Most common matchups in NBA Finals history


Two of the NBA’s most storied franchises are set to battle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The Golden State Warriors reached the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years after rolling through the Western Conference. The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, are chasing their 18th banner after earning a Finals berth for the first time in 12 years.

Though the two organizations have 34 Finals appearances and 23 championships combined, they have only clashed in the Finals once before. That first matchup came in 1964, back when the Warriors were in Philadelphia. The Celtics were in the midst of an eight-year title run and beat the Warriors in a gentleman’s sweep to claim the championship that season.

Fifty-eight years later, the Warriors and Celtics are meeting again. This will be just the 12th time in league history that one matchup has occurred in multiple Finals.

From long-standing rivalries to unusual duos, here are those 12 pairs of teams that have squared off in multiple Finals:

1. Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers - 12

1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1984, 1985, 1987, 2008, 2010

Record: Celtics 9-3

The most storied rivalry in basketball goes all the way back to the Lakers’ Minneapolis days. The Celtics dominated the early matchups, winning the first eight Finals showdowns. The Lakers have come back to win three of the last four, including the most recent tilt in 2010.

2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers - 6

1950, 1954, 1980, 1982, 1983, 2001

Record: Lakers 5-1

The Sixers were the Syracuse Nationals back when they met up with the Lakers in the 1950 and 1954 NBA Finals. The two teams then were the dominant Finals matchup of the early ‘80s with the Lakers winning in 1980 and 1982 before the Sixers prevailed in 1983. Their latest Finals matchup came in 2001 as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant earned the second title in their three-peat.

3. Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks - 5

1952, 1953, 1970, 1972, 1973

Record: Lakers 3-2

Like the Nationals, the Knicks lost to the Lakers twice in the Finals during the 1950s. The Knicks-Lakers matchup then was the prominent Finals series of the early 1970s with the Knicks winning their first – and only – two championships in franchise history.

T-4. Boston Celtics vs. St. Louis Hawks - 4

1957, 1958, 1960, 1961

Record: Celtics 3-1

The Celtics’ first title came against the Hawks in 1957, and the Hawks returned the favor by beating the Celtics for their first title in the following season. From there, Boston won the next eight NBA championships, including two against St. Louis.

T-4. Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - 4

2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Record: Warriors 3-1

The Warriors and Cavaliers made history in 2017 by becoming the first teams to meet in three consecutive Finals. They one-upped themselves in 2018 by making it four straight. Golden State won three of the four matchups, while Cleveland made history in 2016 on its way to its first NBA championship.

6. Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers - 3

1988, 1989, 2004

Record: Pistons 2-1

After falling to the Showtime Lakers in 1988, the Bad Boys Pistons won their first championship over Los Angeles in 1989. The two organizations faced off once again in 2004 with the Pistons pulling off a 4-1 series drubbing that put an end to O’Neal’s time in L.A.

T-7. Seattle SuperSonics vs. Washington Bullets - 2

1978, 1979

Record: Tied 1-1

The Bullets needed seven games to get past the Sonics in the 1978 Finals and secure their first championship. Seattle returned the favor the next season, earning its first championship with a five-game Finals triumph over Washington in 1979.

T-7. Boston Celtics vs. Houston Rockets - 2

1981, 1986

Record: Celtics 2-0

The first Celtics-Rockets Finals showdown came in 1981 with the Celtics winning in six games. In 1986, the basketball world was anticipating a Celtics-Lakers Finals rubber match, but the Rockets edged the Lakers in that year’s Western Conference finals. In the Finals, the Celtics once again prevailed in six games.

T-7. Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz - 2

1997, 1998

Record: Bulls 2-0

The Jazz got a front-row view of Michael Jordan’s “Last Dance.” Karl Malone had been named the league MVP prior to the 1997 Finals, but Jordan and the Bulls repeated as champions. Jordan won MVP the following season and capped the year off with his second championship three-peat, giving him the sixth and final title of his career.

T-7. Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks - 2

2006, 2011

Record: Tied 1-1

The two Heat-Mavericks Finals saw two completely different versions of Miami. In 2006, a young Dwyane Wade scored nearly 35 points per game and helped the Heat climb out of a 2-0 series hole on their way to their first ever NBA title. In 2011, Wade had LeBron James and Chris Bosh by his side, but Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavs edged the Miami superteam in six games. The Heat and Mavs were close to meeting in another Finals this season, but they were both eliminated in the conference finals.

T-7. Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs - 2

2013, 2014

Record: Tied 1-1

Speaking of the superteam Heat, their last two Finals runs together came against the Spurs. Miami won an iconic seven-game series in 2013 thanks to Ray Allen’s Game 6 heroics, giving the Heat back-to-back rings. San Antonio got some payback the following year, completing a gentleman’s sweep and winning their fifth NBA championship.

T-7. Boston Celtics vs. Golden State Warriors - 2

1964, 2022

Record: Celtics 1-0

The Celtics won their first Finals meeting against the Warriors. Wilt Chamberlain averaged over 29 points and 27 rebounds per game, but Bill Russell and Co. came out on top in a five-game triumph. Now, Steph Curry and Jayson Tatum are the faces of the franchises competing for the 2022 championship.



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