The Knicks–Pacers rivalry started in their first-round encounter, which New York won, 3–1. But it wasn't until the next two meetings (1994 and 1995) that the rivalry became even more intense, particularly due to Reggie Miller's heroics in the Garden that made him a household name and Indiana legitimate contenders in the East.
The Charlotte Hornets made their playoff debut. Their opening-round series versus Boston was also last time the Celtics made the playoffs with Kevin McHale, who retired after the series, and Robert Parish, who left as a free agent. Game 1 of the series was the final game of Reggie Lewis' career, as he collapsed during the first quarter and did not play for the rest of the series; he died in July of a heart attack.
Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals saw the Suns attempt sixty-four free throws while connecting on fifty-seven of them, both NBA postseason records.
Game 5 @ America West Arena, Phoenix (May 9): Phoenix 112, LA Lakers 104 (OT; Dan Majerle hits the game-tying shot with 13.6 seconds left to force OT; before winning Games 3, 4 and 5, former Suns head coach Paul Westphal guaranteed that they would come back from the 2–0 deficit)
Game 1 @ Boston Garden, Boston (April 29): Boston 112, Charlotte 101 (Celtics forward Reggie Lewis's final NBA game, he collapses on the court and did not play for the rest of the series; he dies 3 months later from a heart defect)
Game 2 @ Boston Garden, Boston (May 1): Charlotte 99, Boston 98 (2OT; Xavier McDaniel hits the game-tying jumper with 25.8 seconds left in regulation to force the first OT; Kevin McHale hits the game-tying jumper with 6 seconds left in the first OT to force the second OT)
Game 3 @ Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte (May 14): Charlotte 110, New York 106 (2OT; Alonzo Mourning hits the game-tying shot with 30.9 seconds left in regulation to force the first OT, then hits the game-tying free throws with 12 seconds left in the first OT to force the second OT)
Game 2 @ America West Arena, Phoenix (June 11): Chicago 111, Phoenix 108 (The team with home-court advantage in the NBA Finals loses the first two games at home for the first time ever)
Game 3 @ Chicago Stadium, Chicago (June 13): Phoenix 129, Chicago 121 (3OT; This game marks the second time in NBA Finals history that a game goes to triple OT after game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals; Horace Grant hits the game-tying 3-point play with 1:33 left in regulation to force the first OT; Tom Chambers hits the game-tying lay-up with 50.9 seconds left in the first OT to force the second OT; Dan Majerle hits the game-tying shot with 3.2 seconds left in the second OT to force the third OT)
The league's best team during the regular season, the Phoenix Suns, were on the verge of playoff elimination after losing the first two games at home against the No. 8 seeded Los Angeles Lakers. However, they recovered to win Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles to tie the series at 2–2. In Game 5, Dan Majerie hit a three-pointer to force overtime. The Suns eventually pulled away to win Game 5, 112–104, at home to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a #8 seed. This would happen the following postseason, when the No. 8 Denver Nuggets defeated the #1 Seattle SuperSonics 3–2 (The Nuggets came back from a 2–0 series deficit to pull it off).
Both #5 seeds, Charlotte and San Antonio, beat their No. 4 seeded opponent in the first round.
The fifth-year Charlotte Hornets made their playoff debut, and became the first of the 1988/89 expansion teams (Charlotte, Orlando, Minnesota, and Miami) to win a playoff series, beating Boston 3–1.
The New York Knicks took a 2–0 series lead over the Chicago Bulls in the Conference Finals. However, headlines in New York papers and tabloids angered and energized Bulls superstar Michael Jordan, who torched the Knicks for 54 points in Game 4  after shooting 3–18 in Game 3 to even up the series. This performance surpassed Sam Jones's 51-point game against the 1967 Knicks as the most points ever scored by a player against the Knicks in a playoff game. The Bulls went to Madison Square Garden, won Game 5 97–94, and clinched the series at home in Game 6 with a 96–88 victory.
Celtics' star Reggie Lewis fainted on the court during Game 1 against the Hornets. He briefly returned to the game before sitting out the rest of the series. He died less than three months later from a heart condition.
After the Suns defeated the Sonics in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, there were complaints[by whom?] about the free throw comparison between the two teams.
Game 6 of the Suns–Spurs series was the last game ever played at the HemisFair Arena.
The Cavaliers defeated the Nets in the Eastern Conference First Round, which was their last win in a playoff series until 2006. Game 5 of that series was also the last game played by Dražen Petrović, who died in a car accident five weeks later.