Where Brooklyn Nets-Chicago Bulls Classic Ranks Among Best OT Playoff Games Ever
Nate Robinson and Joe Johnson traded clutch shots, Kirk Hinrich played 60 minutes, and two gritty Eastern Conference squads combined to score 276 points.
The Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets created a triple-overtime instant classic on Saturday that's sure to go down in history as one of the greatest overtime playoff games of all time.
But where does it rank against the best overtime postseason tilts we've ever seen?
Massive individual performances and impossibly contentious contests have been around for a while. Not all of them manage to go to triple overtime like the one between the Bulls and Nets did, but there are plenty of other ways to generate drama.
LeBron James used an Eastern Conference finals overtime performance to announce his ascension not so long ago. Looking further back, there's a true classic between the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics that cannot be forgotten.
Oh, and Michael Jordan's playoff-record 63 points is in there somewhere, too.
The tilt between the Nets and Bulls was incredible, but was it historically great?
5. Vintage Hakeem
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Hakeem Olajuwon's Houston Rockets lost the game and the series to the Seattle SuperSonics (remember them?), but The Dream's 49-point, 25-rebound, six-block effort was good enough to get this game on the list by itself.
Toss in 36 points for Dale Ellis and 37 for Tom Chambers, and it's easy to see why this one has stood the test of time.
And as great as Olajuwon's box score looked, Nate McMillan's might have been even better.
In 36 minutes, the Sonics guard scored zero points, took just five shots, dished out 16 assists, grabbed eight rebounds and committed just one turnover. Zero points in a double-overtime game? Come on, Nate, get a shot up!
Seattle's 128-125 victory earned it a date with the mighty Los Angeles Lakers, who handily dispatched the Sonics in a four-game sweep. And nobody ever heard from that Olajuwon guy again.
4. Robinson and Johnson Trade Buckets in Triple-OT Thriller
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Down 14 points with 3:35 to play, the Bulls roared back to stun the Nets in Game 4 of their first-round series on Saturday.
But they needed three overtimes to do it.
Robinson had been involved in a dust-up with C.J. Watson earlier in the game, floored by a Gerald Wallace screen and was generally slogging through a typically brutal contest between these two physical squads.
After making up the massive deficit in the fourth, the Bulls went into overtime and appeared to have let the win slip away when Johnson hit a jumper with 11 seconds left to tie it up.
But Robinson banked in a runner to take the lead with less than two ticks left.
Not to be outdone, Johnson followed with a floater to send the game into its second OT.
The two teams battled relentlessly during the second extra period, ultimately requiring a third to decide the contest. Eight players logged at least 40 minutes, and Kirk Hinrich played an incredible 60.
Robinson led all scorers with 34 points and came just one point shy of tying Michael Jordan's playoff franchise record for fourth-quarter scoring in the postseason.
Nazr Mohammed of all people proved the deciding factor down the stretch, working the offensive glass and carrying his team home long after Robinson and Joakim Noah had fouled out.
Chicago's four-hour victory netted it a 3-1 series lead and almost certainly served to crush the Nets' hopes.
This game was truly spectacular. But it barely cracks the top five, which says an awful lot about the incredible games we have yet to list.
3. LeBron Takes Over
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In Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals, LeBron James went crazy.
With 48 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and just two turnovers in 50 minutes, King James led his Cleveland Cavaliers to a 109-107 double-overtime win against the Detroit Pistons.
Those numbers might be good enough on their own to justify such a high ranking on our list, but the way James utterly dominated the competition down the stretch is really what puts this game over the top.
He scored 29 of the Cavs' last 30 points and blitzed the vaunted (and championship-caliber) Pistons defense again and again. No other Cavalier had more than 16 points, so James' heroics were not only spectacular, they were necessary.
Despite constant double- and triple-teams, James somehow found a way to get himself to the hole. Appropriately, his driving layup with 2.2 seconds left gave the Cavs the final two points they needed to win in double OT.
He didn't match Jordan's 63 points, but James' incredible game comes in at No. 3 because of the backloaded way he scored them and because the Cavs actually won the contest. Plus, he did it against a team with championship experience that matched his production to the very end.
Chauncey Billups hit clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch, and Detroit's defense completely erased every other Cavalier on the floor.
Much like the 1986 game that helped contribute to Jordan's legend, though, this one mattered because it gave a glimpse of the greatness James would later realize.
2. God Disguised as Michael Jordan
Sometimes, postseason games are significant for reasons beyond the final score. Game 2 of the first-round series between the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics was one of those games.
Michael Jordan played just 18 games in his second NBA season because of a broken foot. Somehow, his Bulls still made the playoffs, but by drawing the 1986 Celtics, a team that many consider to be among the greatest of all time, their time in the postseason figured to be short.
At the risk of damaging his surgically repaired foot, Jordan played the final few games of the regular season and suited up for the playoffs.
And his performance in Game 2 showed the world that he was a talent unlike any it had ever seen.
After pouring in 63 points—still an NBA playoff record—Jordan prompted the great Larry Bird to quip, "That was God disguised as Michael Jordan."
This game was great for a number of reasons. Boston won it by a final score of 135-131 in double overtime, and the box score reveals that Jordan's line wasn't the only eye-popper.
Bird scored 36 points in 56 minutes, Kevin McHale had 27 points and 15 rebounds in 51 minutes and, of course, Jordan had his 63 in 53 minutes. Those are all incredible feats, but Bird's famous quotation is really what defined this game.
Anytime someone invokes comparisons to divinity and you have to stop and say to yourself, "Yeah, that's about right," you've got a historically spectacular game on your hands.
1. Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals
If you polled those with a history in the league, there's one game that would come up more often than any other in the discussion of the greatest playoffs contest ever.
Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns takes the cake.
This all-time classic lasted three overtimes and involved the kind of old-timey trickery that just doesn't exist anymore, but one anecdote stands out as the best example of how completely insane this game truly was.
At the end of the second overtime, the Suns appeared to have iced the game. But Boston's John Havlicek got the ball with four seconds remaining, pulled up and buried a jumper that gave the Celtics a one-point lead as the buzzer sounded.
Fans rushed the court and chaos ensued. But then the officials put a single second back on the clock.
Out of timeouts and down by a single point, Phoenix was going to have to inbound the ball on the opposite end, meaning it had one second to go 94 feet in a seemingly hopeless effort to win the game.
And that's when things got ridiculous. I'll let NBA.com's Encyclopedia explain what happened next:
That's when the Suns' Paul Westphal asked for, and received, a timeout he knew his team did not have. The strategy resulted in a technical foul, which stretched Boston's lead to two points, but it enabled the Suns to make the inbounds pass from midcourt. Gar Heard caught the ensuing pass, turned and sank a jumper at the buzzer to send the game into its third overtime, stunning and nearly silencing the Garden faithful.
Well, the third overtime featured somebody named Glenn McDonald (I've never heard of him either) scoring six points to give the Celtics a 128-126 win.
Boston would go on to win the title in Game 6.
Three lead changes in the final four seconds of the second overtime, one of the smartest technical fouls ever and an out-of-nowhere performance from a player who logged just 13 minutes in the game?
Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good one to me.