Thanks to huge last-minute threes by both LeBron James and Ray Allen, and a missed free throw that is sure to keep Kawhi Leonard up at night, the Heat staged an improbable comeback, pushing the Spurs into overtime and winning what will surely go down in history as one of the greatest games in NBA playoff history. But let’s be honest, it was only game 6, and everyone knows where the real money is—the one and done, do or die, win or go home, game 7.
The 2013 NBA Finals have been a series to remember. With the Spurs and Heat trading games back and forth, it seemed from the start like a battle destined to go the distance, and now it will.
Larry Bird is revered for his epic battles with Magic and the Lakers, but what he had to get through in the earlier rounds is too often forgotten. Case in point, the 1988 Eastern Semis against Atlanta. The series went 7 games and saw the Celtics overcome an absolutely dominant 47 point performance by Dominique Wilkins, thanks in no small part to Larry Legend’s 34 points, an unbelievable 20 of which came in the final quarter. The Celts would win the game 118-116, but lose in the Eastern Finals to the Pistons.
En route to their first championship together, Shaq and Kobe were nearly derailed by the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. Down by fifteen points in the fourth quarter, this game appeared to be all but over until the purple and gold went on a 15-0 run to knot things up. Most fans though, will remember it for the massive alley-oop dunk from Kobe to the Diesel that capped the win and effectively started another Lakers dynasty.
In defense of the title they had won the year before, Houston faced an uphill battle as the Western Conference six seed, needing to beat four teams with better records than them if they hoped to repeat as champs. And while they eventually would, their toughest test came in the semis against Phoenix, a series that went 7 games and ended with 115-114 win on a last-second Mario Elie three-pointer.
It’s a game that the Spurs’ current big three may not remember too fondly, but it was definitely one for the ages. In a series in which 5 of the previous 6 games had been decided by 5 points or less, game 7 promised to be a burner, and boy was it. With Dirk Nowitzki netting 37 points and Tim Duncan 41, the superstars lived up to their billing in a game 7 that featured two 60-win teams, a 20-point Spurs comeback, and an eventual 119-111 Mavs win in overtime.
This game took place back before most of us can even remember. When men were men and shorts were underwear. But on their way to what would be the first of just a ridiculous run of NBA championships, Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics had to win the greatest game 7 in league history. In what is still the only game 7 in NBA Finals history to go into double overtime, Bob Pettit and the then St. Louis Hawks gave the Celtics all they could handle, but eventually lost 125-123.