2010 NBA Finals Game 7: The Greatest Deciding Games in NBA History
We've watched the 2010 NBA Finals and seen what seems like 50 different plot twists.
After the domination of Game One, this series was clearly headed toward a sweep.
Then Boston completely flipped the script and all of a sudden, the Lakers are the ones who looked broken down.
The Lakers took back momentum and the home-court advantage in Game Three, only to be schooled in team play over the next two games.
And then we had Tuesday, where we went right back to how we felt after Game One.
There's no more room for "we'll get them tomorrow."
The Celtics are staring down a definition of their renaissance—this is clearly it for the 'New Big Three,' but will they go down as a two-time world beater or a fading flash that just looks beaten?
The Lakers are looking to cement the "next-dynasty" label we're all dying to give them. A loss would have us thinking that this team needs to be rebuilt around Kobe.
If you're looking for the Willis Reed 1970 Finals, you're not going to find it here. While the limping Reed coming back and the mastery of Walt Frazier was magical, those were moments. The game itself was not that dramatic.
It's the magic of Game Seven. The frantic pace, the individual fates on display, the desperation and finality that breeds greatness.
We all want to see an all-time great finish here. To define that, let's establish the bar by looking at the 10 greatest Game Sevens in NBA history.
10. 1990 Western Semifinals: Blazers 108, Spurs 105 (OT)
Rod Strickland was hoping we had all forgotten this game.
This was supposed to be the Lakers-Spurs showdown that the entire season was leading to. Instead, the No. 4 Suns destroyed the No. 1 Lakers in the other semi.
Then there's the No. 3 Blazers against the No. 2 Spurs. The home court held right up until the last seconds of the overtime of the seventh game. The Spurs seemed to be taking control of the extra period.
That's when Strickland made one of the most boneheaded attempts at razzle dazzle in league history with a no-look pass that went terribly wrong. The Blazers loved him so much from there that they went out and got him (pictured).
The Blazers stole the ball, the game, and the series.
9. 1988 Eastern Conference Semis: Celtics 118, Hawks 116
I might be keeping this game a little low on the list, because my own memories of the game are so amazing, I want to make sure I keep it perspective.
It was the shootout of a lifetime between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins. One of those games you don't want to end.
I hate golf's U.S. Open 18-hole playoff, but I remember thinking, "Man, could we just end this one in a tie and come back and do it all over again tomorrow night?"
Quite possibly the greatest game where two of the sport's biggest stars were both at their peak in the same moment.
8. 1957 NBA Finals: Celtics 125, Hawks 123 (2 OT)
I was still 16 years from being born, so I'm relying on historical perspective here. Plus, my dad talks about this game like I talked about Bird-Wilkins.
It's still the only game in NBA finals to go two overtimes. Bob Pettit forced the first overtime with two clutch free throws in the final seconds of regulation.
Boston and St. Louis traded hoops to end the first overtime before the Celts started their run of 11 titles in 13 years with this win.
Rookie Bill Russell (above with Bob Cousy) started the legend here with 32 rebounds.
7. 1965 Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics 110, 76ers 109
Another one where I'm relying on the historians and then putting it into context with what I've seen.
The part of this script that has been largely forgotten is how Bill Russell's history could have been rewritten if this had gone another way.
Russell tried to inbound the ball with five seconds to go, but the ball hit a wire that connected the Celtics backboard to the rafters.
The 76ers had a chance to win the game. Hal Greer instead became the goat as his pass to Chet Walker was cut off by a brilliant play by John Havlicek (pictured in jersey with hand up).
Thus, one of the greatest calls in sports history was born: "Havlicek stole the ball!"
6. 1988 NBA Finals: Lakers 108, Pistons 105
I never thought I would root for the Lakers in any situation. Then came the Pistons, who were dirty bullies who were impossible to like.
I remember my entire block was over my house that day, because we couldn't stand the idea of the Pistons winning.
It went back and forth way too much for our liking. The Pistons seemed to be taking control after the half when the Lakers went on a 23-7 run with 10 straight shots made.
It was Showtime at its best, led by the unlikely spotlight grabber in James Worthy (his only career triple-double with 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists).
The moment passed quickly, as we all threw socks at the TV watching the Lakers' victory parade.
5. 1984 NBA Finals: Celtics 111, Lakers 102
Recent history has skewed our memory. We forget that there was actually a time when the Lakers simply could not beat the Celtics no matter how stacked the deck was.
Go back and look at each game and you could make a case that Los Angeles should have won in a sweep. They fell all over themselves in the big moments. There's no other way to say it.
It led the series to Boston Garden, where the likely result was forced by an unlikely hero. Cedric Maxwell had the biggest game of his career with 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The Celtics outmuscled the Lakers from there with 20 offensive rebounds and one drive to the hoop after another that led to 51 free throws.
Who is that guy in the photo trying to block out Bird? Serious "You Da Man" points to whomever names him in the comments.
4. 2002 Western Conference Finals: Lakers 112, Kings 106 (OT)
This was another one of those series that should have never been this close.
The Kings simply didn't have the closing power. They held leads in all six of the games before (15, 27, 24, 10, seven and nine points) and yet, it felt like a shock that they even won three of those games.
The Lakers were young yet they looked absolutely spent by the end of Game Seven. As overtime began, the Kings just had the look of a winner.
Yet they went out and missed nine of 12 shots in the overtime. Suddenly, it was clear how they blew all those leads.
3. 1981 Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics 91, 76ers 90
Another one of those culminating moments that lived up to everything the series had been.
You had two 62-win teams full of superstars. This was the moment I think I became hooked on NBA basketball.
To see Toney, Cheeks, Dawkins, Bobby Jones, and Dr. J come up just short. It was the closest I ever came to rooting for a team AGAINST the Celtics.
You could tell the Celtics were going on to great things and more titles. But the 76ers were built for this year.
The entire nation was waiting for Dr. J to do something amazing to win the game. When Jones inbounded the last play of the game for a midcourt alley-oop, I was sure Erving was going to put it in.
The pass sailed over his head. He had gotten open, one of the great defensive brain farts in hoops history. But the moment was not meant to be.
2. 2000 Western Conference Finals: Lakers 89, Blazers 84
There's no way around it. The Blazers gave away a trip to the NBA Finals, arguably worse than any choke in the league's history.
They were ahead by 15 points heading into the fourth. The Lakers looked done. Not a chance.
Then the Blazers started throwing up one stupid shot after another. They missed 13 shots and played sloppy defense as the Lakers charged back.
Kobe Bryant dominated the final 90 seconds. Shaq put an exclamation point on the win with a slam off a Kobe lob pass. Hugs and smiles all around.
The Kobe-Shaq marriage would last forever, right? Uh, no.
1. 2006 Western Conference Semis: Mavs 119, Spurs 111 (OT)
You're not going to pack much more drama into a game than happened here.
Two 60-team wins in the conference finals (for just the third time in history) and they proved why they belonged over the first six games.
The Mavs came out and hit 18 of their first 21 shots to make this seem like a rout. But then the Spurs got equally hot and rallied from 20 points down.
It was a modern-day Wilt-Russell in the post. Dirk Nowitzki had 37 points and 15 rebounds. Tim Duncan one-upped him with 41 points and 15 boards.
Dallas righted the ship just enough to hold off the Spurs in regulation. Then it seemed Duncan's crew had used up all their magic, as Dallas dominated the overtime.
It seemed a lock that the Mavs would get the title that Mark Cuban coveted and practically bought with his roster assembly. It didn't happen as the Heat took the title.