    The slick power forward shot nearly 60 percent for the Bulls in '92, giving them yet another weapon besides Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

    The '92 Celtics happens to be one of the best teams of all time. They have very few holes, and there are very few ways for an older, slower, less physical, less athletic team to take advantage of them.

     

    Series Result: '92 Bulls sweep '69 Celtics.

(7) 2007 San Antonio Spurs vs. (10) 1973 New York Knicks

42 of 70

    '07 Spurs: 58-24 regular season, 16-4 playoffs

    '73 Knicks: 57-25 regular season, 12-5 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Earl Monroe vs. Manu Ginobili

    The slickest man of the '70s meets up with the slickest man of the '00s. In fact, the Rolls Royce Backcourt of Monroe and Clyde Frazier meets up with the smartest, slickest backcourt of the '00s in Tony Parker and Ginobili. This is going to be like basketball porn.

     

    X-Factor: Brent Barry

    The '73 Knicks have the disadvantage of existing before the three-point line, and although they have some guys who are good shooters, they don't have anyone as dead-eyed as Barry, who gets multiple open looks a game for the '07 Spurs.

    These are two evenly matched, if not bamboozling teams coming up against each other for what should be one hell of an entertaining series.  

     

    Series Result: Both teams win their initial home games, coming down to a final game in San Antonio. Hard fought by the Knicks, but the Spurs are too smart, too frugal with the basketball and too fast for the Knicks. Spurs win in three.

(2) 1983 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (15) 1957 Boston Celtics

43 of 70

    '83 Sixers: 65-17 regular season, 12-1 playoffs

    '57 Celtics: 44-28 regular season, 7-3 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Mo Cheeks vs. Bob Cousy

    This matchup will tell us whether or not a point guard of old would be able to compete with the point guards of the modern era. Mo Cheeks isn't the best point guard, but he's not the worst either, so this will be a good scale to rate him on.

     

    X-Factor: Moses Malone

    The greatest offensive rebounder of all time and perhaps the most underrated superstar ever is going to dominate the boards. His size and girth is going to keep the '57 Celtics from getting many second chance points, if any at all.

    Moses and the athletic 76ers is too much for the Celtics of yesteryear.

     

    Series Result: Sixers sweep Celtics.

Second Round: (1) 1972 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (9) 2005 San Antonio Spurs

44 of 70

    Key Matchups: Tim Duncan vs. Wilt Chamberlain.

    Sure, Tim Duncan is technically the power forward for the Spurs at this point, but there's no way they let Rasho Nesterovic guard The Big Dipper. Duncan is in his prime at this point while Chamberlain is on the downslope of his career.

     

    X-Factor: Manu Ginobili

    Gail Goodrich is a great scorer and a good defender, but is he going to have enough lateral quickness to stay in front of Manu Ginobili's maddeningly confusing game, one which the guys back in 1972 might have never seen before.

    The Lakers definitely have the talent advantage in this series, but the Spurs are younger, more athletic and possibly a better team. They have one of the most impressive defensive teams of all time and impressive three-point shooting, which will help them win at home.

     

    Series Result: This one goes the distance, and the Spurs should be able to win their two home games, so the only question is whether they can win a game on the road. In the end, the youth of the Spurs yet the uncanny ability for most of their team to play like veterans is going to give them a road win. The Spurs take down the Lakers in five games.

Second Round: (4) 1981 Boston Celtics vs. (5) 1998 Chicago Bulls

45 of 70

    Key Matchups: Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird

    They play different positions, but do you think there's any way Jordan is going to guard anyone other than the other team's best player? Beyond that, is there any way Bird guards anybody but the other team's best player?

     

    X-Factor: Robert Parish

    The big man is going to be the focal point of the offense in the paint, going up against Luc Longley. Longley got by in the NBA by being taller than everyone else but not being a bumbling fool (like Shawn Bradley). However, he's only got about an inch on Parish, who is going to be fed nonstop.

    The '81 Celtics were one of the most efficient scoring teams in 1981, shooting over 50 percent as a team, while the '98 Bulls shot 45 percent as a team. They'll feed Parish and give McHale full rein on offense when the second unit is in.

    It seems like the Celtics match up as well as any team could against any of Jordan's Bulls teams.

     

    Series Result: Another second-round series goes the distance as the '81 Celtics take down Jordan's '98 Bulls in five games.

Second Round: (3) 1992 Chicago Bulls vs. (6) 1982 Los Angeles Lakers

46 of 70

    Key Matchups: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Bill Cartwright

    Cartwright is going to have his hands full taking on Abdul-Jabbar, who is still preforming at a high level even at 34 years old. Cartwright is going to have to relegate himself to fouling Kareem when he gets an easy shot in the paint to try to keep him as far out as he can.

     

    X-Factor: Jamaal Wilkes

    Wilkes isn't Scottie Pippen, but he's not a bad small forward. Wilkes had his second-best year in 1982 with 21 points a game and five rebounds. However, he's going to have a lot of work to do with Pippen entering his athletic peak around this time.

    Pippen and Jordan are going to do their best to keep the Lakers on their toes, constantly afraid of the drive to the hole.

    Cartwright should be able to do enough to keep Abdul-Jabbar from doing too much damage, but they're going to have to hope for huge games from Jordan. You've got to admit, though—that's not a bad thing to rely on.

     

    Series Result: Chicago is at its athletic peak in 1992, running and gunning, and while they'll have trouble dealing with the bigs of Los Angeles, they should be able to take down the Lakers. '92 Bulls beat '82 Lakers in five games.

Second Round: (2) 1983 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (7) 2007 San Antonio Spurs

47 of 70

    Key Matchups: Moses Malone vs. Tim Duncan

    Moses Malone, one of the smartest defenders and rebounders in NBA history takes on Tim Duncan, one of the smartest all-around players in NBA history. Malone gives up a few pounds to Duncan, but he's stronger and better at reading the board for rebounds than Duncan.

     

    X-Factor: Dr. J

    Julius Erving may not be in his prime in 1983, but he's certainly no slouch, either. Bruce Bowen is going to throw his feet under him, try to slow him down by any means necessary, but older Dr. J is smarter, better without the ball and just a better offensive player than Bowen is a defensive player.

    The '83 76ers dominated the playoffs, and there's no reason to think that they won't do the same thing once our tournament starts and gets deeper.

     

    Series Result: '83 76ers take down the '07 Spurs three games to one.

Sweet 16: (4) 1981 Boston Celtics vs. (9) 2005 San Antonio Spurs

48 of 70

    Key Matchups: Larry Bird vs. Bruce Bowen

    Bruce Bowen is the closest thing to an old-school defender that the 2000s ever saw. He was dirty, he played at times with the intentions to hurt other players and he would give you an elbow or a shove in a last-ditch effort to slow you down, but the refs would hardly notice. Bird should feel right at home.

     

    X-Factor: Manu Ginobili

    Chris Ford is going to draw the short straw and have to deal with this slippery little devil. Ginobili is going to do his best to frustrate the defense of Boston, but with the 00 of Robert Parish helping out down low, they should be able to contain him.

    The '81 Celtics is a younger version of Boston's best teams, and they're probably not nearly as good as the '84 or '86 teams, but they've still got the elite-level player in Bird and amazing defense all-around.

     

    Series Result: Boston ends San Antonio's run, four games to two.

Sweet 16: (2) 1983 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (3) 1992 Chicago Bulls

49 of 70

    Key Matchups: Andrew Toney vs. Michael Jordan

    The Boston Strangler takes on His Airness, and it should be an interesting matchup. Early '80s Toney not only excelled in the big games, but he demolished them. The little fellow averaged over 18 points a game in the '83 postseason in just 29 minutes a game. The guy he's going to have to guard was probably a bit better, however.

     

    X-Factor: Bobby Jones

    The Secretary of Defense was able to shut down almost anybody he went up against. In fact, he might, at his peak, have even been a better defender than Scottie Pippen at his peak.

    Moses Malone is the most important focal point of this game not named Michael Jordan, as he well should be. The tricky, slippery and strong Malone is going to do his best to grab every rebound he can, and with the amount of skill the Sixers are giving up on the three-point line to the '92 Bulls, they're going to need second-chance points. 

     

    Series Result: The '92 Bulls have the unenviable task of taking on a Sixers team that went 'Fo, 'Fi, 'Fo through the playoffs, shooting out of the Finals as one of the hottest playoff teams of all time. They can cool them down, but they can't douse the flames as the '83 Sixers take down the '92 Bulls four games to three.

Elite Eight: (3) 1983 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (4) 1981 Boston Celtics

50 of 70

    Key Matchups: Larry Bird vs. Bobby Jones

    Dr. J is the starting small forward for the '83 Sixers, but the real matchup to watch is going to be the defensive mastermind that is Bobby Jones going up against Bird as a young gun.

     

    X-Factor: Andrew Toney.

    There's a reason Toney has the nickname "The Boston Strangler." Toney, over the course of two years, met the Celtics with the Sixers twice in the playoffs and averaged 21 points against them. However, his dominance showed in games of 26, 35, 34 and 30 points in those two years in the Boston Garden.

    The 1981 Philadelphia 76ers coughed up a 3-1 series lead to the '81 Celtics and very well should have beaten them in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics aren't going to be happy to meet up with a better, deeper Sixers team.

    It's going to be a series, but the '83 Sixers are just a better, more experienced version of the '81 Sixers that choked away a lead to these same Celtics.

     

    Series Result: They don't win in 'Fo, or 'Fi, but the Sixers take down the Celtics in six games to advance to the Final Four.

1997 Chicago Bulls Division

51 of 70

    (1) 1997 Chicago Bulls vs. (16) 1949 Minneapolis Lakers

    (8) 1950 Minneapolis Lakers vs. (9) 1961 Boston Celtics

    (5) 1984 Boston Celtics vs. (12) 1966 Boston Celtics

    (4) 2000 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (13) 1977 Portland Trail Blazers

    (6) 1965 Boston Celtics vs. (11) 1974 Boston Celtics

    (3) 1991 Chicago Bulls vs. (14) 1956 Philadelphia Warriors

    (7) 1993 Chicago Bulls vs. (10) 2001 Los Angeles Lakers

    (2) 1971 Milwaukee Bucks vs. (15) 1951 Rochester Royals


(1) 1997 Chicago Bulls vs. (16) 1949 Minneapolis Lakers

52 of 70

    '97 Bulls: 69-13 regular season, 15-4 playoffs

    '49 Lakers: 44-16 regular season, 8-2 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Dennis Rodman vs. George Mikan

    There's no reason for the Bulls to trot out Luc Longley in this one—might as well just use the tenacity and the athleticism of Dennis Rodman to keep Mikan in check.

     

    X-Factor: Michael Jordan.

    Just give him the ball and let him do work on this Lakers team, just like he did back in 1992 against the various countries of the world.

    Bulls dominate, although we get an interesting shot clock-less game.

     

    Series Result: Bulls sweep Lakers.

(8) 1950 Minneapolis Lakers vs. (9) 1961 Boston Celtics

53 of 70

    '50 Lakers: 51-17 regular season, 6-2 playoffs

    '61 Celtics: 57-22 regular season, 8-2 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: George Mikan vs. Bill Russell

    Two of the earliest basketball superstars square off in a battle for the past.

     

    X-Factor: Bob Cousy

    The '50 Lakers dominated with size. Mikan, Verne Mikkelson and Jim Pollard being their three best players allowed them to tower over the opposition, so seeing how they deal with a dominant point guard will be interesting.

    The Lakers will be able to slow down the tempo when they are at home with no shot clock, so they should be able to come out with at least one win, but the Russell Celtics should be too much for them.

     

    Series Result: Celtics beat Lakers two games to one.

(5) 1984 Boston Celtics vs. (12) 1966 Boston Celtics

54 of 70

    '84 Celtics: 62-20 regular season, 15-8 playoffs

    '66 Celtics: 54-26 regular season, 12-6 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: John Havlicek vs. Larry Bird

    This is the second Bird-Hondo match-up of our tournament, but this time Bird's a bit older and more experienced while Hondo is a bit younger.

     

    X-Factor: Kevin McHale

    The big man is still coming off the bench in 1984, but he's even better than he was in 1981. Look for domination of the '66 team's second unit.

    The '84 Celtics are too fast, too athletic and too much for this '66 Celtics team. They may be able to squeeze out a win, but it'll be tough.

     

    Series Result: '84 Celtics take down '66 Celtics in three games.

(4) 2000 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (13) 1977 Portland Trail Blazers

55 of 70

    '00 Lakers: 67-15 regular season, 15-8 playoffs

    '77 Blazers: 49-33 regular season, 14-5 playoffs

     

    Key Match-ups: Shaquille O'Neal vs. Bill Walton

    The dominant playoff performer in Shaq takes on one of the smartest players of all-time in Walton.

     

    X-Factor: Maurice Lucas

    Lucas, Portland's power forward, was the leading scorer for the Blazers in '77, which creates matchup problems for the '00 Lakers, who have to deal with two smart, excellent rebounding, great scoring big men.

    However, the '77 Blazers have nobody with which to answer Kobe Bryant. Larry Steele and Bob Gross will have to do their best, but that probably won't be good enough.

     

    Series Result: Portland can win their game they get at home; otherwise Los Angeles wins the other two. '00 Lakers win two games to one.

(6) 1965 Boston Celtics vs. (11) 1974 Boston Celtics

56 of 70

    '65 Celtics: 62-18 regular season, 8-4 playoffs

    '74 Celtics: 56-26 regular season, 12-6 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: John Havlicek vs. John Havlicek.

    Hondo has almost always been an important player for the Celtics, but he aged like fine wine. Hondo at 33 was a better scorer, rebounder and passer than Hondo at 24.

     

    X-Factor: Big Men

    An interesting matchup is going to happen between Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn and Dave Cowens and Paul Silas, who was just in his peak during the early '70s.

    The '65 Celtics have experience and teamwork on their side, although it isn't as big an advantage as it would seem with the '74 Celtics being a great group coming together as a team as well.

     

    Series Result: '65 Celtics move on with a two-games-to-one victory over the '74 team.

(3) 1991 Chicago Bulls vs. (14) 1956 Philadelphia Warriors

57 of 70

    '91 Bulls: 61-21 regular season, 15-2 playoffs

    '56 Warriors: 45-27 regular season, 7-3 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Paul Arizin vs. Michael Jordan

    Who else can't wait to see the hot-scoring forward from the '50s get dismantled by the uber-athlete that was Michael Jordan in 1991?

     

    X-Factor: Scottie Pippen

    It would make perfect sense for the Bulls to take Scottie Pippen and use him as a center. He's a good enough athlete to guard any other player the Warriors have, for that matter.

    No chance for the Warriors in this series. 

     

    Series Result: '91 Bulls take down the '56 Warriors in a sweep.

(7) 1993 Chicago Bulls vs (10) 2001 Los Angeles Lakers

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    '93 Bulls: 57-25 regular season, 15-4 playoffs

    '01 Lakers: 56-29 regular season, 15-1 playoffs

     

    Key Matchups: Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan.

    Who else would we be watching, with both players in dominant seasons? Jordan at his second peak and Bryant on the way to his first peak.

     

    X-Factor: Shaquille O'Neal

    The Bulls never had a dominant center in their dynastic days, and quite frankly, they never had a defensive center who could take on playoff-peak Shaq.

    This is about as close as two teams can get. Two dominant shooting guards in their athletic prime facing off with both of their teams having good regular seasons followed by dominant playoffs.

    However, the difference between the two teams is that if the Lakers were at full strength for the entire regular season, they could have won 65 games instead of 56. With Shaq kicking himself into overdrive for the playoffs, they're a completely different team.

     

    Series Result: It's a hard-fought series, but the '01 Lakers take down the '93 Bulls in three games.

(2) 1971 Milwaukee Bucks vs. (15) 1951 Rochester Royals

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    '71 Bucks: 66-16 regular season, 12-2 playoffs

    '51 Royals: 41-27 regular season, 9-5 playoffs

     

    Key Match-ups: Oscar Robertson vs. Bob Davies

    The oversized point guard takes on the undersized Bob Davies, who'll have little chance of staying in front of and keeping up with The Big O.

     

    X-Factor: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    I'm calling him Kareem for the sake of this tournament because he changed his name the day after the 1971 Finals, so we'll assume the paperwork was already in as they were celebrating their title victory. 

    The Royals have never seen anything like the enormous Abdul-Jabbar, who absolutely thrashes them.

     

    Series Result: '71 Bucks sweep '51 Royals.

Second Round: (1) 1997 Chicago Bulls vs. (9) 1961 Boston Celtics

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    Key Matchups: Luc Longley vs. Bill Russell

    This may be the only advantage the Celtics have over the Bulls in this series. Russell, while from the days of shorter players, should be able to push Longley around like most centers of the '90s were able to.

     

    X-Factor: Dennis Rodman

    Rodman should be able to be the ultimate help defender in this series. While he's going to have to deal with Tommy Heinsohn, he's going to be able to keep an eye on Russell at the same time.

    Chicago should be able to both contain and slow down the best players of the '61 Celtics, but I don't think we can say the same about the Celtics defending the Bulls.

     

    Series Result: '97 Bulls sweep '61 Celtics.

Second Round: (4) 2000 Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) 1984 Boston Celtics

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    Key Match-ups: Ron Harper vs. Larry Bird

    How is a 36-year-old Ron Harper going to deal with a decade-younger Larry Bird? He's not, that's how. Los Angeles might be better off throwing a taller, albeit still slow Rick Fox on Bird.

     

    X-Factor: Boston's bigs

    The Celtics' big men are going to have to deal with the monster that is post-season Shaq. Robert Parrish should be able to contain him at least as well as Vlade Divac or Rik Smits. Unfortunately, that's not very well.

    Kevin McHale is going to have to be big for the Celtics in this series, taking advantage of the second unit of the Lakers.

    However, when it comes down to it, it all depends on what Larry Bird does in this series compared to the combo of Shaq and Kobe.

    In the end, Bird and the Celtics teamwork may outplay the domination of Shaq and Kobe.

     

    Series Result: This series goes the distance, but the 1984 Celtics take down the 2000 Lakers in five games. 

Second Round: (3) 1991 Chicago Bulls vs. (6) 1965 Boston Celtics

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    Key Matchups: Sam Jones vs. Michael Jordan

    The All-Defensive Jones is going to have to really work hard to keep Jordan from tearing apart the older, slower Celtics team, but I don't think they can do it.

     

    X-Factor: Bill Cartwright

    This is another case of us finding out exactly what legends would be in the modern-day game. Cartwright is a full four inches taller than Bill Russell, and if he can use his height to his advantage then he should be able to do work in the paint.

    The 1991 Chicago Bulls draw a pretty sweet matchup in the second round, much like they did in the first. The Bulls can rely on athleticism and speed alone to finish this series out with few troubles.

     

    Series Result: Bulls sweep the Celtics.

Second Round: (2) 1971 Milwaukee Bucks vs. (10) 2001 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Shaquille O'Neal

    Shaq in playoff form versus Kareem at his first peak. This is going to be one of the most interesting matchups in the entire tournament. Kareem is young, but he's still one of the best players in the league at this point.

     

    X-Factor: Kobe Bryant

    There isn't a defender the '71 Bucks have that can take Kobe one-on-one. He's too athletic, too quick and too powerful as a guard. They're going to have to have sound inside defense to keep him out of the lane.

    The Bucks are going to have an insanely tough time keeping the Lakers superstars in line.

    Abdul-Jabbar is giving up close to 80 pounds or more to Shaq, and Kobe has no equal on the other bench.

     

    Series Result: Kareem keeps the Bucks in the series, but the Lakers upset the higher-seeded Bucks three games to two.

Sweet 16: (1) 1997 Chicago Bulls vs. (5) 1984 Boston Celtics

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    Key Matchups: Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan

    It's happened before in this series, and I'll say it again: These two guys are too proud to let anyone other than themselves defend one-another. Bird has the youth here, but Jordan, never one to be slowed by age, shouldn't let that be too much of a problem.

     

    X-Factor: Steve Kerr

    The Boston Celtics have nobody to answer for the long-ball threat that is Steve Kerr. He's going to get an open look here and there, and by golly, he's gonna hit more than he misses.

    The '84 Celtics are a much deeper team than the '97 Bulls offensively, boasting an impressive six guys who averaged double-figures throughout the playoffs compared to Chicago's two.

    However, Chicago's defensive depth goes just a bit further than the Celtics', so there could be a nice little struggle between an immovable object and an unstoppable force going on in this series.

     

    Series Result: The '97 Bulls take down the '84 Celtics four games to two.

Sweet 16: (3) 1991 Chicago Bulls vs. (10) 2001 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Key Matchups: Shaq vs. Bill Cartwright

    Shaq and the Lakers have already taken down one Bulls team and Kareem's '71 Bucks, but this '91 Bulls team is a completely different monster.

    Sure, Bill Cartwright is no Shaquille O'Neal, but he was able to keep Bill Laimbeer in line when the Bulls swept the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, giving up just 27 points over the course of four games to the big banger along with just 19 rebound.

    Cartwright'll have his hands full with Shaq, and he's giving up pounds on pounds on pounds to the bigger man, but he'll be able to both keep his cool when Shaq goes off and contain him as much as possible.

     

    X-Factor: Horace Grant—Chicago's Horace Grant, that is

    Perhaps the best third option of any Bulls team, Grant is both an efficient scorer and an amazing defender in the post, which should give some help to Cartwright should the Bulls decide to double-team Shaq.

    Michael Jordan in his absolute athletic prime in 1991 is going to keep Kobe to modest numbers, but Kobe, who hadn't yet learned the finer points of sticking the greatest player of all time by the time he'd turned 22, is going to have trouble returning the favor.

    In the end, Chicago has the depth, efficiency, slightly better deep-ball threat and much better defense around the perimeter, while Los Angeles takes the advantage in the post in almost every category.

     

    Series Result: '91 Bulls take down '01 Lakers four games to three. 

Elite Eight: (1) 1997 Chicago Bulls vs. (3) 1991 Chicago Bulls

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    Key Matchups: Michael Jordan vs. Michael Jordan.

    What we have here, folks, is peak athlete Michael Jordan after he figured out how to be a good teammate facing off with wily veteran, yet still very athletic Michael Jordan. Which is better? Hell, how should I know?

    On one hand, you've got a guy who averaged 31.5 points a game, shot 54 percent and won the MVP Award. On the other hand, you've got a guy who averaged a meager 29.6 points a game, but had learned to shoot the long ball (37.4 percent) and was robbed of the MVP Award (screw you, Karl Malone).

     

    X-Factor: Toni Kukoc

    No, Horace Grant. No, Toni Kukoc.

    Okay, Horace Grant and Toni Kukoc are equally intriguing in this series. Grant was probably the most legitimate "third guy" the Bulls ever had, scoring at least 1,000 points in each of his three championship years (exactly 1,000 in 1991), but Toni was no slouch either, averaging at least 13 points a game in each of the Bulls' next three title years.

    What's not to like about this one, eh? We've got the first title-winning Bulls team taking on the second-to-last title-winning Bulls team. In fact, once we build this time machine and this all shakes out, I'm pretty sure SportsCenter is going to explode once this series comes to light.

    It's hard to split hairs into halves, let alone eighths, which is what we have to do to pick a winner in this one.

    While the '97 Bulls appear to be just a smidgen deeper, the '91 Bulls have both athleticism and efficiency on their side.

     

    Series Result: I'm calling a seven-game series with this one, with the '91 Bulls coming out on top, beating the '97 Bulls four games to three and moving onto the Final Four.

Final Four

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    (1) 1996 Chicago Bulls: Beat the 1947 Philadelphia Warriors, 2002 Los Angeles Lakers, 1988 Los Angeles Lakers and 1989 Detroit Pistons.

    (1) 1986 Boston Celtics: Beat the 1958 St. Louis Hawks, 2011 Dallas Mavericks, 1980 Los Angeles Lakers and 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

    (2) 1983 Philadelphia 76ers: Beat the 1957 Boston Celtics, 2007 San Antonio Spurs, 1992 Chicago Bulls and 1981 Boston Celtics

    (3) 1991 Chicago Bulls: Beat the 1956 Philadelphia Warriors, 1965 Boston Celtics, 2001 Los Angeles Lakers and 1997 Chicago Bulls.

Final Four: (1) 1996 Chicago Bulls vs. (1) 1986 Boston Celtics

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    Key Matchups: Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan.

    Once again, two of the greatest competitors in sports are going to have to square off.

    Jordan is the greatest shooting guard of all-time, Larry Bird the greatest small forward. There's no way to say who gets the edge in seven games here, just who has the better chance at taking over a game or hitting a big shot, both of which go ever so slightly to Jordan, and I mean ever so slightly.

     

    X-Factor: Bill Walton

    He's been an X-factor for the '86 Celtics before—what's one more time? What Walton brings to this team is something the Bulls don't have.

    Walton, like stated before, enjoys the greatest glue-guy season of all time in 1986. He's enjoyable, he can play in any situation and what he does to Larry Bird's creativity is amazing. There's no way to accurately value what he does on the floor with numbers.

    Here, ladies and gentlemen, I have the unenviable task of finding a flaw in two flawless teams.

    The '86 Celtics ended up with every important player on their team enjoying a peak stretch during the season or having a resurrection as a veteran (like Bill Walton and Scotty Wedman).

    Meanwhile, the '96 Bulls shoot the three-ball at an amazing 41(ish)-percent clip, defend well, pass well, play well together.

    Here it is, a criticism or two for each team. Boston isn't great on the offensive glass, and the Bulls have a slight interior defense problem in that they don't send shots back too often.

     

    Series Result: If I take the '96 Bulls, people of the '80s will cry that I've just eliminated the greatest basketball team of all time, while the same is true for people of the '90s if I pick the '86 Celtics.

    When it all comes down to it, however, the '86 Celtics are deeper and are more deeply rooted as a team. Sure, the '96 Bulls won 72 games, but both teams went 15-3 through the playoffs.

    '86 Celtics win four games to three.


Final Four: (2) 1983 Philadelphia 76ers vs. (3) 1991 Chicago Bulls

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    Key Matchups: Andrew Toney vs. Michael Jordan

    Here we've got a guy capable of having huge games in big moments and a guy incapable of having small games in big moments. Jordan has the obvious upper-hand here, but there's no way to deny the fact that Toney has an impressive hot-streak in big games.

     

    X-Factor: Moses Malone

    The '91 Bulls' biggest weakness is the fact that they don't attack the glass on the offensive end quite enough, which is something the Sixers and Moses Malone do as good as any team throughout history.

    The Sixers are going to get the second-chance points that they've always been able to get, but the Bulls have a distinct advantage from the three-point line.

    The '91 Bulls boast an amazing athlete that the Sixers can't match, one of the greatest small forward defenders of all time in Scottie Pippen that the Sixers can match with Bobby Jones, but Jones hasn't got the ability to score that Pippen has.

    This one is going to come down to who wants to go to the Finals more, and can anyone deny the heart of the Chicago Bulls?

     

    Series Result: '91 Bulls win four games to two.

(1) 1986 Boston Celtics vs. (3) 1991 Chicago Bulls

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    The '86 Celtics just took down the best Bulls team of all time—this should be a breeze, right? Yea, right.

     

    Key Match-Ups: Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird, once and for all

    The two competitors take the floor for one last series against each other. Bird has to have a bit of an advantage in this one having just met Jordan in the previous round, but he's going up against a completely different, more athletic Jordan, so it's hard to say.

     

    X-Factor: Dennis Johnson

    With Dennis Johnson coming into his own in recent years, he'd become a key player for the Celtics in '86. With John Paxson set to guard him, it's going to be interesting to see whether or not the smaller guard can hold onto him.

    The Celtics are an incredibly deep team, and as has been said time and time again, they have an amazing ability to get the ball to the best possible player at any given time, always looking for the easiest shot and never thinking singularly.

    The Bulls, meanwhile, have one of their most efficient teams ever, with guys like Horace Grant, John Paxson and even Will Perdue having extremely efficient years.

     

    Series Result: '86 Celtics win another series going down to the wire, four games to three.

    Congratulations to the totally real Tournament of Champions Champions, the 1986 Boston Celtics, the best team of all time.

     

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