Central Division (NBA)

Central Division (NBA)

The Central Division is a division in the Eastern Conference of the NBA. The current divisions have been active since the start of the 04-05 season. The Detroit Pistons won the Central Division consecutively in the 04-05, 05-06, and 06-07 seasons. Before the divisions changed for the 04-05 season the Central division consisted of the teams listed below and the Raptors, Hawks, and Hornets. It was considered to be one of the strongest divisions top to bottom in the NBA when all five teams made the playoffs in the 05-06 season. Two teams that are considered to be title contenders, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, are in this division.

In addition a "Central Division" existed in the 1949-50 NBA season with Minneapolis Lakers, Rochester Royals, Chicago Stags, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and St. Louis Bombers as participating teams, with eventual champions Minneapolis topping the group . The Central Division of the 1949-50 season is not related to the present Central Division that started on 1970.


Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers met MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1988 first round playoffs. No one expected the Cavs to push Jordan and the Bulls as hard as they did as they forced a deciding fifth game. Though the Cavs lost that fifth game, a new rivalry was born between two teams eager to be next in line as one of the best teams in the East.

Bolstered by their performance, the talented Cavs worked their routine for the '89 season to attain the second best record (57-25) in the east. And with the fracturing of the talented but selfish team ethic of the Bulls, the Cavs seemed poised to avenge their rematch with Chicago in the first round. The Cavaliers swept the 1988-89 season series against the Bulls [6-0] [ [http://www.databasebasketball.com/teams/teamscores.htm?tm=CLE&yr=1988&lg=n Databasebasketball.com: "Cleveland's '88 Season"] ] , outscoring the Bulls 635 to 561. True to form, the series went to a deciding fifth game. But with three seconds left on the clock Jordan scored one of the most famous game winning shots in basketball history. Dubbed "The Shot" by Cleveland fans, Jordan shot over the outstretched arm of Craig Ehlo to score a buzzer-beater. While the Cavs would rebuild and recover over the next three years, the Bulls would go on to championship status before their next meeting.

In 1992 the second seeded Cavs met the top seeded champion Bulls in the Eastern Finals. Though putting on another tough effort, the Bulls beat the Cavs 4-2, but not before Cavs reserve Danny Ferry attacked Michael Jordan with a flurry of seemingly unprovoked punches in one game. The Bulls went on to win their second NBA title.

The two teams met again in the 1993 semifinals but the underdog Cavs were swept by Jordan and the Bulls on the way to their third NBA title. Jordan's game winning shot in Game Four only went further to prove that the Cavs seemed cursed never to defeat number 23.

With Jordan's unexpected retirement prior to the '94 season, the Cavs readied themselves to finally end the Chicago curse. Meeting once again in the first round play-offs, the Cavs would once again face defeat. Though Jordan was gone, Scottie Pippen would lead Chicago to a 3-0 sweep over Cleveland, and prove that it was the team, not Jordan, who beat the Cavs. The Cavs would remain an unremarkable team throughout the rest of the decade while the Bulls would go on to win three more championships.

Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons

The rivalry started in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The aggressive Bad Boy Pistons were a team on the rise. Michael Jordan was the league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year and the ultimate challenge for Detroit's rugged, top-notch defense. Despite Jordan's individual talents (or perhaps because of them) the Bulls lacked the talent and physical and mental toughness to beat the Pistons who ravaged the Bulls in only five games. The Pistons would go on to upset the Boston Celtics and win their first conference title since they moved from Fort Wayne.

In 1989, the Pistons were stronger than ever, posting the league's best record of 63-19. The sixth seeded Bulls (47-35) had surprising success in the playoffs by beating the superior Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25 won-loss record) 3-2 with "The Shot." The Bulls upset the Atlantic Division Champs, the New York Knicks, coached by Rick Pitino, 4-2. The Bulls then squared off to meet the team that was to become their greatest rival, the Detroit Pistons, in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls miraculous success seemed to continue as they took an early 2-1 lead over the Pistons. But the Pistons clamped down and employed the supposed "Jordan Rules" (which consisted of solely targeting Jordan) which worked so well for them the year prior. The Pistons took a stand and won three straight and would go on to win their first NBA title in the next round.

For the following 1989-90 season under new coach Phil Jackson the Bulls sought to subvert the "Jordan Rules" by focusing on the triangle offense or triple post offense refined by assistant coach Tex Winter. By sharing responsibility rather than shouldering it, Jordan led the Bulls to the second best record in the East at 55-27...behind the ever-tough defending champion Pistons who finished 59-23. In a pre-destined Eastern Conference Finals rematch, the Bulls pushed the Pistons like never before by forcing the series to seven games. But the Pistons showed their dominance by winning a brutal Game Seven at home by a score of 93-74. It was in this pivotal Game Seven that Scottie Pippen would suffer a migraine headache, leading many to speculate that with a healthy Pippen the Bulls may have been ready to supplant the Pistons as the best team in the East. The Pistons would go on to win their second consecutive NBA title the following round against the Portland Trail Blazers.

These growing pains resulted in a stronger than ever Bulls the following season in 1990-91. With a greater concentration on teamwork, the Bulls posted the best record in the Eastern Conference with a 61-21 win-loss record and Jordan regained the MVP award after years of being accused of being a selfish player. At the same time the Piston's armor was starting to crack by old age and injury. After their upset of the Atlantic Division champ Boston Celtics 4-2 in the Conference semifinals, it was now the Pistons with something to prove as they met a title poised Chicago. Still, some doubted the Bulls and maintained that the Pistons psychological edge and bench strength would loom over the series. But three years of aches and bruises allotted the Bulls a drive that not only inspired the greatness necessary to defeat the Pistons, but the greatness necessary to conquer a decade. Proving their growth, the Bulls swept the Pistons 4-0 and ended the rivalry on a triumphant note. Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Mark Aguirre of the Pistons, in their last show of defiance, walked off the court with :04 left on the clock so as not to congratulate the new Eastern Conference Champions. In the next round the Bulls defeated Magic Johnson and the Lakers to capture their first NBA crown. The Pistons incidentally continued to deteriorate over the years while the Bulls were just beginning their dominance of the decade.

The rivalry was restored in the 2006 offseason when free agent Ben Wallace, the cornerstone of the Pistons' defense, stunned the league when he signed with the Pistons' rivals of old, the Chicago Bulls.

Detroit Pistons vs. Indiana Pacers

This rivalry began brewing during the 2003-2004 season. The Pacers, finished with a league best 61 wins, and were not shy about reminding others, especially the Pistons, of that feat. The Pacers were led by Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest, and Reggie Miller, and were coached by Rick Carlisle, who'd been fired by Detroit at the end of the previous season. Detroit was led by Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, and Richard Hamilton. Their Coach at the time was Larry Brown. Indiana won the first three matchups between the two teams during the regular season, before being defeated by the Pistons in the final regular-season meeting at the Palace. That was also the first time the two teams met after Rasheed Wallace was traded to Detroit.

The two teams met in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. Indiana narrowly won Game One thanks to some late heroics from Miller. Rasheed Wallace, unimpressed by the Pacers, boldly stated "They Will Not Win Game Two" during an interview before the second game (locally known as the "Guaran-Sheed" victory). Late in Game Two, with Detroit holding a two-point lead, Billups turned over the ball, and Reggie Miller appeared to have an uncontested lay-up that would've tied the game. However, before Miller could score, he was chased down by Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince, who leapt from behind and swatted away Miller's shot in a spectacular play. Detroit went on to win four of the next five games and took the series 4-2. The Pistons went on to win the NBA title, while the Pacers bitterly stewed. During Game Six of the Conference Finals, with Detroit clinging to a slight lead, Artest committed a flagrant foul on Hamilton, nearly causing tempers to boil over near the end of the game.

The following season, on November 19, 2004, at the Palace of Auburn Hills, with less than a minute left in the game, Indiana led 97-82. As Pistons center Ben Wallace went up for a layup, Indiana's Ron Artest hit Wallace with a hard foul from behind. Wallace took exception and attacked Artest, shoving him in the face. Wallace than engaged in a verbal spat with Artest and a timeout was called to cool down the players. Artest tried to keep his cool so he went to the scorer's table and laid down. As he lay on the table, Artest was suddenly hit in the chest by a cup of beer thrown by a fan. Artest shockingly went into the crowd and tried to find the person who threw the beer at him. Four other Pacers, Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson, David Harrison, and Anthony Johnson also fought with fans. All were suspended for varying lengths (Jackson: 30 games, O'Neal: 15 games, Harrison and Johnson: six games, Reggie Miller: one game for leaving the bench to restrain Artest), with Artest carrying the longest penalty: the entire season. From the Pistons, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Coleman, Elden Campbell were suspended one game a piece, and Ben Wallace was suspended for six games.

The Pacers battled through the suspensions, while the Pistons fought off an early season malaise that they attributed to their winning the NBA title the previous year. The teams split the four regular season meetings. Again, the two teams met in the playoffs, this time in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. After Detroit handily took Game One at The Palace, Indiana scored a stunning upset win in Game Two. The Pacers, although blowing an 18-point lead, won Game Three in Indianapolis. However, just as he did a year ago, Rasheed Wallace promised a Pistons win for Game Four by saying, "When we return [to Detroit] , we will be tied at 2-2." The Pistons rebounded with blow out wins in Games Four and Five, leading to Game Six in Indianapolis. The Pacers, knowing a loss would lead to the retirement of Miller, fought hard, but fell to the Pistons. It was the second consecutive year the Pistons won a series over Indiana in six games.

Current standings

Former teams in the Central Division

Now in Southeast Division

*Atlanta Hawks
*Orlando Magic
*Washington Bullets (now Wizards)

Now in Southwest Division

*Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets
*Houston Rockets
*San Antonio Spurs

Now in Other Divisions

*Cincinnati Royals (Pacific, as Sacramento Kings)
*New Orleans Jazz (Northwest, as Utah Jazz)
*Toronto Raptors (Atlantic)

Central Division champions

* 1971: Baltimore Bullets
* 1972: Baltimore Bullets
* 1973: Baltimore Bullets
* 1974: Capital Bullets
* 1975: Washington Bullets
* 1976: Cleveland Cavaliers
* 1977: Houston Rockets
* 1978: San Antonio Spurs
* 1979: San Antonio Spurs
* 1980: Atlanta Hawks
* 1981: Milwaukee Bucks
* 1982: Milwaukee Bucks
* 1983: Milwaukee Bucks
* 1984: Milwaukee Bucks
* 1985: Milwaukee Bucks
* 1986: Milwaukee Bucks
* 1987: Atlanta Hawks
* 1988: Detroit Pistons
* 1989: Detroit Pistons
* 1990: Detroit Pistons
* 1991: Chicago Bulls
* 1992: Chicago Bulls
* 1993: Chicago Bulls
* 1994: Atlanta Hawks
* 1995: Indiana Pacers
* 1996: Chicago Bulls
* 1997: Chicago Bulls
* 1998: Chicago Bulls
* 1999: Indiana Pacers
* 2000: Indiana Pacers
* 2001: Milwaukee Bucks
* 2002: Detroit Pistons
* 2003: Detroit Pistons
* 2004: Indiana Pacers
* 2005: Detroit Pistons
* 2006: Detroit Pistons
* 2007: Detroit Pistons
* 2008: Detroit Pistons

Central Division titles

* 9: Detroit Pistons
* 7: Milwaukee Bucks
* 6: Chicago Bulls
* 5: Washington Bullets
* 4: Indiana Pacers
* 3: Atlanta Hawks
* 2: San Antonio Spurs
* 1: Cleveland Cavaliers
* 1: Houston Rockets


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