In the spirit of the NCAA Tournament, I have taken the last 16 NBA champions , seeded and match them up. Like the 2011 tournament, this was pretty difficult because all of the teams look the same, literally.....In the past 16 years, there have only been seven different franchises to win nba titles. Like the NCAA tournament, we are one and done!
16) 2011 Dallas Mavericks vs 1) 2001 Los Angeles Lakers
In front of a raucous SC crowd , the #1 overall seed, come out with a 22-7 run to start the game against the underdog Rockets. Shaquille controls the glass grabbing 10 first quarter rebounds and dominating the paint. Kobe is too much for the Mavericks despite the best efforts of Deshawn Stevenson to irritate the young Bryant. . The Mavericks got back into the game briefly in true mid major style with 3-pt shooting of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry but a late run by Kobe who pours in 39 points ends the Mavericks chances. Lakers 98, Rockets 88
9) 2007 San Antonio Spurs vs 8) 1998 Chicago Bulls
Popovich vs Jackson would duel it out one more time as the Spurs took on the Bulls. The Bulls struggled with quick point guards and it proved to be their undoing early as Tony Parker continunously broke down the Bulls scoring 24 points in the first three quarters as the Spurs led by six. In a move from 1991, Phil put Scottie Pippen on Parker to slow the penetration. Michael Jordan finally found this shot after being limited early by Bruce Bowen but the difference was Toni Kukoc who scored 10 big fourth quarter points to put the Bulls ahead for good
Bulls 90, Spurs 85
13) '99 San Antonio Spurs vs 4) 2008 Boston Celtics
The Twin Towers of Robinson and Duncan run into KG and Perkins whose rough and tumble tactics throw off the Spurs a bit but Admiral and Fundamental more than hold their own. The difference becomes Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen dominating Avery Johnson, Mario Elie, and Sean Elliott on both ends.... Rondo goes for 14 pts, 18 assists and Pierce and Allen each hit 25 as the Celtics roll 102- 90
12) '03 San Antonio Spurs vs 5) 2002 Los Angeles Lakers
Usually the 5-12 matchup is where you get the upset in the tournament, but not this time. The Prime years of Shaq combined with young and spry Kobe make this a no contest early. Tony Parker and Manu do their best to keep the game close, combining for 45 points but in the end its too much Shaqobe and too much depth for the Lake Show and the Lakers advance with a 105-85 win.
15) 2010 Los Angeles Lakers vs 2) 1997 Chicago Bulls- A 2 vs 15 usually isn't too interesting but with the two best two guards of their generations going head to head . The two veteran superstars started out the game feeling each other, letting their teammates get involved as both only took two shots in the first quarter. Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc paced the Bulls attack early while Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum used their size early. The Kobe vs MJ battle came to life midway through the second quarter when they were issued double technicals. The Bulls led 48-43 at half . In the second half, it became a one on one, with the two starts exchanging fadeways and midrange jumpers, Kobe scored 14 in the third, Jordan with 13 in the quarter as the Bulls held maintained their lead. In the fourth, Pippen took the challenge of Bryant and held Kobe to 1 for 7 in the quarter while Kukoc continued to make big shots and the Bulls went on to win 94-83
10) 2004 Detroit Pistons s vs 7) 2011 Miami Heat
The Big Three opened up their run in the tournament with a tricky first round matchup versus the 2004 Pistons. The game was a contrast in styles with the deliberate, team oriented style against the star power of the Heatles. The lead changed hands several times throughout the course of the game with the Pistons killing the Heat on the glass while Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh shouldered the offensive load. In the fourth quarter, the Heat were finally able to get a hold of the game led by Wades's 17 fourth quarter points to offset a subpar games by James. A Richard Hamilton three at the buzzer went down and out with a chance to tie and the Heat won 99-96 behind Dwayne Wade's 38 points
14) '2006 Miami Heat vs 3)2000 Los Angeles Lakers
Miami Shaq vs LA Shaq , Wade vs Bryant. Riley vs Jackson . A lot of hype but unfortunately like a lot of things, it failed to live up to the billing as the role players of the Lakers outplayed the Heat. Robert Horry and Derek Fisher combined to knock down nine threes (seven in the first half). The Prime Shaq then inserted himself into the game and finished with 27 and 18 while fouling out the older Shaq. LA won comfortably 101-83
11)2009 Los Angles Lakers vs 6) 2005 San Antonio spurs
The first upset of the tournament came as the Lakers and Spurs renewed their rivalry. The key to the game was the trio of Gasol , Bynum , and Odom using their size, skill, and athleticsm combining for 49 points and 31 rebounds. With Kobe played the role of facilitator scoring just 14 points and dishing out 10 assists, the Lakers kept the Spurs at bay and won 104-99
8) '98 Bulls vs 1) '01 Lakers
The "Last Dance" vs the Best Team of the 2000s, Phil vs Phil, MJ vs Kobe in different stages were among the many headlines in this quarterfinal contest. The Bulls seemed to be running on fumes as the Lakers jumped out to an early 15 point lead. The 35 year old Jordan struggled to deal with the younger spry Kobe during the contest. Bryant finished with 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals while the older Jordan struggled to 28 points on just 10 for 25 shooting. Shaq's 26 and 12 was too much for Longley ,Wennington on the inside and the Lakers cruised 103-87.
5) '02 Lakers vs 4) '08 Celtics
The Garden was alive as the hated Lakers came to visit the Celtics in this Elite 8 contest. Another back and forth contest that featured several twists and turns. Young Kobe got off to a hot start against Ray Allen scoring 22 first half points to stake the Lakers to a 8 point half time lead. The Celtics turned it up on the defensive end with Rondo pressing the slower Laker pg's to spark a rally...The fourth quarter featured Paul Pierce and Kobe exchanging body blows but the Lakers held a slim lead. With nine seconds left, Big Shot Rob appeared to hit the dagger, dropping a long 3 from the top of the key to give the Lakers a one point lead. However, Pierce had one more bullet hitting a fallaway bankshot as the buzzer went off to send the Celtics to the Final Four
7) '11 Heat vs 2) '97 Bulls
Could an aging Bulls dynasty hold off the Big 3? With many people predicting the demise of the older Bulls, a determined Jordan went to work early , posting up Wade early and getting him into foul trouble with 2 fouls in the first 4 minutes. Lebron shoulder the load early scoring 19 in the first half to offset Jordan's 15 and the Heat led at the half 49-46. The lead changed hands several times in the third quarter with Bosh getting involved while Jordan continued to attack and get to the line. The fourth quarter came down to two final possessions. Jordan's driving layup with 9 seconds gave the Bulls a 97-96 lead . The Heat had a chance to win but a Lebron jumper came up short . Jordan finished with 32 points (17-19 on the line) while Bosh led the Heat with 29.
11) '09 Lakers vs 3) '00 Lakers
Phil vs Phil but the story would be a motivated Shaq showing why he was MVP of the 99-2000 season. He ran the floor , controlled the paint, and dunked everything in sight. The Diesel put up 41 and 22 singlehandedly outscoring and outrebounding the entire Laker frontline, he was a oneman wrecking crew as the '00 Lakers coasted to a 101-81 win
This could have been called the Phil Jackson Invitational as Big Chief Triangle coached three of the four teams at the Dream Final Four
In the first matchup, the '01 Lakers looked for revenge against the '08 Celtics who knocked off the '02 team in the Elite 8. The Celtics got off to a slow start as Young Kobe played inspired against Pierce outscoring him 19 to 7 in the first half, complimented by Shaq's 15 and 10 to give the Lakers a 17 point lead In the second half the Celtics found their stride behind Ray Allen. After struggling in the first two games of the tournament, Allen erupted for 15 points on 5 for 5 three point field goals to get Boston back into the game, cutting the lead from 17 to 4 at the end of the quarter. The Lakers responded to start the fourth behind Shaq and got the lead back to ten. Boston was never able to get any closer as the '01 Lakers won 99-90.
In the second matchup, the '97 Bulls came out seething and blitzed the '00 Lakers 18-2 to start the game. the 34- year old MJ was determined to not let it become an all Lakers final, Shaq's early foul trouble did not help matters negating the one advantage the Lakers had. The Bulls were on fire as Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler and the bench pushed the Bulls lead to 22 at the end of the third. The Lakers turned on the pressure and got within 6 but MJ finished them off, scoring 13 of the Bulls final 18 points on his way to 42 points and the '97 Bulls won 103- 91.
THE TITLE GAME
A new record was set for the Title Game between the '97 Bulls and the '01 Lakers. 107,000 people were in attendence and of course all of the seats were approved to avoid the Super Bowl nightmare. Phil would face himself for the 5th time in the tournament, Kobe vs MJ for the 4th time. The game started with the '96 Bulls playing typical suffocating D forcing the '01 Lakers into 7 first quarter turnovers to lead by 10 at the end of the first. The Lake Show rallied in the third behind the 3pt shooting of Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher who combined for 8 made three's to give LA a 4 point lead at the break. The third quarter was a tense stalemate and LA maintained its four-point lead at 79-75 to start the fourth. Pippen took Kobe to start the fourth but Kobe was prepared making quick decisive moves rather than dribble to combat Pippen's length. LA Phil , trying to save Kobe's legs, assigned Ron Harper and Rick Fox to MJ. MJ 's eyes lit up and he hit his first six shot of the quarter as Kobe screamed to Phil "Let me cover him"....The game went back and forth, featuring great shot-making and spectacular defense...With the Bulls down two, MJ got to his sweet spot and hit a tough bank shot to tie it with 25 seconds left....The Lakers came down and dumped it to Shaq....Longley fouled Shaq with 18 seconds left...Shaq made the first, missed the second....Rebound to Rodman, Phil elected to not call a timeout like he has done before and let the team play through it...MJ brought it up court, Kobe almost shoved Rick Fox over to Pippen and took up the assignment of MJ....You could see the smirk of MJ met by the nodding of "Yes" by Kobe....One-on-One....The GOAT vs The Next One for the Ultimate Prize...
(don't you love a good cliffhanger?)