Heat vs. Nuggets: Revisiting top regular season NBA Finals rematches

The Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets will face off on Thursday for the first time since the 2023 NBA Finals. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Miami Heat and the Nuggets will meet in Denver on Thursday in a rematch of the 2023 NBA Finals.

Denver defeated Miami in five games for its first NBA championship in June. A rematch in the 2024 NBA Finals is not entirely out of the question -- the Nuggets are third in the West, while the Heat are fifth in the East.

Though the hype of an NBA Finals matchup is difficult to replicate in the immediate regular season, some title rematches can make headlines.

Here's a look back at some notable ones through the years.

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 1987

Game result: Lakers win 115-114

NBA Finals series: Lakers win 4-2

The Celtics and Lakers met three times in the NBA Finals during the 1980s. However, this regular-season rematch is arguably one of the best games between the two that decade.

The Celtics went up by three with just under a minute remaining, but the Lakers tied it with a Michael Cooper 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.

The score remained tied until Danny Ainge was fouled with three seconds remaining and split the free throws. Magic Johnson then banked in a fading long 2-pointer to give Los Angeles a momentous win, stunning the Boston Garden crowd.

Johnson had 18 points, 17 assists and eight rebounds, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar added 23 points and eight rebounds. Larry Bird had a game-high 35 points and five steals alongside nine rebounds and eight assists.

Seattle SuperSonics vs. Chicago Bulls, 1997

Game result: Bulls win 91-84

NBA Finals series: 1996, Bulls win 4-2

The Bulls and SuperSonics entered a rematch of the previous season's Finals as two of the top teams in the NBA. Chicago was in the midst of an eight-game win streak, while Seattle had just two losses in the past month.

Just like the NBA Finals, the Bulls came out on top, controlling the majority of the game after setting the tone with a 27-15 first-quarter lead. Michael Jordan was Chicago's only scorer to reach double digits with a 45-point, seven-rebound performance. Gary Payton had 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

The two teams faced off again later in the season, where the Bulls won in overtime.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, 2011

Game result: Celtics win 109-96

NBA Finals series: Lakers win 4-3

These two rivals squared off in an epic series half a year before meeting again in January 2011, a game Paul Pierce called an emotional one.

Boston, which acquired Shaquille O'Neal in the offseason, took care of business behind a strong second half.

The Celtics big four of Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo combined for 81 points. Rondo added 16 assists to his 10 points, while Garnett had 13 rebounds and five assists alongside his 18 points. Kobe Bryant had a game-high 41 points, but nobody else on the Lakers had more than 20 points as they endured their fourth loss in seven games.

Los Angeles got a revenge win in a Feb. 10 matchup on the road, but these two franchises have yet to meet in the Finals since.

Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 2012

Game result: Heat win 103-97

NBA Finals series: Heat win 4-1

An eventful Christmas Day matchup between two of the NBA's top teams included nine ties, eight lead changes and five technical fouls.

Down by three with 15 seconds remaining, the Thunder had two shots to tie the score -- a Durant 3-pointer then a Russell Westbrook attempt. Both missed and the Heat collected the rebound to secure a victory. Westbrook slammed the scorer's table in frustration after his miss.

Durant had a game-high 33 points, while Westbrook added 21 points and 11 rebounds. LeBron James led Miami with a trademark stat line: 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Dwyane Wade scored 21 points and grabbed five rebounds.

James had a simple response postgame that summed up the intense matchup: "I'm tired as hell right now."

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, 2016

Game result: Cavaliers win 109-108

NBA Finals series: Cavaliers win 4-3

A memorable NBA Finals comeback led to arguably the best rematch between opponents in the upcoming season. The Warriors added Kevin Durant in the offseason on a team that went 73-9 last season, adding extra star power.

But it was for naught, as Cleveland mustered another comeback. Down by three with 1:05 remaining, the Cavaliers kept the Warriors scoreless and Kyrie Irving's jump shot with three seconds left gave them the win.

Durant had a game-high 36 points and 15 rebounds, while James had 31 points and 13 rebounds. Irving added 25 points, 10 assists and a then-career-high seven steals.

They faced off again in the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals.