NBA Power Rankings: The Most Exciting Playoff Series in Each Franchise's History

Ryan ComstockCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: The Most Exciting Playoff Series in Each Franchise's History

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    The playoffs are, by nature, exciting. This is the case with every sport, at every level. The anticipation surrounding season-ending tournaments and championship games is something that simply cannot be duplicated during the regular season.

    How do we gauge excitement, though? What makes one set of playoff games more galvanizing than another?

    For starters, we can look at the length. In general, the longer a series lasts, the more stimulating the games become. Sometimes we have just a small degree of curiosity in a series when first viewing the matchup, but as the contests wear on and build toward the sixth and seventh games, we suddenly become insanely interested.

    How about the stage of the postseason a series is in? Conference finals games rouse our emotions much more than first-round showdowns, don't they?

    It's also helpful to look into the story lines that are present in a series. Is this an age-old rivalry? Have these teams met in the postseason recently?

    Both scenarios help to ratchet up the intensity and pressure of a playoff clash. The more storied the struggle, the more frequently teams have met, the more bad blood there is.

    Then, of course, there is the unparalleled excitement generated for a team and its fans when a title is won.

    For the sake of the various fanbases of every team, what we'll be looking at here are the series that franchises have won. After all, you rarely hear a sports nut proclaim: "Man, that was so awesome when we lost Game 7! I hope that happens again next year!"

    And just so we're clear going in, there is no topping a championship-winning tilt.

Atlanta/St. Louis Hawks: 1958 NBA Finals

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    The only championship in Atlanta Hawks history came way back in 1958 when the team was located in St. Louis. The Hawks fell to the Boston Celtics in a tough, seven-game series one year earlier, adding some bitterness to the proceedings in '58.

    There was no shortage of greatness on display, as a whopping 12 future Hall of Famers (four from the Hawks and eight from the Celtics) took part in the action.

    After splitting the first two games, the Hawks caught a huge break when Bill Russell of the Celtics sprained his ankle in Game 3. St. Louis would go on to win that third game before Boston answered with a double-digit victory in Game 4.

    Continuing the back-and-forth nature of the series, Game 5 went to the Hawks, putting them on the verge of a championship with a 3-2 series lead. Russell tried to give it a go in Game 6, but was still obviously feeling the effects of his injury and was not quite himself.

    Bob Pettit of the Hawks put on a spectacular performance in the decisive sixth game, scoring 50 points, including 18 of his team's final 21.

    The Hawks would make it to the finals twice more before moving to Atlanta (1960 and '61), falling to Boston each time.

     Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Boston Celtics 102-104
    St. Louis Hawks
    2 Boston Celtics 136-112
    St. Louis Hawks
    3 St. Louis Hawks 111-108
    Boston Celtics
    4 St. Louis Hawks 98-109
    Boston Celtics
    5 Boston Celtics 100-102
    St. Louis Hawks
    6 St. Louis Hawks 110-109
    Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics: 1969 NBA Finals

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    The Celtics and Lakers have met 12 times in the NBA Finals, with Boston coming out on top in nine of those series. There have been five Game 7s in this rivalry, and again Boston has the advantage in this category, winning four of those deciding games.

    It doesn't get much more exciting than a seven-game championship series. With so many to choose from, how do we narrow it down to just one?

    How about looking at the margin of victory?

    While the 1984 Finals showdown between these teams featured two overtime games, the contests were decided by an average of 12 points. In 1962 and 1966, the games were won by an average of 6.7 points both years.

    Then there's the 1969 Finals, when the average margin of victory was 5.6 points and just once did a team record a double-digit victory. It was also the seventh time in 11 seasons that the franchises met in the championship round.

    The stakes simply could not have been any higher and it's tough to imagine the games being any tighter.

    After battling to a 3-3 series standstill, Game 7 took place in Los Angeles. Believing his team would win, then Lakers owner, Jack Cooke, ordered thousands of balloons with "World Champion Lakers" written on them and hung them from the rafters.

    He also had flyers depicting how the celebration would go printed out and placed on each seat. These sheets of paper would eventually find their way to the Celtics locker room, and the Boston players were not so thrilled about Cooke's proclamation.

    Lakers star Jerry West—who averaged 38 points per game during the series and recorded a triple-double in the final game—was also not pleased, as he thought it provided added motivation to an already great Celtics team.

    When Bill Russell walked on the floor and noticed the balloons, he let West know how he felt by saying: "Those [expletive deleted] balloons are staying up there."

    Boston would win Game 7 by a final score of 108-106, giving the team its second consecutive championship and the 11th in 13 seasons. It was Russell's last game in the NBA.

     Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 L.A. Lakers 120-118
    Boston Celtics
    2 L.A. Lakers 118-112
    Boston Celtics
    3 Boston Celtics 111-105
    L.A. Lakers
    4 Boston Celtics 89-88
    L.A. Lakers
    5 L.A. Lakers 117-104
    Boston Celtics
    6 Boston Celtics 99-90
    L.A. Lakers
    7 L.A. Lakers 106-108
    Boston Celtics

Charlotte Bobcats: 2010 Eastern Conference First Round

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    Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    Unfortunately, the Charlotte Bobcats don't have much to work with.

    In the team's seven NBA seasons, they've made the playoffs just once and were dispatched rather quickly once they got there.

    Charlotte was swept by the Orlando Magic last year, with all but one game being decided by nine or more points. That's not exactly how you'd like to start your postseason history.

    The Bobcats have a chance to make the playoffs this year as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. It would be awfully difficult to beat Chicago, Boston or even Miami, but maybe they could simply try to win a game.

     Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Orlando Magic 98-89
    Charlotte Bobcats
    2 Orlando Magic 92-77
    Charlotte Bobcats
    3 Charlotte Bobcats 86-90
    Orlando Magic
    4 Charlotte Bobcats 90-99
    Orlando Magic

Chicago Bulls: 1998 NBA Finals

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    It's been said that an indication of a good team is the squad's ability to put games out of reach reasonably early. That is, when the opportunity arises to bury an opponent, winning teams seize the moment and put the game out of reach.

    If that's the case during the regular season, a marker of a great postseason team would be its capacity to end a series quickly after notching that third win, thereby negating the potential for a winner-take-all seventh game where anything can happen.

    This is one area where Michael Jordan's Bulls flourished, as they were never pushed beyond Game 6 in their six Finals appearances.

    The 1998 Finals featured a rematch from the previous year's championship series, pitting those Bulls against the Utah Jazz. With Utah owning the home-court advantage, many believed it was in a much better position to take out Chicago this time around. After the Jazz took Game 1, even more thought they would become the 1998 NBA Champions.

    M.J. and the Bulls would win the next three games, however, and even though Utah was able to get the series back to Salt Lake City with a Game 5 victory in Chicago and play an incredibly tight Game 6, the damage had already been done.

    Sensing the chance to secure the team's sixth championship, Jordan put on one of the more remarkable displays of basketball greatness we've seen.

    With his team down three in the closing seconds, "His Airness" put in a layup to make it a one-point game, then stripped Karl Malone of the ball on Utah's ensuing possession. What followed is known simply as "The Shot," and I will allow the accompanying video to tell the story of that moment.

    Aside from a Game 3 trampling by the Bulls in Chicago, the series was extremely tight, with the other five games being decided by an average of three points.

    Jordan's impending retirement made this series a must-watch for even casual basketball fans. The way he left the court in that final game only added to his greatness.

     Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Utah Jazz 88-85 (OT)
    Chicago Bulls
    2 Utah Jazz 88-93
    Chicago Bulls
    3 Chicago Bulls 96-54
    Utah Jazz
    4 Chicago Bulls 86-82
    Utah Jazz
    5 Chicago Bulls 81-83
    Utah Jazz
    6 Utah Jazz 86-87
    Chicago Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers: 2007 Eastern Conference Finals

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    After falling to the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semis the previous season, the Cleveland Cavaliers had their minds set on upending their new-found rival in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.

    As anticipated, the series was tough, physical and pressure-packed. Through four games, in which the average margin of victory was a mere four points, the series was knotted at 2-2, with Game 5 scheduled to take place in Detroit.

    In a double-overtime thriller that saw the Cavs come out on top by a final score of 109-107, LeBron James put on a super-human performance by scoring the final 25 points for Cleveland and 29 of its last 30—giving him a total of 48.

    The action then returned to Cleveland, where the Cavaliers had their way with the Pistons, winning that game, 98-82, and the series, 4-2.

    Toppling Detroit put Cleveland in the NBA Finals for the first and only time in franchise history, where they were swept by the Spurs.

     Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Detroit Pistons 79-76 Cleveland Cavaliers
    2 Detroit Pistons 79-76 Cleveland Cavaliers
    3 Cleveland Cavaliers 88-82 Detroit Pistons
    4 Cleveland Cavaliers 91-87 Detroit Pistons
    5 Detroit Pistons 109-107 (2OT) Cleveland Cavaliers
    6 Cleveland Cavaliers 98-82 Detroit Pistons

Dallas Mavericks: 2006 Western Conference Semifinals

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    For many years, the in-state and intra-division rival San Antonio Spurs had the upper hand on the Dallas Mavericks. San Antonio routinely finished ahead of Dallas in the season standings and, prior to the 2006 postseason, had knocked the Mavs out of the playoffs twice in the previous five years.

    After recording the second-highest win total in the Western Conference for the 2005-06 campaign (behind only the Spurs), the Mavericks again faced their foe in a second-round series, this time looking to finally best their fellow Texans.

    When the Spurs won the first game of the series, 87-85, it appeared we were in for a simple re-run, one in which Dallas would fight hard but ultimately fall short.

    Under head coach Avery Johnson, though, Dallas, and Dirk Nowitzki in particular, looked to shed its "soft" label. By responding to the Game 1 defeat with three-straight victories of their own, including a 123-118, overtime win in Game 4, it seemed the Mavs were on their way to doing so.

    Then, true to form, San Antonio rallied with two Ws of its own, forcing a decisive Game 7 on the Spurs' home floor.

    This did not bode well for Dallas, and when the Mavs were down by three in the waning moments of that final game, that "here we go again" feeling had surely seeped into the hearts of Mavs fans.

    In a stunning turn of events, Nowitzki displayed a measure of toughness he was not known for, driving hard to the basket and inexplicably being fouled by Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, setting up a game-tying three-point play and sending the contest to overtime.

    Dallas would not whiff on the opportunity presented to them, outscoring its opponent, 15-7, in the extra period and winning the game by a final score of 119-111.

    The Mavericks went on to defeat the Phoenix Suns in six games to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, where they were overwhelmed by Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 San Antonio Spurs 87-85 Dallas Mavericks
    2 San Antonio Spurs 91-113 Dallas Mavericks
    3 Dallas Mavericks 104-103 San Antonio Spurs
    4 Dallas Mavericks 123-118 (OT) Dallas Mavericks
    5 San Antonio Spurs 98-97 Dallas Mavericks
    6 Dallas Mavericks 86-91 San Antonio Spurs
    7 San Antonio Spurs 111-119 (OT) Dallas Mavericks

Denver Nuggets: 1985 Western Conference First Round

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    The Denver Nuggets of the 1980s were one of the highest-scoring and fastest teams the NBA has ever seen. Much like the Nuggets of today, however, their playoff success was rather limited.

    That changed during the 1985 playoffs, when the team made it to the Western Conference Finals. To get there, Denver first had to get past the similarly up-tempo San Antonio Spurs in a first-round, best-of-five series.

    As you've undoubtedly already picked up, the Nuggets won that showdown, as it would have been somewhat difficult to advance to the doorstep of the NBA Finals without doing so.

    While the first and fifth games were won in blowout fashion by the Nuggets, the three games in between were scintillatingly close—being decided by an average of three points.

    And the scoring. Oh, the scoring!

    Denver averaged a staggering 120.8 PPG during that series, making San Antonio's average of 110.2 PPG look trifling.

    The Nuggets made quick work of the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semis before taking on the L.A. Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, where they learned—as many other teams have—that you've gotta play some defense to make it to the promised land.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Denver Nuggets 141-111 San Antonio Spurs
    2 Denver Nuggets 111-113 San Antonio Spurs
    3 San Antonio Spurs 112-115 Denver Nuggets
    4 San Antonio Spurs 116-111 Denver Nuggets
    5 Denver Nuggets 126-99 San Antonio Spurs

Detroit Pistons: 1990 NBA Finals

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    Seeking their second consecutive championship, the Detroit Pistons found themselves pitted against the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1990 NBA Finals.

    While the series was won by Detroit in five games, only one of the contests was decided by more than six points and just a single possession was the difference in three of them.

    With the exception of a Game 3, 121-106 Detroit victory, late-game heroics was the theme of this series.

    In Game 1, the Pistons found themselves down 10, 90-80, with only seven minutes left. The team quickly put together a 9-2 run to make it a three-point game. After Portland's Buck Williams extended the lead to 94-89, Detroit point guard Isiah Thomas scored seven straight points to give his team the lead, then hit a dagger of a three-pointer that sealed the win.

    Game 2 featured overtime, and this time it was the Blazers who survived, with Clyde Drexler hitting two free throws with two seconds left to secure a one-point win for his team.

    It appeared Game 4 would be a similar blowout to Game 3, as the Pistons held an 81-65 lead late in the third quarter. Portland came back with a 28-11 run over the next eight minutes, however, and put themselves ahead, 93-92, a little over halfway through the fourth.

    After some back-and-forth action gave the Pistons a 112-109 lead with 1.8 seconds left, Portland guard Danny Young hit a 35-footer that looked to have tied the game, but the officials waved the basket off and Detroit held on for the win and a 3-1 series lead.

    With a championship in sniffing distance, Detroit looked to close out the series in Game 5. Portland fought hard to prevent this from happening, leading by seven with 2:05 left in the game. As with Michael Jordan's Bulls, though, the Pistons were champions who knew how to finish teams off.

    Detroit went on a 9-0 run to end the game and the series, with Vinnie Johnson hitting the game-winning shot with just a fraction of a second left.

    Thomas was named Finals MVP following the series.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Detroit Pistons
    105-99 Portland Trail Blazers
    2 Detroit Pistons 105-106 (OT) Portland Trail Blazers
    3 Portland Trail Blazers 106-121 Detroit Pistons
    4 Portland Trail Blazers 109-112 Detroit Pistons
    5 Portland Trail Blazers 90-92 Detroit Pistons

Golden State Warriors: 1975 NBA Finals

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    The Warriors franchise has won three NBA championships, although only one of them has come since the team moved to California.

    In those three title-winning series, the Warriors have lost a combined two games. While their title run in the 1974-75 season culminated in a sweep in the '75 Finals, that series featured the closest average margin of victory (four points) of their three Finals wins.

    The series also featured a pair of firsts, even though one was much more significant than the other. The series didn't make it to this point, but Game 7 was the first NBA game scheduled to be played in June.

    Of larger importance, the series saw two African-American head coaches square off for the first time in the history of any of the United States' four major sports leagues, with Al Attles coaching the Warriors and K.C. Jones calling the shots for the Washington Bullets.

    Games 1 and 3 were won by Golden State by six and eight points, respectively.

    Game 2 and Game 4 were much tighter, with the Warriors winning each by one point. Washington had a chance to win the second game on the final shot, but missed both of its attempts to fall behind 2-0 in the series.

    In the deciding game, Warriors guard Butch Beard scored the game's final seven points and hit the clinching free throws to give his team a 96-95 victory and the title.

    Hall of Famer Rick Barry also put on quite a performance, setting an NBA record for PPG in a four-game Finals with 29.5. The mark would stand for 20 years before being broken by Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Washington Bullets 95-101 Golden State Warriors
    2 Golden State Warriors 92-91 Washington Bullets
    3 Golden State Warriors 109-101 Washington Bullets
    4 Washington Bullets 95-96 Golden State Warriors

Houston Rockets: 1994 NBA Finals

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    A seven-game Finals is plenty exciting enough. All the twists and turns and ups and downs involved in such a series provide more than the requisite amount of drama. What made the 1994 NBA Finals even more memorable was the abundance of off-court story lines surrounding the action.

    Many viewed the series as a showdown between two of the game's best centers, pitting them in a rematch of the 1984 NCAA Championship Game, when Patrick Ewing (Knicks), who was then with Georgetown, defeated Hakeem Olajuwon's (Rockets) University of Houston Cougars.

    If that was the case, Olajuwon surely won Round 2, besting Ewing both statistically and coming away with the championship.

    There was also a ton of excitement built up in New York, as the NHL's New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, less than a day before Game 4 of the NBA Finals. The Knicks took control of the series while in Madison Square Garden, winning Games 4 and 5.

    With a 3-2 series lead, it appeared as though the Knicks would complete the dream for the basketball and hockey fans of New York, but it was not to be.

    The Rockets won Game 6, 86-84, when Olajuwon blocked the potential game-tying shot of New York guard John Starks at the buzzer. With home-court advantage in hand, the Rockets defeated the Knicks in Game 7, securing the first title in franchise history and beginning a run of back-to-back championships.

    To add one more wrinkle, O.J. Simpson's attempt to flee from the police took precedent over the action of Game 5. The chase and the game were shown in split-screen fashion, with O.J.'s antics being displayed more prominently. In some markets, the game was even taken completely off the air.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Houston Rockets 85-78 New York Knicks
    2 Houston Rockets 83-91 New York Knicks
    3 New York Knicks 89-93 Houston Rockets
    4 New York Knicks 91-82 Houston Rockets
    5 New York Knicks 91-84 Houston Rockets
    6 Houston Rockets 86-84 New York Knicks
    7 Houston Rockets 90-84 New York Knicks

Indiana Pacers: 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals

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    Following a seven-game series in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals won by the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers had been knocked out of the playoffs by their nemeses in consecutive seasons.

    After the events of Game 1, it was clear we were in for an all-time classic.

    In that first game, with his Pacers trailing by six in the closing seconds, Reggie Miller miraculously scored eight points in 16.4 seconds by hitting a three, stealing the inbounds pass and drilling another one from downtown and then nailing the clinching free throws.

    After a lopsided Game 2 Knicks' victory, the series headed to Indiana, where the Pacers took Games 3 and 4 to secure a 3-1 series lead.

    It looked as though the Pacers could be on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals in Game 5. Trailing by one, New York center Patrick Ewing hit the game-winning jumper with 1.4 seconds left to extend the series.

    The Knicks then scored a double-digit victory in Game 6, sending the series back to New York for a winner-take-all Game 7. Given their home-court advantage, it seemed that once again the Knicks would be booting the Pacers out of the postseason.

    Indiana was having none of it, however, grinding out a 97-95 win. The loss was heartbreaking for the Knicks, as Ewing had the ball in his hands with a chance to send the game to overtime before missing a running layup.

    Surely the Pacers felt no sympathy for their fallen foe.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 New York Knicks 105-107 Indiana Pacers
    2 New York Knicks 96-77 Indiana Pacers
    3 Indiana Pacers 97-95 (OT) New York Knicks
    4 Indiana Pacers 98-84 New York Knicks
    5 New York Knicks 96-95 Indiana Pacers
    6 Indiana Pacers 92-82 New York Knicks
    7 New York Knicks 95-97 Indiana Pacers

Los Angeles Clippers/Buffalo Braves: 1976 Eastern Conference First Round

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    As most NBA fans probably know, the Clippers don't have much of a storied history. In 41 seasons, the Clippers franchise had made the playoffs just seven times, winning all of two series.

    Back when the team was known as the Buffalo Braves, the organization actually had a pretty successful—by Clipper standards—run, when it made the postseason in three consecutive years.

    As the saying goes, the third time is the charm.

    After exiting the playoffs without a series win in 1974 and '75, the Braves outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers in a best-of-three first-round matchup.

    While Game 2, a 131-106 Sixers win, wasn't at all close, Games 1 and 3 were both hotly contested.

    An interesting aspect of this series was the fact that neither team won a game on its home floor. To advance, the Braves needed to defeat the 76ers in Philadelphia. Considering that the Sixers were 34-7 at home and Buffalo was just 18-22 on the road that year, this was no easy task.

    The Braves found a way to win, though, coming out on top with a one-point, overtime victory to win their first playoff series.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Philadelphia 76ers 89-95 Buffalo Braves
    2 Buffalo Braves 106-131 Philadelphia 76ers
    3 Philadelphia 76ers 123-124 (OT) Buffalo Braves

Los Angeles Lakers: 2010 NBA Finals

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    Similar to the rival Celtics, there's so much more to choose from with the Lakers than with other franchises. Also like Boston, it only makes sense to pick a series that featured basketball's biggest rivalry.

    The most recent addition to this list, the 2010 NBA Finals, saw the Lakers and Celtics renew their feud for the second time in three years. With the series extending to the maximum of seven games, L.A.'s series win also marked the first time the franchise was able to upend Boston in a seventh game.

    As is the case whenever these teams meet, there was no shortage of drama. After the Lakers took Game 1 in the Staples Center, Boston answered back in Game 2 behind Ray Allen's Finals record eight three-pointers.

    The back-and-forth nature of the series continued in Games 3 and 4 with the teams alternating victories. In Game 5, the Celtics became the first team to win consecutive games, giving them a 3-2 edge and putting them on the doorstep of yet another championship.

    It just wasn't meant to be, though, as the basketball gods conspired against the C's when center Kendrick Perkins tore his PCL and MCL in a blowout win for the Lakers, putting him out of commission for Game 7.

    Boston was in control for much of the decisive final game, leading by as many as 13 in the third quarter. The Lakers stormed back, tying the game late in the fourth and eventually winning by a final score of 83-79, aided by clutch free throws from an ice-cold Sasha Vujacic.

    Superstar Kobe Bryant struggled for much of Game Seven, going 6-of-24 from the field. As the greats do, he found other ways to contribute, pulling down 15 rebounds and hitting 11 free throws to score 23 points.

    After the game, Bryant claimed his fifth championship was "the sweetest because it was the toughest." Given the opponent and the series history of Game 7s, many Laker fans must have felt the same way.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 L.A. Lakers 102-89 Boston Celtics
    2 L.A. Lakers 94-103 Boston Celtics
    3 Boston Celtics 84-91 L.A. Lakers
    4 Boston Celtics 96-89 L.A. Lakers
    5 Boston Celtics 92-86 L.A. Lakers
    6 L.A. Lakers 89-67 Boston Celtics
    7 L.A. Lakers 83-79 Boston Celtics

Memphis Grizzlies: 2005 Western Conference First Round

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Another franchise with a less-than-stellar postseason resume, the Memphis Grizzlies have been to the playoffs three times, making all their appearances in consecutive seasons in the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, the organization has yet to even win a game in the NBA's second season.

    Even worse, the Grizzlies haven't put up much of a fight against their playoff opponents. Their 2005 first-round series with the Phoenix Suns was the closest, with Memphis losing by an average of 8.5 PPG.

    Memphis has a very good chance to make the postseason this year and, depending on how the rest of the season shakes out, the team could end up anywhere from the eighth seed to the fifth seed. Depending on whom they face, perhaps the Grizzlies can finally notch a playoff victory.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Phoenix Suns 114-103 Memphis Grizzlies
    2 Phoenix Suns 108-103 Memphis Grizzlies
    3 Memphis Grizzlies 90-110 Phoenix Suns
    4 Memphis Grizzlies
    115-123 Phoenix Suns

Miami Heat: 2006 NBA Finals

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    Winning the first championship in franchise history is one thing. Doing so in a manner that includes possibly the greatest individual Finals performance of all time makes it even more noteworthy.

    Dallas' path to this Finals showdown with Miami was documented earlier in this piece. After the Mavs took the first two games of this series, with victories by 10 and 14 points, it looked to all the world as though it would be them, not the Heat, who would secure their first championship.

    All who thought that were proven wrong, however, with Miami's Dwyane Wade putting on a show for the ages.

    In Games 3 through 6 (all Miami victories), Wade averaged an astounding 39.3 PPG. And it wasn't like the Heat had any room to spare, as, aside from a Game 5 thumping, all of Miami's wins in the series were decided by a single possession.

    Wade was named the Finals MVP and while neither team has been able to duplicate its postseason success from that season, at least the Heat gave us one for the record books in their sole trip to the mountaintop.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Dallas Mavericks 80-90 Miami Heat
    2 Dallas Mavericks 85-99 Miami Heat
    3 Miami Heat 98-96 Dallas Mavericks
    4 Miami Heat 98-74 Dallas Mavericks
    5 Miami Heat 101-100 (OT) Dallas Mavericks
    6 Dallas Mavericks 92-95 Miami Heat

Milwaukee Bucks: 1971 NBA Finals

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    In existence since 1968, the Milwaukee Bucks franchise has one NBA championship to its name. The title came in 1971, the result of a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets.

    Normally, we'd like a series to at least come close to going the distance or feature a number of hotly contested games, but the upwelling of emotion that comes from winning a championship is enough to get this series the nod for Milwaukee. Even if the games weren't as compelling from a competitive standpoint as others to the larger viewing audience, Bucks fans surely didn't mind.

    There were also some remarkable player performances from the Bucks during the '71 NBA Finals.

    Then known as Lew Alcindor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's contribution of 27.0 PPG and 18.5 RPG was quite impressive and led to him receiving the Finals MVP. Point guard Oscar Robertson came to play as well, averaging 23.5 PPG, 9.5 APG and 5.0 RPG for the series.

    Playing in the shadow of these two Hall of Famers, Bob Dandridge averaged 20.3 PPG and 9.5 RPG.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Milwaukee Bucks 98-88 Baltimore Bullets
    2 Baltimore Bullets 83-102 Milwaukee Bucks
    3 Milwaukee Bucks 107-99 Baltimore Bullets
    4 Baltimore Bullets 106-118 Milwaukee Bucks

Minnesota Timberwolves: 2004 Western Conference Semifinals

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    During Kevin Garnett's tenure with the team, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a rough time getting things going in the playoffs. Leading up to the 2004 postseason, the T-Wolves had made the tournament in seven consecutive years, failing to advance past the first round each time.

    Things went a little differently in '04, though, thanks largely to management surrounding Garnett with other capable players like Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.

    After making quick work of the Denver Nuggets and advancing out of the first round for the first time in franchise history, a matchup with the Sacramento Kings was set. In a series full of momentum swings for each side, Garnett and the 'Wolves fought with everything they had to make previous postseason failings a distant memory.

    Excluding Games 5 and 6, the average margin of victory for this series was a mere 4.2 PPG.

    Simply put, Minnesota needed its superstar to squeeze every ounce of ability out of his body and put it on the floor, which Garnett did by averaging 23.9 PPG and 15.4 RPG in seven games.

    When it all mattered most in the final game of the series, Garnett put the team on his back by scoring 32 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in 46 minutes, carrying the team to its first Western Conference Finals appearance.

    Facing a loaded Lakers team in the next round, Minnesota ran out of steam and lost in six games.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Minnesota Timberwolves 98-104 Sacramento Kings
    2 Minnesota Timberwolves 94-89 Sacramento Kings
    3 Sacramento Kings 113-114 (OT) Minnesota Timberwolves
    4 Sacramento Kings 87-81 Minnesota Timberwolves
    5 Minnesota Timberwolves 86-74 Sacramento Kings
    6 Sacramento Kings 104-87 Minnesota Timberwolves
    7 Minnesota Timberwolves 83-80 Sacramento Kings

New Jersey Nets: 2002 Eastern Conference Finals

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Booking the first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history was no easy task for the New Jersey Nets.

    After splitting the first two games with the Celtics in the Meadowlands, the series shifted to Boston. In Game 3, it appeared the Nets were on their way to an easy victory, as they led by 21 points entering the fourth quarter.

    In that final period, Boston outscored New Jersey, 41-16, winning the game by a final score of 94-90. Most believed the comeback would be a deathblow for the Nets and they were largely written off as dead men walking.

    The Nets responded, though, winning the next three games and proving that a short memory is mandatory for professional athletes.

    A 96-88 victory in Game 6 launched New Jersey into its first ever Finals appearance, where they were dealt with swiftly in a four-game sweep at the hands of the L.A. Lakers.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    One New Jersey Nets 104-97 Boston Celtics
    Two New Jersey Nets 86-93 Boston Celtics
    Three Boston Celtics 94-90 New Jersey Nets
    Four Boston Celtics 92-94 New Jersey Nets
    Five New Jersey Nets 103-92 Boston Celtics
    Six Boston Celtics 88-96 New Jersey Nets

New Orleans/Charlotte Hornets: 1993 Eastern Conference First Round

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    The Charlotte (and eventually New Orleans) Hornets first began playing NBA basketball in the 1988-89 season. It took the team five years to reach the playoffs, and once there, it wasted no time in providing the league with a classic postseason moment.

    The Hornets got their first playoff win in Game 2 of the series with a 99-98, double-overtime victory in Boston. With play resuming in Charlotte for Game 3, the Hornets made quick work of their opponent to set up a potential series-clinching Game 4.

    As the seconds ticked away and with his team down by one, rookie center Alonzo Mourning found himself with the ball at the top of the key. Performing like a seasoned veteran, Mourning squared his body to the basket, set his feet and launched the game-winning, series-clinching jumper.

    Quite the way to start a career for a player and the postseason history for a franchise.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Boston Celtics 112-101 Charlotte Hornets
    2 Boston Celtics 98-99 (2OT) Charlotte Hornets
    3 Charlotte Hornets 119-89 Boston Celtics
    4 Charlotte Hornets 104-103 Boston Celtics

New York Knicks: 1970 NBA Finals

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    One of the more memorable moments in the history of not only basketball, but all of professional sports, occurred during the 1970 NBA Finals. After injuring his leg during Game 5 of the series, Knicks center Willis Reed was unable to play at all in Game 6.

    It looked to all the world as if Reed would be forced to miss Game 7 as well. But then, moments before tip-off, Reed emerged from the locker room, limping badly but determined to play. The Madison Square Garden crowd erupted at the sight of the eventual Finals MVP, and his scoring of the game's first two baskets sent the audience into a frenzy.

    With his work done, Reed then went to the bench. The Lakers were shaken by the boisterous nature of New York basketball fans and the Knicks secured the first championship in team history with a 113-99 victory.

    While there were three games decided by double digits during the series, Games 2 through 5 were extremely tight.

    Game 2 was won by the Lakers, 105-103, on Jerry West's late-game free throws; Games 3 and 4 both went to overtime, with the teams splitting the contests; and Game 5 featured a 16-point, second half comeback by the Knicks after losing Reed.

    The Knicks would go on to win their second consecutive championship the following year.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 New York Knicks 124-112 L.A. Lakers
    2 New York Knicks 103-105 L.A. Lakers
    3 L.A. Lakers 108-111 (OT) New York Knicks
    4 L.A. Lakers 121-115 (OT) New York Knicks
    5 New York Knicks 107-100 L.A. Lakers
    6 L.A. Lakers 135-113 New York Knicks
    7 New York Knicks 113-99 L.A. Lakers

Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle SuperSonics: 1979 NBA Finals

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    In a rematch of the 1978 NBA Finals, the Seattle SuperSonics looked to redeem themselves after losing a tough, seven-game series to the Washington Bullets. Revenge is one of the bigger motivational ploys used by athletes, and the focus of this Seattle team was evident.

    After losing Game 1 on a pair of free throws by Bullets guard Larry Wright, the Sonics rebounded with four consecutive victories to secure the first and only championship in franchise history.

    Although the series lasted only five games, the contests were largely close and were decided by an average of 5.6 PPG.

    The teams were unable to make it back one more time for a rubber match. While the trading away of '79 Finals MVP Dennis Johnson didn't help matters, the Sonics were still able to be a competitive team, regularly making the playoffs and returning to the Finals in 1996.

    The same cannot be said for the Bullets, the team we now know as the Wizards.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Washington Bullets 99-97 Seattle SuperSonics
    2 Washington Bullets 82-92 Seattle SuperSonics
    3 Seattle SuperSonics 105-95 Washington Bullets
    4 Seattle SuperSonics 114-112 (OT) Washington Bullets
    5 Washington Bullets 93-97 Seattle SuperSonics

Orlando Magic: 1995 Eastern Conference Finals

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    While the last two games of this series were dramatic due only to the circumstances surrounding them, the five previous contests had no shortage of electricity.

    Games 1 through 5 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Indiana Pacers were decided by an average of 3.4 PPG. Game 4 was particularly awe-inspring, as the teams traded clutch basket after clutch basket in the final moments.

    With the Magic down two and time running out, guard Brian Shaw hit a bucket to tie the game. Indiana's Reggie Miller answered with a basket of his own to retake the lead, then Orlando's Penny Hardaway hit a three to give the Magic a one-point lead with 1.3 seconds remaining.

    Not to be outdone, the Pacers' Rik Smits caught the inbounds pass and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer, giving Indiana a 94-93 victory and knotting the series at 2-2.

    In a series in which neither team won a road game, the Magic responded with a two-point victory in Game 5, and the squads traded blowouts that led to Orlando's first NBA Finals appearance.

    Once in the championship round, the Magic were unable to keep it going and were swept by the Houston Rockets.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Orlando Magic 105-101 Indiana Pacers
    2 Orlando Magic 119-114 Indiana Pacers
    3 Indiana Pacers 105-100 Orlando Magic
    4 Indiana Pacers 94-93 Orlando Magic
    5 Orlando Magic 108-106 Indiana Pacers
    6 Indiana Pacers 123-96 Orlando Magic
    7 Orlando Magic 105-81 Indiana Pacers

Philadelphia 76ers: 1967 NBA Finals

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    There's nothing quite like your first time, and the first championship the Philadelphia 76ers attained after moving to Philly came at the end of the 1966-67 season.

    That year's version of the Sixers featured three eventual Hall of Famers in Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham. After running through the regular season with a record of 68-13, Philadelphia moved quickly through the first two rounds of the playoffs to set up a Finals showdown with the San Francisco Warriors.

    While there were a couple of exceptions, the game's were largely competitive, with one going to overtime and three others being decided by no more than six points.

    To add a bit of intrigue, this series was also the first Finals in 11 years that did not include the Boston Celtics, whom were knocked out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals by, you guessed it, the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Philadelphia 76ers 141-135 (OT) San Francisco Warriors
    2 Philadelphia 76ers 126-95 San Francisco Warriors
    3 San Francisco Warriors 130-124 Philadelphia 76ers
    4 San Francisco Warriors 108-122 Philadelphia 76ers
    5 Philadelphia 76ers 109-117 San Francisco Warriors
    6 San Francisco Warriors 122-125 Philadelphia 76ers

Phoenix Suns: 1976 Western Conference Finals

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    Making the playoffs after finishing the regular season with a record of 42-40, the Phoenix Suns, who had never won a playoff series, seemed a long shot to make it to the NBA Finals.

    After defeating the Seattle SuperSonics in the Western Conferences Semis, the Suns then took on the heavily favored, defending-champion, team-with-the-best-record-in-the-NBA Golden State Warriors in the Western Finals.

    An upset seemed unlikely, especially after Golden State pounded Phoenix in Game 1, winning 128-103.

    Instead of folding up shop and just being happy to be there, the Suns fought back and won Game 2 before falling again in Game 3. Facing the possibility of going down a near-insurmountable 3-1 in the series, the Suns battled with the Warriors in Game 4, winning a double-overtime thriller by the final score of 133-129.

    Facing elimination after losing in Golden State in Game 5, the Suns held down their home floor in Game 6, coming away with a narrow, one-point victory to set up a loser-goes-home Game 7.

    Even though it took place in Golden State's home arena with the Suns having hardly any winning experience as an organization, Phoenix found a way to prevail in that deciding game, advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history and, until 1993, the only time.

    Phoenix's luck ran out in the championship round, however, when the Boston Celtics beat them in six games.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Golden State Warriors 128-103 Phoenix Suns
    2 Golden State Warriors 101-108 Phoenix Suns
    3 Phoenix Suns 91-99 Golden State Warriors
    4 Phoenix Suns 133-129 (2OT) Golden State Warriors
    5 Golden State Warriors 111-95 Phoenix Suns
    6 Phoenix Suns 105-104 Golden State Warriors
    7 Golden State Warriors 86-94 Phoenix Suns

Portland Trail Blazers: 1977 NBA Finals

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    gallery.pictopia.com

    Making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Portland Trail Blazers went on a playoff run that is rarely seen in professional sports. Bypassing the usual growing pains and heartbreak that accompany the chase for a championship, Portland won the 1977 title in just its seventh year as an organization.

    Following a surprising sweep of the L.A. Lakers in the Western Finals, the Blazers faced a formidable foe in the Philadelphia 76ers, whom were led by Julius Erving.

    After losing the first two games of the series, it looked as though the dream was ending, but a fight near the end of Game 2 sparked Portland, unifying the team and letting the Sixers know the Blazers meant business.

    Spurred on by a 42-point fourth quarter, the Blazers won Game 3 in Portland and did the same in Game 4.

    Trailing, 91-69, in the fourth quarter of Game 5, Erving did all he could to mount a comeback for Philadelphia, scoring 37 points in the final period. It was not enough, though, and the Blazers had a chance to lock up the championship on their home floor in Game 6.

    Despite another strong effort by Erving, the Sixers could not overcome this Portland team. When a potentially game-tying shot by Philly forward George McGinnis fell short in the closing seconds, the Blazers secured a 109-107 victory and the lone championship in franchise history.

    Overcome with "Blazermania," the crowd stormed the court to celebrate with the team, and Bill Walton was named MVP.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Philadelphia 76ers
    107-101 Portland Trail Blazers
    2 Philadelphia 76ers 107-89 Portland Trail Blazers
    3 Portland Trail Blazers 129-107 Philadelphia 76ers
    4 Portland Trail Blazers 130-98 Philadelphia 76ers
    5 Philadelphia 76ers 104-110 Portland Trail Blazers
    6 Portland Trail Blazers 109-107 Philadelphia 76ers

Sacramento Kings/Rochester Royals: 1951 NBA Finals

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    The Sacramento Kings certainly took part in some great playoff matchups from the late 1990s through the mid-2000s. The only problem is that the team never advanced past the Western Conference Finals (even if the Kings were jobbed by the league in 2002).

    Way, way back when the team was known as the Rochester Royals, however, it was a different story. Nothing is more exciting in sports than winning it all, and doing so after nearly caving in with a monumental collapse is sure to get the heart rate going.

    After advancing to the Finals with series wins over the Fort Wayne Pistons and Minneapolis Lakers (told you it was a long time ago), the Royals took on the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals. After going up 3-0 in the series, a championship was a foregone conclusion for Rochester.

    Or so it seemed.

    The Knicks somehow managed to win the next three games, forcing a Game 7 in which everything was on the line. That New York team remains the only squad in NBA history to force a seventh game of the Finals after trailing the series by such a deficit.

    The Royals found a way to stave off the furious rally, though, winning Game 7, 79-75, and taking home what remains the sole championship in franchise history.

    At least they made it interesting.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1
    Rochester Royals 92-65 New York Knicks
    2
    Rochester Royals 99-84 New York Knicks
    3
    New York Knicks 71-78 Rochester Royals
    4
    New York Knicks 79-73 Rochester Royals
    5
    Rochester Royals 89-92 New York Knicks
    6 New York Knicks 80-73 Rochester Royals
    7 Rochester Royals 79-75 New York Knicks

San Antonio Spurs: 2005 NBA Finals

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Although the San Antonio Spurs have won four NBA championships with Tim Duncan, the team has been taken past the sixth game of the Finals just once, in 2005. The defending champion Detroit Pistons were the opponent, and what ensued was a seven-game battle featuring two of the best defensive teams in the league.

    As it turns out, the saying is true—defense does win championships, as the Spurs (No. 1 in defensive rating) took out the Pistons (No. 3 in defensive rating) in seven games.

    After being soundly beaten in the first two contests, Detroit answered back with a pair of convincing wins of its own in Games 3 and 4.

    Those watching began to wonder if there would even be a close game in this series. Then Game 5 happened and those fears were put to rest. The teams fought to an 89-89 standstill after regulation in the fifth game, forcing overtime in what is always the crucial game of a series that is locked at 2-2.

    With time running out and the Spurs down by two, the knockout punch was delivered by, who else, "Big Shot Rob" himself, Robert Horry, who drained a three-pointer after being left alone by Rasheed Wallace. The basket gave San Antonio a 96-95 victory and put the Spurs in control of the series.

    True to the form of the mid-2000s Pistons, Detroit relished the backs-against-the-wall situation and responded with a Game 6 win, giving NBA fans a treat with an always enjoyable seventh game.

    Game 7 saw San Antonio and Detroit go at each other for three quarters. With the game deadlocked at 57 heading into the fourth, it became a 12-minute season, and the Spurs won those minutes, 24-17, to come away with an 81-74 championship-sealing win.

    It was their third title in seven years and preceded another championship run two seasons later.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 San Antonio Spurs 84-69 Detroit Pistons
    2 San Antonio Spurs 97-76 Detroit Pistons
    3 Detroit Pistons 96-79 San Antonio Spurs
    4 Detroit Pistons 102-71 San Antonio Spurs
    5 Detroit Pistons 95-96 (OT) San Antonio Spurs
    6 San Antonio Spurs 86-95 Detroit Pistons
    7 San Antonio Spurs 81-74 Detroit Pistons

Toronto Raptors: 2001 Eastern Conference First Round

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Yay, first-round victories!

    With a mere five playoff appearances in 16 seasons as a franchise and only one series win, the Raptors aren't giving us a great selection.

    Fortunately, that one win was a pretty dramatic one, coming in Game 5 of a best-of-five, first-round series in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

    It's never easy winning such a game as the road team, particularly in the Garden. And, according to Curt Schilling, there's nothing like shutting all those New Yorkers up.

    The Raptors fell behind, 2-1, in this series before forcing the decisive Game 5. Leading the game by 12 in the fourth quarter, the moment seemed to become too much for Toronto, as the team got sloppy with the ball and allowed New York to get back in the game with an 8-0 run.

    After some back-and-forth action, the game was tight at 81-80 before Toronto pulled away and won, 93-89.

    Toronto went on to lose in seven games to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia 76ers. The franchise has made it back to the postseason just three times since and has not made it out of the first round.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 New York Knicks 92-85 Toronto Raptors
    2 New York Knicks 74-94 Toronto Raptors
    3 Toronto Raptors 89-97 New York Knicks
    4 Toronto Raptors 100-93 New York Knicks
    5 New York Knicks 89-93 Toronto Raptors

Utah Jazz: 1997 Western Conference Finals

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    hoopedia.nba.com

    There can't really be a better way to send your team to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history than hitting a buzzer-beating three, right?

    That's exactly how John Stockton got his Jazz into the championship round in 1997, drilling a deep-ball as time expired in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

    The Jazz got out to a quick start in the series by winning their first two games at home before the Houston Rockets answered back with a couple wins of their own, evening the series at two games apiece.

    When the series returned to Utah, the Jazz again held down their home floor by winning a tight, five-point contest to put them on the verge of a first-time Finals appearance. Game 6 in Houston went down to the wire, with the teams at a 100-100 standstill.

    Not allowing the moment to pass him by, Stockton nailed a three as the horn sounded, launching the Jazz into the NBA Finals.

    In a bit of misfortune for Jazz fans, Utah was pitted against Michael Jordan and the Bulls, a team and player unable to lose on that stage.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Utah Jazz 101-86 Houston Rockets
    2 Utah Jazz 104-92 Houston Rockets
    3 Houston Rockets 118-100 Utah Jazz
    4 Houston Rockets 95-92 Utah Jazz
    5 Utah Jazz 96-91 Houston Rockets
    6 Houston Rockets 100-103 Utah Jazz

Washington Wizards/Bullets: 1978 NBA Finals

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    sportige.com

    It's hard to imagine this now, but the Washington Wizards franchise was highly competitive in the 1970s. Then known as the Bullets, Washington made it to four NBA Finals that decade, winning one of them in dramatic fashion.

    Squaring off against the Seattle SuperSonics, Washington took part in a seven-game series that featured a number of fantastic endings.

    Game 1 saw the Bullets collapse in epic fashion, failing to hold onto a 19-point, fourth-quarter lead and losing, 106-102. After pulling out an eight-point victory in Game 2, Washington nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback in Game 3.

    Down, 93-90, with 10 seconds left, Bullets guard Tom Henderson stole the inbounds pass and quickly scored a basket. After Paul Silas botched Seattle's second consecutive inbounds pass, the Bullets had a chance to take the game with a make, but were unable to do so when Bob Dandridge missed at the buzzer.

    Due to a scheduling conflict with a mobile-home show in the Seattle Center Coliseum (what?), Game 4 took place at the Seattle Kingdome. Washington outlasted the Sonics in overtime, refusing to be overwhelmed by a then record-setting turnout for a playoff game.

    Game 5 was another tight one, with Seattle finding a way to win by a final score of 98-94.

    Washington then handed the Sonics a blowout loss in Game 6 to set up a memorable seventh game.

    The Bullets got out to a good start in Game 7 and held a well-sized advantage of 11 points late in the fourth quarter. Not wanting their season to end in that manner, the Sonics rallied as best they could to eventually make it a two-point game as the end drew near.

    The hole was simply too deep, however, and Washington made two free throws and scored on a dunk to secure a 105-99 victory and become the 1978 NBA Champions.

    The Bullets made it back to the Finals the following year before having their season ended by those same Sonics in a series that was explored earlier.

    Game Home Team Result Road Team
    1 Seattle SuperSonics 106-102 Washington Bullets
    2 Washington Bullets 106-98 Seattle SuperSonics
    3 Washington Bullets 92-93 Seattle SuperSonics
    4 Seattle SuperSonics 116-120 (OT) Washington Bullets
    5 Seattle SuperSonics 98-94 Washington Bullets
    6 Washington Bullets 117-82 Seattle SuperSonics
    7 Seattle SuperSonics 99-105 Washington Bullets

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