LA Lakers: 10 Most Exciting Playoff Series in Team History
The Los Angeles Lakers have provided their fans with many exciting playoff series throughout the years. Some of these series have unfortunately ended in heartbreak. But plenty have ended with purple and gold confetti raining down on the city of Los Angeles.
This article will rank the 10 most exciting playoff series in team history.
Whether you have fond memories of rooting for Jerry West, Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant, there are plenty of memorable series highlighted in this slideshow that will keep smiles (with the occasional frown) on the faces of fans from all generations.
10. 2006 First Round vs. Phoenix Suns
After a one-year hiatus from the postseason, the Los Angeles Lakers were looking to win their first playoff series since Shaquille O’Neal was traded in 2004.
It appeared they were on their way to upsetting the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.
The Lakers surprisingly jumped out to a 3-1 series lead, after Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning buzzer beater in Game 4.
But the Lakers proved you cannot win in the playoffs relying so heavily on one player, as Phoenix stormed back to win the series.
The Suns became only the eighth team in league history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven-game series.
9. 2000 Western Conference Finals vs. Portland Trail Blazers
In Phil Jackson’s first year as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team won 67 games and looked primed to win its first championship since 1988.
After taking a 3-1 series lead, it appeared as though the Lakers were going to cruise to the NBA Finals. However, the Blazers stormed back to tie the series.
The Lakers were headed for one of the biggest collapses in playoff history, with Portland leading by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter of Game 7.
The Lakers then went on a 25-4 run to win the game, capped off by an iconic alley-oop pass from Kobe Bryant to Shaquille O’Neal.
The Lakers went on to beat the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals.
8. 1980 NBA Finals vs. Philadelphia 76ers
In Magic Johnson’s rookie season, the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves pitted against Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals.
The Lakers and Sixers split the first four games of the series, before the Lakers won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
But the win didn’t come without a small bit of anxiety.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar injured his ankle in Game 5. It was later announced he would miss Game 6 in Philadelphia.
Magic Johnson quickly put a stop to any worrying. The rookie filled in for Abdul-Jabbar as the team’s starting center in Game 6, en route to tallying 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, as the Lakers captured their first championship since 1972.
7. 2010 NBA Finals vs. Boston Celtics
After losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers were looking to get revenge on their arch-rivals in 2010.
After splitting the first two games of the series in Los Angeles, the series shifted to Boston for Game 3. Thanks to a timely Derek Fisher lay-up, the Lakers won the game and took control of the series.
With their backs against the wall, the Celtics won Games 4 and 5 on their home floor, with the scene shifting back to Los Angeles for Games 6 and 7.
After the Lakers thoroughly dominated Game 6, fans were getting prepared for a much-anticipated Game 7.
It proved to be a defensive battle, with neither team able to find any offensive rhythm.
The Celtics led by as much as 13 points in the first half, before the Lakers cut the deficit to six before halftime.
The Lakers kept chipping away in the second half, and despite Kobe Bryant not playing his best game, the efforts of Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher and Ron Artest lifted the Lakers to their second consecutive championship.
6. 2002 Western Conference Finals vs. Sacramento Kings
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of the Los Angeles Lakers winning their third consecutive championship in 2002 was the Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers gained home-court advantage by splitting the first two games in Sacramento, before the Kings easily defeated them in Game 3.
In Game 4, Robert Horry hit a game-winning three-pointer, preventing the team from falling into a 3-1 series deficit.
After the two teams split Games 5 and 6, the Lakers won Game 7 and the series.
The Lakers eventually defeated the New Jersey Nets for their third straight championship.
5. 1988 NBA Finals vs. Detroit Pistons
After upending the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Detroit Pistons gave the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle.
In Game 6, Isiah Thomas had a performance for the ages. Thomas scored 43 points (25 of which came in the third quarter). But the performance was all for naught, as the Pistons were unable to finish off the Lakers in Game 6
The Lakers’ championship experience proved to be too much for the Pistons in Game 7, as Los Angeles captured their second consecutive championship.
James Worthy was named Finals MVP.
4. 1970 NBA Finals vs. New York Knicks
The Los Angeles Lakers were making their seventh NBA Finals appearance in nine years, still looking for their first title since moving to Los Angeles.
The Lakers would eventually fall to the New York Knicks in seven games, but the series provided two of the most dramatic moments in NBA history.
In Game 3, Jerry West hit a half-court shot to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the shot only counted for two points, seeing as the three-point shot was yet to be adopted. The Lakers would eventually lose in overtime.
Knicks forward Willis Reed was not expected to play in Game 7, due to a leg injury suffered in Game 6.
But Reed had other plans.
Reed scored the game’s first two baskets, before leaving the game.
After Reed’s heroic showing, the Knicks cruised to a 14-point victory in Game 7.
3. 1987 NBA Finals vs. Boston Celtics
The 1987 NBA Finals marked the third time in four years the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers faced one another in the NBA Finals.
With the Lakers holding a 2-1 series lead, Magic Johnson provided one of the most memorable shots in team history In Game 4.
Trailing by one point with just a few seconds remaining, Magic Johnson tore a page out of teammate Kareem-Abdul Jabbar’s playbook.
Johnson hit a “baby” skyhook over the outstretched arms of Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, giving the Lakers a 107-106 victory and a 3-1 series advantage.
The Lakers would go on to win the series in six games. Magic Johnson was named NBA Finals MVP for the third time in his career.
2. 1984 NBA Finals vs. Boston Celtics
Five years after Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced one another in the 1979 NCAA Championship Game, their rivalry was renewed in the 1984 NBA Finals.
It would be the first of three meetings in the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics in the 1980s.
After winning two of the first three games of the series, including a 137-104 blowout victory in Game 3, it appeared as though Magic and the Lakers were on their way to beating their counterparts from Beantown.
Boston stormed back by winning Games 4 and 5 (sparked by Kevin McHale’s clothesline of Kurt Rambis in Game 4) to take the 3-2 series lead. After the Lakers won Game 6 in Los Angeles, the stage was set for a Game 7 between the two most storied franchises in NBA history.
The Celtics won Game 7 111-102, sealing the franchise’s 15th championship.
Larry Bird was named the MVP of the series.
1. 1985 NBA Finals vs. Boston Celtics
After a tough loss in Game 7 of the 1984 Finals against the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers were looking for sweet redemption against Larry Bird and the Celtics in 1985.
The series got off to a terrible start for the Lakers. The team lost Game 1 by 34 points, in what would eventually be dubbed “The Memorial Day Massacre.”
Feeding off the embarrassment of the Game 1 loss, the Lakers went on to win four of the next five games, clinching the series in six games.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had his way with the Celtics, averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, being named NBA Finals MVP in the process.