We haven’t seen a close game yet in these NBA Finals, but don’t tell me Game 7 doesn’t have the potential to be one for the ages.
LeBron on the road against the 73-9 defending champs with everything on the line? This game is a NBA nerd’s greatest fantasy.
While we all pray that it lives up to the hype, let’s look back at the best Game 7’s in recent NBA history (post-Jordan era).
2015 First Round — Spurs @ Clippers
Somehow the Rockets became the Warriors’ opponent in the Western Conference Finals last season, but make no mistake, the next best teams in the West were the Spurs and Clippers. The Spurs v. Clippers series came down to one possession and Chris Paul made the most of it. Most of the first-round series in the NBA these days are lopsided match-ups, so it’s rare we get to appreciate such good basketball in April like we did last season.
2014 First Round — Warriors @ Clippers
The Clippers are pretty clutch in Game 7’s if you only count the first round. Before they were champs, Steph and Co. had to taste defeat in a tough one. The loss sparked the change from Mark Jackson to Steve Kerr, so maybe it benefited Golden State in the long run. But back to the actual game, you’d have a hard time finding a more exciting pace of a Game 7 than this.
2013 NBA Finals — Spurs @ Heat
LeBron gets crushed for tucking his tail between his legs when the going gets tough. I’ve given it to him as much as anyone, but LeBron is actually a hell of a Game 7 player. The Spurs should have won this series but a Ray Allen prayer forced the seventh game. In that Game 7, Lebron went for — 37 points on 12-for-23 shooting, 12 rebounds and four assists in 45 minutes. That’s the real deal.
2010 NBA Finals — Celtics @ Lakers
Ugh. I hate watching this. The Celtics should have won this game. But they didn’t. Credit to Kobe for finding a way to win on a poor shooting night with a broken finger and ripping down 16 boards. That’s what champions do. That Ron Artest 3-pointer gave me nightmares (I refuse to change his name to whatever it is these days). Did I mention the Celtics should have won this game?
2008 East Semifinals — Cavaliers @ Celtics
Opening thought — setting off fireworks before playoff games to create that haze in the Garden was awesome. Paul Pierce was the hero of the day, dropping 41 and carrying the eventual champion Celtics into the next round. I mentioned LeBron was a great Game 7 player, and this is another example. LBJ had 45 of his own and almost knocked off the best team in the league on the road. That’s exactly why Golden State should be sweating right about now.
2005 NBA Finals — Pistons @ Spurs
Not the sexiest NBA Finals matchup, but these two teams were exactly that — teams. The Pistons had that strong starting five, but the Spurs had Duncan and more depth, which prevailed in the end. It’s easy to forget how good Duncan actually was since he’s essentially a role player these days. Going back and watching is a good reminder.
2005 East Finals — Pistons @ Heat
Although they couldn’t do it in the Finals, winning a Game 7 on the road takes real determination. Miami was a year away from a championship with pretty much the same roster, so Detroit beat a really good team in this game. Even going back just 11 years it’s crazy how different the game was. 81-74 doesn’t exactly happen in the new NBA.
2004 West Semifinals — Kings @ Timberwolves
This was the Kevin Garnett game. KG gave himself the perfect birthday gift — 32 points, 21 rebounds, two assists, four steals, five blocks and a well earned victory. Despite Garnett, Chris Webber still got a look to send the game to OT in a game that was tight from wire to wire. Can’t ask for more.
2002 West Finals — Lakers @ Kings
Yeah, so this game probably shouldn’t have even happened — you may recall that Game 6 was one of the most controversial in NBA history. Not really much more to say about this one. Aside from the refs, it was a great series with a ton of star power.
2001 East Semifinals — Raptors @ Sixers
This was an awesome series in the sense that we literally got Vince Carter vs. Allen Iverson at the peak of their powers. Neither of them had any help, so there was no alternative to Carter and Iverson going for 50 just about every night. Fittingly the series came down to a shot from Carter that rimmed out and sent Iverson to the Eastern Conference Finals and eventually to the Finals against the Lakers.
2000 West Finals — Trailblazers @ Lakers
People forget that the first of the Lakers three-peat almost didn’t happen. Portland had this game won before the classic Laker comeback, most easily identified by Kobe’s alley-oop to Shaq. It doesn’t really get more exciting than the largest fourth-quarter comeback ever in a Game 7.
2000 East Semifinals — Knicks @ Heat
Once MJ was gone, this Knicks/Heat rivalry was probably the best thing the NBA had going for a couple years. Pretty much all of their games were awesome. This was the second year in a row the Knicks knocked the Heat out of the playoffs in a do-or-die game for both teams on Miami’s home floor.
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