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The 2002 NBA Playoffs were the postseason tournament of the National Basketball Association's 2001–02 season. This would be the final postseason that held best-of-5 first-round series; next year's postseason would see those series expanded to a best-of-7 format. The tournament concluded with the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers winning their third consecutive championship by sweeping the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets four games to none.

This tournament marked the return of playoff success for the Boston Celtics, who had last made the playoffs in 1995, and had made their last Eastern Conference finals appearance in 1988. The total number of playoff games for the NBA was 70 games including the NBA Finals. It also marked the last appearance of the Charlotte Hornets in the playoffs, as they moved the next year to New Orleans. Since the Charlotte Bobcats, the team that eventually replaced the Hornets, has not made the playoffs yet, this is also the last NBA playoff appearance to date for the city of Charlotte.



  First Round Conference Semifinals Conference Finals NBA Finals
1  Sacramento 3  
8  Utah 1  
  1  Sacramento 4  
  4  Dallas 1  
4  Dallas 3
5  Minnesota 0  
  1  Sacramento 3  
Western Conference
  3  L.A. Lakers 4  
3  L.A. Lakers 3  
6  Portland 0  
  3  L.A. Lakers 4
  2  San Antonio 1  
2  San Antonio 3
7  Seattle 2  
  W3  L.A. Lakers 4
  E1  New Jersey 0
1  New Jersey 3  
8  Indiana 2  
  1  New Jersey 4
  4  Charlotte 1  
4  Charlotte 3
5  Orlando 1  
  1  New Jersey 4
Eastern Conference
  3  Boston 2  
3  Boston 3  
6  Philadelphia 2  
  3  Boston 4
  2  Detroit 1  
2  Detroit 3
7  Toronto 2  

Playoff qualifying


Western Conference

Best record in NBA

The Sacramento Kings clinched the best record in the NBA, and earned home court advantage throughout the entire playoffs. However, when Sacramento lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers gained home court advantage for the NBA Finals.

Clinched a playoff berth

The following teams clinched a playoff berth in the West:

  1. Sacramento Kings (clinched Pacific division)
  2. San Antonio Spurs (clinched Midwest division)
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Dallas Mavericks
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Seattle SuperSonics
  8. Utah Jazz

Eastern Conference

Best record in conference

The New Jersey Nets clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference, and had home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Clinched a playoff berth

The following teams clinched a playoff berth in the East:

  1. New Jersey Nets (clinched Atlantic division)
  2. Detroit Pistons (clinched Central division)
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Charlotte Hornets
  5. Orlando Magic
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. Toronto Raptors
  8. Indiana Pacers

Western Conference

Champion: Los Angeles Lakers

First round

(1) Sacramento Kings vs. (8) Utah Jazz

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time (EST) TV Commentators
1 April 20 Utah 86 Sacramento 89 1-0 ARCO Arena NBC 3:00 Tom Hammond, Bill Walton & Steve Jones
2 April 23 Utah 93 Sacramento 86 1-1 ARCO Arena TBS 10:30 Mike Breen & P.J. Carlesimo
3 April 27 Sacramento 90 Utah 87 2-1 Delta Center NBC 3:00 Marv Albert, Bill Walton & Steve Jones
4 April 27 Sacramento 91 Utah 86 3-1 Delta Center TNT 10:30 Kevin Harlan, John Thompson & Danny Ainge
Sacramento wins series 3–1

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Seattle SuperSonics

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time (EST) TV Commentators
1 April 20 Seattle 89 San Antonio 110 1-0 Alamodome NBC 5:30 Mike Breen & P.J. Carlesimo
2 April 22 Seattle 98 San Antonio 90 1-1 Alamodome TNT 9:30 Kevin Harlan, John Thompson & Danny Ainge
3 April 27 San Antonio 102 Seattle 75 2-1 KeyArena NBC 5:30 Tom Hammond & Matt Guokas
4 May 1 San Antonio 79 Seattle 91 2-2 KeyArena TNT 10:30
5 May 3 Seattle 78 San Antonio 101 3-2 Alamodome TNT 9:30
San Antonio wins series 3–2

(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time TV Commentators
1 April 21 Portland 87 Los Angeles 95 1-0 Staples Center NBC 5:30et/2:30pt Tom Hammond, Bill Walton and Steve Jones
2 April 25 Portland 96 Los Angeles 103 2-0 Staples Center TNT 10:30et/7:30pt Mike Breen and P.J. Carlesimo
3 April 28 Los Angeles 92 Portland 91 3-0 Rose Garden Arena NBC 5:30et/2:30pt Tom Hammond, Bill Walton and Steve Jones
Los Angeles wins series 3–0

(4) Dallas Mavericks vs. (5) Minnesota Timberwolves

Dirk Nowitzki was virtually unstoppable in this series, averaging around 33 points and 16 rebounds per game.[1]

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time TV Commentators
1 April 21 Minnesota 94 Dallas 101 1-0 American Airlines Center NBC 3:00et/2:00ct Mike Breen & P.J. Carlesimo
2 April 24 Minnesota 110 Dallas 122 2-0 American Airlines Center TNT 9:30et/8:30ct Kevin Harlan, Danny Ainge & John Thompson
3 April 28 Dallas 115 Minnesota 102 3-0 Target Center NBC 3:00et/2:00ct Bob Costas & Mike Dunleavy
Dallas wins series 3–0

Conference Semifinals

(1) Sacramento Kings vs. (4) Dallas Mavericks

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 May 4 Dallas 91 Sacramento 108 1-0 ARCO Arena NBC 6:30et/3:30pt
2 May 6 Dallas 110 Sacramento 102 1-1 ARCO Arena TNT 9:00et/6:00pt
3 May 9 Sacramento 125 Dallas 119 2-1 American Airlines Center TNT 9:30et/8:30ct
4 May 11 Sacramento 115 Dallas 113 3-1 American Airlines Center NBC 3:30et/2:30ct
5 May 13 Dallas 101 Sacramento 114 4-1 ARCO Arena TNT 9:00et/6:00pt
Sacramento wins series 4–1

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Los Angeles Lakers

The Spurs led going into the fourth quarter of all five games, yet were able to win only one. Kobe Bryant would pace Los Angeles to two crucial victories in the Alamodome with 31 points in Game 3 and a go-ahead game winning bucket in Game 4[2], and would offset the steady production of Tim Duncan (who had a double double in all 5 games including 34 points and 25 rebounds in the series finale) with his fourth quarter heroics. It would be San Antonio's final two home games in the Alamodome, as they would move into the SBC Center (now the AT&T Center) the following year.

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 May 5 San Antonio 80 Los Angeles 86 1-0 Staples Center NBC 5:30et/2:30pt
2 May 7 San Antonio 88 Los Angeles 85 1-1 Staples Center TBS 10:30et/7:30pt
3 May 10 Los Angeles 99 San Antonio 89 2-1 Alamodome TNT 9:30et/8:30ct
4 May 12 Los Angeles 87 San Antonio 85 3-1 Alamodome NBC 5:30et/4:30ct
5 May 14 San Antonio 87 Los Angeles 93 4-1 Staples Center TBS 10:30et/7:30pt
Los Angeles wins series 4–1

Conference finals

(1) Sacramento Kings vs. (3) Los Angeles Lakers

The 2002 Western Conference Finals is widely regarded as one of the classic series in NBA history, with the final four games coming down to the final seconds. Two games were decided on game winning shots and Game 7 was decided in overtime. It was, however, marred by corruption allegations. On June 10, 2008, convicted NBA referee Tim Donaghy's attorney filed a court document alleging, among other things, that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings was fixed by two referees. The letter states that Donaghy "learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be 'company men', always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA's interest to add another game to the series." The Lakers won Game 6, attempting 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter, and went on to win the 2002 NBA Finals. The referees were not named, but the Western Conference Finals was the only seven-game series that year.

The document claimed that Donaghy told federal agents that in order to increase television ratings and ticket sales, "top executives of the NBA sought to manipulate games using referees". It also said that NBA officials would tell referees to not call technical fouls on certain players, and states that a referee was privately reprimanded by the league for ejecting a star player in the first quarter of a January 2000 game. Stern denied the accusations, calling Donaghy a "singing, cooperating witness".

The Lakers and Kings split the first two games in Sacramento. Los Angeles raced out to a 36 point first quarter in Game 1 behind 67 percent shooting, and never trailed, paced by Kobe Bryant's 30 point effort and 26 points from Shaquille O'Neal. Chris Webber had 28 points and 14 rebounds, but the rest of the Kings combined to shoot under 40 percent.[3] Sacramento rebounded to win Game 2, paced behind Webber (21 points and 13 rebounds) and Bibby (20 points). O'Neal had 35 points and rebounds but struggled with foul trouble; Bryant shot only 9-21 from the field and was suffering from a bout with food poisoning. This loss snapped the NBA record 12 game playoff road winning streak for Los Angeles.[4]

The Kings went to Staples Center and dominated Game 3 to wrest the homecourt advantage back to Sacramento, leading by as many as 27 and never trailing. They were again paced by Webber and Bibby, who combined for 50 points, and got solid contributions from Doug Christie (17 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) and Vlade Divac (11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks). Other than a brief 3 point barrage in the 4th quarter by the Lakers to cut the lead down to 11, there was not much help provided for O'Neal, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds.[5]

In Game 4, Sacramento again got out to an early start with a 40 point first quarter, as the Kings built a 24-point first half lead. However, faced with the prospect of falling behind 3-1, the Lakers came back to cut the lead to 14 at halftime and 7 after three quarters. They would whittle the lead down to 2 on the final possession with a chance to tie or win the game. Bryant drove the ball to the hoop and missed a running jumper. Shaquille O'Neal got the rebound and missed a layup and Divac intended to knock the ball to a teammate, but instead it wound up going to a wide open Robert Horry at the arc, who drilled a three-pointer over Chris Webber at the buzzer as time ran out and gave the Lakers an improbable victory, which tied the series going back to Sacramento. Horry scored 11 of his 18 points in the 4th quarter, including two more crucial three pointers. O'Neal finished with 27 points and 18 rebounds, Bryant with 25. Divac, Webber and Bibby all finished with 20 or more points for the Kings.[6]

As the series shifted back to Arco for Game 5, Sacramento trailed almost the entire fourth quarter, but a jump shot by Mike Bibby off a screen with 8.2 seconds left gave the team the lead and was the eventual game winner in a 92-91 win. Bibby scored 23 in all, and Webber had 29 points and 13 rebounds in support. Bryant led the Lakers with 30 points but missed a potential game winner; replays tended to show Bobby Jackson clearly grabbing his jersey on the shot, although no foul was called.[7] O'Neal had 28 points, but did not take a shot in the 4th quarter and fouled out; interestingly, O'Neal attempted only one free throw the entire game, despite attempting 18 field goals. For the game, the Kings enjoyed a significant free throw advantage, attempting 33 to the Lakers 23.[8]

In Game 6, O'Neal scored 41 points and had 17 rebounds in the Lakers' narrow victory, setting the stage for game seven in Sacramento, with the winner advancing to the NBA Finals. Bryant added 31 points in support. There are allegations that this sixth game was affected by the referees in relationship to the Tim Donaghy scandal.[9] The Lakers shot 40 free throws overall, a whopping 27 in the fourth quarter alone, and the Kings' big men were plagued with foul trouble (Divac, Webber, Scot Pollard, and Lawrence Funderburke were called for 20 fouls, Divac and Pollard both fouling out). Webber nearly had a triple double (26 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists), Bibby scored 23, and Divac had 12 points and 12 rebounds.[10]

Game 7 was a tense and dramatic affair, with 16 ties and 19 lead changes. Two free throws made by Bibby tied the score 100-100 and forced the game into overtime. But after O'Neal made two free throws to give Los Angeles the lead for good, the Kings would commit several crucial miscues down the stretch, eventually lost the game and the series to the Lakers. Sacramento was undone by poor free throw shooting (16-30 from the line) and a horrid 2-20 from behind the 3 point line, and a seeming unwillingness for anyone other than Bibby to take crucial shots down the stretch. Shaq would score 35 and Kobe 30 points in victory as all five Laker starters finished in double figures. Bibby would finish with 29 points and Webber finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists.[11] Despite Bibby's proclamations after Game 7 that the Kings and Lakers would have "many more years of this to come" [12], the two teams have not faced each other in the playoffs since - the Lakers won another NBA championship in 2009, while Sacramento has since traded Bibby and failed to make another deep playoff run.

Announcers: For NBC, Mike Breen would announce Game 1, Marv Albert Games 3-7; Bill Walton & Steve Jones would join them as the analysts for these games. TNT would have Kevin Harlan, Danny Ainge, & John Thompson on hand for Game 2.

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time (EST)
1 May 18 Los Angeles 106 Sacramento 99 0-1 ARCO Arena NBC 6:30
2 May 20 Los Angeles 90 Sacramento 96 1-1 ARCO Arena TNT 9:00
3 May 24 Sacramento 103 Los Angeles 90 2-1 Staples Center NBC 9:00
4 May 26 Sacramento 99 Los Angeles 100 2-2 Staples Center NBC 5:30
5 May 28 Los Angeles 91 Sacramento 92 3-2 ARCO Arena NBC 9:00
6 May 31 Sacramento 102 Los Angeles 106 3-3 Staples Center NBC 9:30
7* June 2 Los Angeles 112 Sacramento 106 3-4 ARCO Arena NBC 7:30
Los Angeles wins Western Conference Championship 4–3

Eastern Conference

Champion: New Jersey Nets

First round

(1) New Jersey Nets vs. (8) Indiana Pacers

Although the Nets would win this series in 5, it would be most remarkable for more Reggie Miller playoff heroics; Miller would bank in a 35 footer at the buzzer to force overtime, and then fly in for a dunk over three Net defenders with 3 seconds left in the extra session to force double overtime.[13]

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time (EST)
1 April 20 Indiana 89 New Jersey 83 0-1 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey NBC 12:30
2 April 22 Indiana 79 New Jersey 95 1-1 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey TNT 7:00
3 April 26 New Jersey 85 Indiana 84 2-1 Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis TNT 8:30
4 May 1 New Jersey 74 Indiana 98 2-2 Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis TNT 7:00
5** May 2 Indiana 109 New Jersey 120 3-2 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey TNT 7:00
New Jersey wins series 3–2

(4) Charlotte Hornets vs. (5) Orlando Magic

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 April 20 Orlando 79 Charlotte 80 1-0 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte TNT 8:30et
2* April 23 Orlando 111 Charlotte 103 1-1 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte TBS 8:00et
3* April 27 Charlotte 110 Orlando 100 2-1 TD Waterhouse Centre, Orlando NBC 12:30et
4 April 30 Charlotte 102 Orlando 85 3-1 TD Waterhouse Centre, Orlando TBS 8:30et
Charlotte wins series 3–1

(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (7) Toronto Raptors

This series involved two teams that had exceeded expectations during the season. The Detroit Pistons were coming off a year where they had lost 50 games. The Raptors had lost their star forward, Vince Carter, for the remainder of the season. As a result, the Raptors lost 13 straight games without him. Although they looked down and out of playoff contention, the Raptors went on a surge, winning 12 of their last 14 games, locking up the 7th seed. The home team won each game of the series, with the Pistons winning the decisive game 5 by 3 points. Raptors' Guard, Chris Childs, attempted to draw a foul on a three-point shot, instead of passing it to an open Dell Curry. In the post game interview, Childs stated that he thought the team was down by four points, not three. Detroit advanced to face the Boston Celtics in the second round.

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 April 21 Toronto 63 Detroit 85 1-0 The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills TNT 8:30et
2 April 24 Toronto 91 Detroit 96 2-0 The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills TNT 7:00et
3 April 27 Detroit 84 Toronto 94 2-1 Air Canada Centre, Toronto TNT 8:30et
4 April 29 Detroit 83 Toronto 89 2-2 Air Canada Centre, Toronto TNT 8:00et
5 May 2 Toronto 82 Detroit 85 3-2 The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills TBS 8:30et
Detroit wins series 3–2

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers

This series marked the return of the Celtics to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, and they faced the reigning Eastern Conference champion in the first round. The first two games were played in Boston, where the Celtics won both games resoundingly. The 76ers fought back, however, and with Allen Iverson scoring 42 points the 76ers won game three and stayed alive. In game four Iverson was slowed down, scoring 26 points on just 9-of-26 shooting, and Antoine Walker stepped up for the Celtics, scoring 25. But Iverson's play at the end making a layup, scoring off an Eric Snow steal, and hitting some free throws after Walker drilled a three sealed the victory for the 76ers. This set the stage for a game 5 in Boston to decide the series. The Celtics had control on this game throughout, but the 76ers kept within striking distance into the 4th quarter. But Boston went on an amazing streak of three-pointers, hitting an NBA playoff record nine of them in the 4th quarter and 19 in the game. Paul Pierce led the way with 46, on 8-10 shooting from downtown, and Boston won in a huge blowout, sending them to the conference semifinals to face second-seed Detroit.

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 April 21 Philadelphia 82 Boston 92 1-0 FleetCenter, Boston NBC 12:30et
2 April 25 Philadelphia 85 Boston 93 2-0 FleetCenter, Boston TNT 8:00et
3 April 28 Boston 103 Philadelphia 108 2-1 First Union Center, Philadelphia NBC 12:30et
4 May 1 Boston 81 Philadelphia 83 2-2 First Union Center, Philadelphia TNT 8:00et
5 May 3 Philadelphia 87 Boston 120 3-2 FleetCenter, Boston TNT 7:00et
Boston wins series 3–2

Conference Semifinals

(1) New Jersey Nets vs. (4) Charlotte Hornets

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 May 5 Charlotte 93 New Jersey 99 1-0 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey NBC 12:30et
2 May 7 Charlotte 88 New Jersey 102 2-0 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey TBS 8:00et
3 May 9 New Jersey 97 Charlotte 115 2-1 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte TNT 7:00et
4 May 12 New Jersey 89 Charlotte 79 3-1 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte NBC 12:30et
5 May 15 Charlotte 95 New Jersey 103 4-1 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey TNT 8:00et
New Jersey wins series 4–1

(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (3) Boston Celtics

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 May 5 Boston 86 Detroit 94 1-0 The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills NBC 3:00et
2 May 8 Boston 85 Detroit 77 1-1 The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills TNT 8:00et
3 May 10 Detroit 64 Boston 66 1-2 FleetCenter, Boston TNT 7:00et
4 May 12 Detroit 79 Boston 90 1-3 FleetCenter, Boston NBC 3:00et
5 May 14 Boston 90 Detroit 81 1-4 The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills TBS 8:00et
Boston wins series 4–1

Conference finals

(1) New Jersey Nets vs. (3) Boston Celtics

The Nets won game one, but Boston came back to steal game two in New Jersey to send the series back to Boston tied 1-1. In game three, the Celtics were down by 21 coming into the 4th quarter, but the Celtics accomplished the biggest comeback in NBA Playoff history as the Celtics outscored the Nets 41-16 in the fourth quarter. The Celtics almost completed another comeback in game four, but the Nets held on for the victory to tie the series at two games apiece. The Nets won games five and six to advance to the team's first of two consecutive NBA finals.

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time TV Commentators
1 May 19 Boston 97 New Jersey 104 1-0 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey NBC 5:30et Marv Albert & PJ Carlesimo
2 May 21 Boston 93 New Jersey 86 1-1 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey TNT 8:00et Dick Stockton & Hubie Brown
3 May 25 New Jersey 90 Boston 94 1-2 FleetCenter, Boston NBC 5:30et Mike Breen & PJ Carlesimo
4 May 27 New Jersey 94 Boston 92 2-2 FleetCenter, Boston NBC 5:30et Mike Breen & PJ Carlesimo
5 May 29 Boston 92 New Jersey 103 3-2 Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey NBC 9:00et Mike Breen & PJ Carlesimo
6 May 31 New Jersey 96 Boston 88 4-2 FleetCenter, Boston NBC 7:00et Mike Breen & PJ Carlesimo
New Jersey wins Eastern Conference Championship series 4–2

NBA finals

Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Jersey Nets

This was the third consecutive NBA finals appearance for the Lakers, and the first in team history for the Nets. In game one the Nets stayed within striking distance, but Shaquille O'Neal's 36 points and 16 rebounds led the Lakers to victory. In game two the Nets were blown out by 23 points, with O'Neal leading the way again, putting up 40 points and 12 rebounds and coming within 2 assists of a triple double. This brought the series to New Jersey with the Lakers up 2-0. Game three was a close matchup with Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant all scoring 26 or more points. Bryant and O'Neal's combined 71 was too much for the Nets to handle though, and the Lakers took a dominating 3-0 series lead. In game four, O'Neal put up 34 points and the Lakers won the game and the championship, accomplishing the NBA's first three-peat since Michael Jordan and the Bulls did so in 1998.

Game Date Visitor Score Home Score Record


Venue TV Time
1 June 5 New Jersey 94 Los Angeles 99 1-0 Staples Center, Los Angeles, California NBC 9:00et/6:00pt
2 June 7 New Jersey 83 Los Angeles 106 2-0 Staples Center, Los Angeles, California NBC 9:00et/6:00pt
3 June 9 Los Angeles 106 New Jersey 103 3-0 Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey NBC 8:30et/5:30pt
4 June 12 Los Angeles 113 New Jersey 107 4-0 Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey NBC 9:00et/6:00pt
Los Angeles wins NBA Championship series 4–0


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