The Cleveland Cavaliers try to become the second team in NBA history to win the title by defeating two 60-win teams—without the benefit of Phil Jackson.
Apart from Dwyane Wade’s 2005-2006 champion Miami Heat, which beat both the Detroit Pistons and the Dallas Mavericks, teams that featured Phil Jackson as a coach or player remain the only teams to accomplish the feat:
|Season||Champion||Runner-Up||60-win teams defeated|
|1996-97||Chicago Bulls||Utah Jazz||Heat & Jazz|
|1995-96||Chicago Bulls||Seattle Supersonics||Magic & Sonics|
|1992-93||Chicago Bulls||Phoenix Suns||Knicks & Suns|
|1972-73||New York Knicks||Los Angeles Lakers||Celtics & Lakers|
Acoording to Basketball Reference, Phil Jackson was a solid contributor to the 1972-73 New York Knicks team that defeated the Boston Celtics and then the Los Angeles Lakers to take the title. The first time a team had defeated two 60-game winners in the same playoffs.
It did not happen for another 20 years, when Jackson coached Michael Jordan. Together they won six titles in eight years—three of them included wins over two 60-win teams.
There are only five teams to ever accomplish the feat. However, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the 60-win Atlanta Hawks to capture the Eastern Conference this year, and now have a two-game-to-one lead over the 67-win Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Two more wins and they become the second team to accomplish the feat without the benefit of Phil Jackson.
Some have tried to belittle the Cavs for coming out of a weak Eastern Conference. However, a Breitbart piece showed that unlike the NHL, the top seeds in NBA playoffs rarely lose to opening-round teams. Therefore, the fact that some weak teams grab the bottom playoff spots in the conference does not make much of a difference.
The Cavs ability to sweep a hot Celtics team, win in six games against a very good Chicago Bulls team, sweep a 60-win Hawks team and go up 2-to-1 against a 67-win Golden State team truly puts them in elite company.