The Conference Finals stage is ready and the NBA playoff field is narrowed all the way down to 4.
The Celtics lead the pack with 21 conference appearances in franchise history, followed by Miami and Golden State who’re tied with nine, with Dallas rounding out the quartet with five appearances.
Meanwhile, the Recent Orleans Pelicans and the Charlotte Hornets are the lone franchises still trying to find their inaugural Conference Finals appearances.
Where do these measure against the highest of the league? We’ve got the top-five franchises with probably the most Conference Finals.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (23 appearances)
Recent history aside, the Lakers are still king of the dance. Their 23 Conference Final appearances – probably the most of any team from either conference — got here behind sustained dominance for over half a century.
The Lakers’ first major dry spell got here within the Nineteen Nineties once they missed the Conference Finals for six straight years. After a period of soul searching, they found their answer in drafting a high schooler by the name of Kobe Bryant in 1996. With Bryant on the helm, the Lakers made eight of the following 14 Western Conference Finals, winning five NBA Championships.
The top of Bryant’s profession and eventual retirement brought in regards to the slow decline of the franchise, as they struggled to maintain up with up-and-coming Western Conference rivals just like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors. From 2010 to 2019, the Lakers only appeared within the playoffs thrice, never making it past the second round. The Lakers reminded the world of their place on the NBA stage within the 2020 playoff bubble when LeBron James and Anthony Davis led them to their seventeenth NBA Championship over the Miami Heat.
2. Boston Celtics (21 appearances)
Celtics-Lakers is amongst probably the most elite rivalries in sports, joining the likes of Yankees-Red Sox and North Carolina-Duke. It goes beyond Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. It’s about banners and trophies.
Along with having 17 NBA champions of their very own, Boston leads Los Angeles in league MVPs (10 vs. 8), games won (3,513 vs. 3,460) and total head-to-head matchups (206-164). One area they trail? Conference Finals.
The Celtics have made significant ground prior to now decade, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals 4 of the past six seasons. With Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka in tandem on the front office, and the core of Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown still relatively young of their careers, there’s no reason to imagine they won’t surpass the Lakers within the near future.
In the event that they beat the Miami Heat within the upcoming series, they simply might need a likelihood to tip the scales of their favor with an 18th NBA title.
3. San Antonio Spurs (14 appearances)
While the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are the bluest of the blue bloods, San Antonio isn’t any longer the newcomer on the block. Throughout the 90s the Spurs quietly built a winning culture that took off with the addition of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
The Spurs’ Big Three, and eventual Big 4 with Kawhi Leonard, led San Antonio to 22-straight playoff appearances and five NBA titles. Inside that two-decade stretch, the Spurs became regulars within the Western Conference Finals with 10 appearances.
T-4. Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons (11 appearances)
Unlike the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, which is etched in tradition, the Bulls-Pistons is all in regards to the personalities. Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boys of Detroit took the NBA by storm within the late Nineteen Eighties, winning back-to-back titles and seemed poised to stake their claim on the Eastern Conference.
But along got here Michael Jordan, and the Pistons were suddenly a thing of the past, playoff contenders that struggled to get past the primary round, while the Chicago Bulls built an empire on six championships.
It’s been over a decade since either team has made the Eastern Conference Finals.
T-5. Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns (10 appearances)
It would come as a surprise to see each these teams so high on the list, considering they combined for a grand total of 1 NBA Championship, but there’s little doubt they’ve had stretches of dominance within the Western Conference.
In 41 seasons in Seattle, the Sonics made the Conference Finals six times, winning the franchise’s lone NBA title in 1979. One bitter relocation and rebranding later, they settled in Oklahoma City, giving 30-year-old Sam Presti the keys to construct a winning culture. Presti did just that and more, drafting three-straight NBA MVPs and helping the Thunder reach the Western Conference Finals 4 times from 2011 to 2016.
The Suns, then again, are only recently returning to relevance after a decade-long playoff dry spell. Their original hey day got here within the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s with Shawn Marion, Kevin Johnson and Steve Nash all giving Arizona plenty to rejoice. Despite 10 Conference Finals appearances, the Suns’ trophy case has one big emptiness – the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
After their second-round loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix is left to attend one other yr.