It's been 18 years since the NBA Finals last featured two first-time finalists. Here's a look at those teams and the other teams that have since made their first trip to the Finals.A timely injury to Bill Walton and an NBA landscape awash in parity (only three teams won more than 49 games) allowed the Seattle SuperSonics to make their first Finals appearance in 11 NBA seasons. This team started the season by losing 17 of its first 22 games before Lenny Wilkens took over as coach and reeled off a 42-18 finish. Led by hotshot scorers Gus Williams and Fred Brown and the interior presence of Marvin Webster, Seattle won 13 of 18 playoff games before being taken down in Game 7 by the ...
2 of 12NBA Photo Library
1978 Washington Bullets
... then Washington Bullets. Coach Dick Motta relied on a deep group that boasted semi-stars Mitch Kupchak and Greg Ballard as bench contributors, while the beefy Wes Unseld held serve down low. The 34-year-old center averaged nearly 12 rebounds in just 33 minutes of action while dishing 4.1 assists per game -- some of which came off 70-foot outlet passes. Elvin Hayes, however, was Washington's transcendent star. He averaged 19.7 points and 13.3 rebounds on the season, joining Unseld and Bobby Dandridge in a legendary frontcourt that gave Washington its only NBA title.
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1981 Houston Rockets
The only sub-.500 team to make the NBA Finals (40-42 in the regular season), the Rockets harnessed their many talents in time for a strong postseason run. Coach Del Harris's bunch started by dispatching a Magic Johnson-less (torn knee cartilage) Los Angeles Lakers squad and downed a formidable 52-win San Antonio team in the second round. Their prize in the conference finals was a 40-win Kansas City group that barely stood a chance against Moses Malone, Robert Reid and Calvin Murphy. The Rockets lost to the Boston Celtics in six games in the Finals.
4 of 12Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
1988 Detroit Pistons
This team stood out amongst the NBA's mid-80s elite, acting as though a Finals appearance was its birthright, despite the team's relative lack of star power. Chuck Daly fostered an "us against the world" ethos that spoke right to Isiah Thomas, who led his group of rangy defenders (Dennis Rodman, John Salley) and rock-solid scorers (Adrian Dantley, Vinnie Johnson, Joe Dumars) to their first Finals appearance. Detroit suffered a big blow when Thomas sprained his ankle in Game 6 and ended up losing the series in seven games to the Lakers.
5 of 12Manny Millan/SI
1991 Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan's first Finals appearance was a long time coming. His Chicago Bulls lost three straight first-round series from 1984 to '86, followed by a conference semifinals loss and back-to-back conference finals setbacks in 1989 and '90. Though Phil Jackson's team owned the home court advantage over the Lakers in the '91 playoffs, Magic Johnson's veteran group was the favorite. After the Lakers stole Game 1 in Chicago (with Jordan missing a shot in the game's final seconds), His Airness responded with a 15-of-18 shooting night in Game 2, and the Bulls took all three games in Los Angeles for their first title.
6 of 12John W. McDonough/SI
1995 Orlando Magic
This was supposed to be the first of many NBA Finals for the young Orlando Magic, who boasted the game's best pair of 23-year-olds (Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway). Their inexperience showed in the Finals, where they were swept by the sixth-seeded Houston Rockets. Fourteen months later, Shaq was off to L.A.
7 of 12John W. McDonough/SI
1997 Utah Jazz
The league's premier also-rans, the Jazz won 50 games for seven straight seasons before winning 64 in 1996-97 and taking in their first Finals. Utah played Chicago tough but fell in six games.
8 of 12John Biever/SI
1999 San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were the class of a nasty season dominated by labor strife and out-of-shape players. San Antonio dominating both the regular season and the playoffs with a high-low pivot attack that featured David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Duncan blossomed in his second season into a devastating low-post threat, while Robinson overcame his own diminishing offensive skills by developing into a defensive-minded role player. Point guard (and current Dallas coach) Avery Johnson hit the game-winning jumper in Game 5 of the Finals against the Knicks.
9 of 12John Biever/SI
2000 Indiana Pacers
Though the Pacers made five ABA Finals, winning three, it took until their 24th NBA season for them to make it to the final round. It was a charmed year for Larry Bird's team; they spent the season relatively injury-free and took on a different look once Bird placed Jalen Rose in the starting lineup. After taking down the Bucks, the 76ers and the Knicks to reach the Finals, Indiana lost in six games to the Lakers.
10 of 12Manny Millan/SI
2002 New Jersey Nets
Emerging from an Eastern Conference that was at its lowest ebb, Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets dashed to the NBA Finals a year after a Stephon Marbury-led Nets team won only 26 games. Kidd's presence (and Marbury's absence) alone wasn't enough to put the Nets over the top -- they also took in a full year from Kerry Kittles, a fully healthy year from Kenyon Martin and got help from additions such as rookie Richard Jefferson and third-year big man Todd MacCulloch. An underrated defensive club, the Nets were downed in four by the Lakers in the Finals.
11 of 12Bob Rosato/SI
2006 Miami Heat
Though Miami is a Finals neophyte, the Heat feature three members with extensive Finals experience. Coach Pat Riley has presided over 46 Finals games (not including 16 as a player), Shaquille O'Neal has played in 24 (winning three Finals MVP awards) and Gary Payton is playing in his third Finals with as many teams.
12 of 12John W. McDonough/SI
2006 Dallas Mavericks
Since entering the league in 1980, Dallas has been to the playoffs 12 times, including three conference finals appearances. The team has radically changed from the group that nearly made the Finals in 2003. Only Avery Johnson (then a third-string point guard), sometimes-starter Adrian Griffin and all-world forward Dirk Nowitzki remain.
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