The matchup for the 2021 NBA Finals is already set as the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks will begin their battle on July 6th. It is bound to be a thrilling affair between the two teams as they fight for the Larry O’Brien trophy, but it is certainly not a matchup that was expected at the start of the year.
Even though the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks were in the Top 3 of their respective conferences, few would have guessed they would make it to the finals before the start of the 2020-21 NBA season.
During the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the Phoenix Suns faced the favored LA Lakers in the first round. It looked as if Monty Williams’ team were headed for a first-round exit against the reigning champions. However, the Suns overcame Chris Paul‘s shoulder injury early in the series and took advantage of Anthony Davis’ late injury to seal the deal.
5 Duels that were not expected to happen in NBA Finals history
The Milwaukee Bucks had a similar situation in the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets had their ‘Big Three’ with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, but both Harden and Irving faced injury problems during the series and missed games.
Though the Nets always had two out of their three stars, the Milwaukee Bucks imposed their will in a stellar seven-game series.
To their credit, both the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks did their homework and had to cope with important players missing games too. Chris Paul missed the first two games of the Western Conference Finals as he was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo injured his left knee during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and his availability for Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals remains to be seen. The two-time MVP’s situation was described as a “day-to-day thing” by coach Mike
Though the matchup is a surprising one given the pre-season odds, the 2021 NBA Finals are still bound to be highly entertaining.
In this article, we will take a look at NBA Finals history and take five matchups that were not expected at the start of the respective campaigns.
#5 1990 NBA Finals
The ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons played in their third consecutive NBA Finals in the 1989-90 season and looked to become NBA champions once again. This was expected by many at the start of the NBA season. However, the Portland Trail Blazers were not fancied as potential finalists until it actually happened.
Magic Johnson‘s LA Lakers, in their first season without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, were looking to play in their fourth consecutive NBA Finals that year. It would have also been their third consecutive finals against the Detroit Pistons. A 63-19 regular-season record and the top seed in the league was a good start for Johnson and company.
However, the MVP and the LA Lakers were eliminated in the second round of the NBA Playoffs by the Phoenix Suns. The third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers made their way to the WCF, meanwhile, after beating the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.
Portland then took Phoenix down in the Western Conference Finals in six games to advance to the NBA Finals. In the East, things were easier to predict, with the ‘Bad Boys’ facing Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference and winning the series in seven games.
Eventually, the Detroit Pistons won their second consecutive NBA championship in a five-game NBA Finals series win over the Portland Trail Blazers and Clyde Drexler.
Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas earned Finals MVP honors.
#4 1986 NBA Finals
The 1985-86 NBA season happened in the middle of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era. The LA Lakers and Boston Celtics had met in the NBA Finals in the previous two campaigns, with each team winning once.
That season, the Boston Celtics were one of the best teams in league history. Their tremendous 67-15 regular-season record secured them home-court advantage throughout the postseason. The Eastern Conference postseason saw Boston go 11-1 and reach the NBA Finals.
However, arch-rivals ‘Showtime’ LA Lakers could not reach the NBA Finals. The top-seeded LA team was taken down by the ‘Twin-Tower’ Houston Rockets of Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon in the Western Finals.
Houston won the Western Conference Finals in five games, behind Sampson’s unbelievable shot at the end of Game 5 in dramatic style. Eventually, the Boston Celtics handed Houston a defeat in six games, exactly as they had done in the previous meeting between the two teams in the NBA Finals.