6 NBA Finals 2012 Matchups That Would Have Been Better Than Heat vs. Thunder
While the NBA Finals matchup between LeBron James' Miami Heat and Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder is sure to be a fantastic one for the ages, I can't say it's one most fans outside of the teams' fanbases were hoping for.
In my home city and state of New York, fans were practically salivating at the prospect of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire's first full season together bringing the first of many instances of playoff successes. Given the history of the franchise, a Finals rematch with the Lakers or Spurs would have been epic.
In Chicago, Bulls fans were probably hopeful Derrick Rose would finally lead his teammates out of Michael Jordan's shadow and, if you ask me, I'd much rather see that young team go up against the Thunder instead of Miami.
Seeing as how lots of fans are left on the outside looking in at this time of year, let's have a look at some NBA Finals matchups that would have been far more entertaining than the one we have now.
No. 6: Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks
At the start of the season, the Heat definitely had what it took to get back to the NBA Finals. Dallas, on the other hand, had a steeper hill to climb if it were to defend its title.
Still, though Dirk Nowitzki and his No. 7 Mavs were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round this year, it would have been incredible to see the team go on a miraculous run back to the Finals just so that the Big Three could get their rematch.
Unfortunately, with center Tyson Chandler having moved from Dallas to the New York Knicks, such was not to be.
No. 5: New York Knicks vs. San Antonio Spurs
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These two teams met in the 1999 NBA Finals, and the No. 1 Spurs took down the No. 8 Knicks in five games. It can be argued that San Antonio's season was a fluke, seeing as how a lockout limited the span of the campaign to 50 games, but the team, led by David Robinson and Tim Duncan, was just plain incredible.
The same can be said for that year's Knicks, who went on a magical postseason run that saw them take out the heavily favored Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.
Seeing as how this season was also shortened by a lockout, it would have been pretty cool and coincidental to see these teams have a rematch, let alone see who would win given how much each squad has changed since 1999.
No. 4: Chicago Bulls vs. San Antonio Spurs
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Here we have what could have been a classic matchup of youth versus experience. The Spurs would be hungry for a fifth championship trophy, while the Bulls would have been hungry to prove that Michael Jordan wasn't necessary for a title.
Seeing Derrick Rose try to get past the tough defense of Manu Ginobili and drive the lane against Tim Duncan would have an intensity comparable to Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed—the young, inexperienced underdog against the tested veteran in an absolute fight to the death.
More importantly, the clutch three-point shooting from San Antonio's Stephen Jackson and Chicago's Rip Hamilton (if he were able to stay healthy through the Finals) would have been unbelievable to watch.
No. 3: New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
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The Knicks squaring off against the Lakers in the NBA Finals would be interesting for a couple of reasons. They have met four times in this setting before, with the Lakers winning in 1952 and 1953 and the Knicks winning in 1970 and 1973. On top of the rubber match ratings the series would garner, it would also showcase Kobe Bryant's quest for a sixth championship ring.
However, my reasons for wanting this series to happen would be somewhat selfish. During the regular season, Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin put the team on his back to help defeat the more experienced and deeper Lakers. In the Feb. 10 game, which the Knicks won 92-85, Lin scored 38 points and dished out seven assists as he made Kobe and company look foolish.
A New York vs. LA matchup in the Finals would give the Lakers a shot at redemption, not to mention test the skills and mental toughness of Lin. Between that and a shootout contest between Miami's Big Three and Kevin Durant's Thunder, I'll take the former.
No. 2: Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
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Before Derrick Rose tore his ACL, this matchup was my pick for the NBA Finals. The Bulls proved once again to be a great young team, and even looked a bit better than they did last year. No matter how you look at it, they earned that No. 1 seed.
In the Western Conference, the Thunder continued to improve and develop as a force to be reckoned with in the league. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook proved to be a great 1-2 punch, with Serge Ibaka running the show on defense and James Harden acting as a secret weapon off the bench.
Put that kind of depth on the floor in a seven-game series for all the marbles, and you've got the formula for something that could go down as one of the greatest occurrences in NBA history.
No. 1: Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
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Here, we have a matchup that features the greatest team rivalry in NBA history. The Celtics and Lakers have faced each other in the NBA Finals a dozen times, with the Lakers most recently winning the battle in 2010. Just two years prior, the Celtics took the Larry O'Brien Trophy home.
In terms of the Finals matchups, the Celtics are up 9-3 and aren't in any immediate danger of the Lakers catching up. Still, given how most of the core members of the 2010 teams are still on both rosters, it would have been great to see a rubber match in the final round. Rajon Rondo has come so far as a point guard and is one of the most tenacious players in the NBA, so seeing him put his body on the line and put the team on his back just to try and keep a sixth ring from Kobe Bryant would have been epic.
I'll be honest. Part of me wants the Celtics' Big Three to remain intact just so this potential matchup could still happen.