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Greatest Moments in NBA Finals History: 50-26

Posted on June 01, 2010 by A.J. Foss

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson combined for many great moments in the NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals begin this week and I have decided to take a look back at the history of the NBA Finals with the 50 greatest moments in NBA Finals history.

In this list, there are multiple moments from one series to make up the top 50.

For example, four of the moments are from the 1984 Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, while there are three moments from the 1997 Finals between the Bulls and the Jazz.

Here now are moments 50-26 in the countdown of the 50 most memorable moments in NBA Finals history.

50. Game 6 2003 Spurs-Nets
Spurs center Tim Duncan has a near quadruple-double (22 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and eight blocked shots) as San Antonio goes on a 19-0 run in the fourth quarter for a 88-77 victory over the New Jersey Nets to clinch the franchise’s second of four championships and send David Robinson out as a champion in his final game.

49. Game 5 1984 Lakers-Celtics
This was the infamous “Heat Game” as both the Lakers and the Celtics had to play the fifth game of this series in oppressive heat as it was 97-degrees in Boston on this day and the Boston Garden had no air conditioning.

The heat did not seem to effect the Celtics as they defeated the Lakers 121-103 thanks to a 34-point, 17-rebound performance from Larry Bird.

48. Game 5 1999 Spurs-Knicks
Point guard Avery Johnson makes the winning basket as he drills a baseline jumper with 47 seconds left to give the San Antonio Spurs a 78-77 win and clinch the first championship in franchise history.

The Pheonix SUns won game three of the 1993 NBA Finals in triple overtime, but Michael Jordan and the Bulls still won the series.

47. Game 3 1993 Bulls-Suns
Despite blowing an 11-point lead in the last 7:33 of regulation, the Phoenix Suns outlast the Chicago Bulls 129-121 in triple overtime for their first win in the series.

It is the second time a game has gone into three overtime, both featuring the Phoenix Suns and Paul Westphal, who was the Suns’ head coach for this contest.

46. Game 5 1970 Knicks-Lakers

This was the game where Willis Reed injured his leg that would lead to his famous Game 7 performance despite a tear in the muscle of his right thigh.

The injury occurred eight minutes into the game and the Knicks eventually fell behind by as many as 16 points, but came back and won the game 107-100 despite not having Reed on the floor for most of the game.

The Knicks would lose Game 6 in L.A., setting up Reed’s heroics in Game 7.

45. Game 3 2006 Heat-Mavericks

Trailing 89-76 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and behind in the series 2-0, the Miami Heat led by guard Dwyane Wade, come back for a 98-96 victory that completely changes the momentum of the series as the Heat would go on to win the next three games to win their first ever NBA championship.

44. Game 7 1955 Nationals-Pistons

George King makes the go-ahead free throw with 12 seconds left and then steals the ball from Andy Phillip with three seconds left of Game 7 to give the Syracuse Nationals a 92-91 Game 7 victory over the Fort Wayne Pistons.

It would be the only championship for the Nationals as they moved to Philadelphia in 1963 and became the Philadelphia 76ers.

43. Game 4 1997 Bulls-Jazz

The Jazz outscore the Bulls 12-2 in the final 2:42 of the fourth quarter, taking the lead on a full-court pass from John Stockton to Karl Malone who lays it in with a layup as the Jazz defeat the Bulls 78-73, to even the series at 2-2.

42. Game 4 2000 Lakers-Pacers

The Pacers are handed a golden opportunity to even their series with the Lakers when center Shaquille O’ Neal fouls out with 2:33 in overtime and L.A. leading 112-109.

However, guard Kobe Bryant scores six of the last eight points for the Lakers to give L.A. a 120-118 win and a 3-1 series lead.

The Lakers would win the series in six games.

Allen Iverson scored 48 points in the first game of the 2001 finals to lift the 76ers over the lakers. However, LA won the next four games to claim the title.

41. Game 1 2001 76ers-Lakers
76ers guard Allen Iverson scores 48 points in a 107-101 victory, handing the Lakers their first and only loss of the 2001 postseason as the Lakers would win the next four games for their second straight NBA title.

40. Game 7 1984 Lakers-Celtics

The epic first encounter between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird concludes in exciting fashion, as the Celtics pull out a 111-102 in the most watched NBA telecast of all time.

The Celtics build a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter but hold off a furious rally from the Lakers who cut it to three points until Celtics forward Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell forces a turnover by Johnson and leading to a series of free throws for Boston that ices the game.

The victory gives the Celtics their 15th NBA championship, the eighth time they beat the Lakers in the Finals.

39. Game 4 1993 Bulls-Suns
Michael Jordan has his highest-scoring performance in a NBA Finals game as he pours in 55 points on 21-of-37 shooting from the field and hits 13 of 18 free throws in a 111-105 win to give the Bulls a 3-1 series lead over the Phoenix Suns.

38. Game 6 1992 Bulls-Blazers

Behind 79-64 at the start of the 4th quarter and facing a potential Game 7, Bulls head coach puts out in four reserves and takes out Michael Jordan in hopes of sparking one last run.

The four reserves and Scottie Pippen outscore the Blazers 14-2 over the next few minutes to where Jordan re-enters the game and scores 12 of the Bulls’ last 19 points as Chicago comes back to win the game 97-93 and clinch their second consecutive NBA championship.

37. Game 6 1994 Rockets-Knicks

Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon blocks Knicks guard John Starks’ last-second three-point shot to preserve a 86-84 win to force a Game 7, which the Rockets would win 90-84 for their first ever NBA championship.

36. Game 7 1988 Lakers-Pistons

Lakers forward James Worthy lives up to his nickname “Big Game James” as he gets a triple double with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists to lead the Lakers to a 108-105 victory in Game 7 as the Lakers become the first team in 19 years to win back-to-back NBA championships.

Moses Malone and Julius Erving swept the Los Angeles Lakers to claim the NBA title in 1983.

35. Game 6 1983 76ers-Lakers
“Dr. J” finally becomes a champion as Julius Erving scores seven straight points, including a go-ahead three-point play with 59 seconds left, in the fourth quarter of Game 4 as the 76ers win 115-108 to complete a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers.

34. Game 1 1985 Lakers-Celtics
The Celtics destroy the Lakers in the opening game of the 1985 NBA Finals by defeating Los Angeles 148-114 in one of the most lopsided games in NBA Finals history.

The historic blowout is now known as the “Memorial Day Massacre”.

33. Game 1 1995 Rockets-Magic

After Magic forward Nick Anderson misses four straight free throws, Kenny Smith hits his game-record seventh three-pointer to tie the game at 110-110 with 1.6 seconds left and send the game into overtime, where Hakeem Olajuwon tips in Clyde Drexler’s missed shot with 0.3 seconds left in the extra period, to give Houston a 120-118 opening game win.

The Rockets would go on to sweep the Magic to win their second straight NBA title.

32. Game 3 1962 Lakers-Celtics

Jerry West steals Sam Jones’ inbounds pass and drives for the game-winning lay-up as time expires to give the Lakers a 117-115 win in the first of many great moments in this Lakers-Celtics finals.

31. Game 4 1969 Lakers-Celtics

Using the picket fence play that would be made famous in the movie “Hoosiers”, Celtics guard Sam Jones comes off three screens and shoots a 18-footer over the outstretched hands of Lakers center Wilt Chamberlain, that bounces off the front and back rims before it goes in at the buzzer for a 89-88 Boston victory to even the series at 2-2.

30. Game 5 2004 Pistons-Lakers
The Detroit Pistons complete a five-game upset win over the Los Angeles Lakers who featured four future Hall-of –Famers (Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’ Neal, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone) to win the NBA championship for the first time since the “Bad Boys” back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.

29. Game 6 1985 Lakers-Celtics
Led by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s 29 points, including 18 in the second half, the Lakers finally defeat the Celtics in a NBA Finals as they win the sixth game 111-100 to clinch the NBA championship in the Boston Garden after suffering eight series deficits to Boston in the Finals.

28. Game 7 1966 Lakers-Celtics
Following a 133-129 loss in Game 1, Celtics head coach Red Auerbach announces he will retire at the end of the Finals and hand the coaching duties to center Bill Russell.

The Celtics would go on to win the series, climaxing with a 95-93 win in Game 7 for the team’s eighth straight NBA championship and nine in 10 years, all with Auerbach as the head coach.

Red Auerbach announced during the 1966 Finals that Bill Russell would replace him as coach of the Celtics.

27. Game 5 1990 Pistons-Blazers
Known as “The Microwave” for his instant offense, Pistons guard Vinnie Johnson scores seven points in a Detroit 9-0 run in the last 2:05 of the fourth quarter, the including the winning basket, a 15-footer from the right sideline with 00.7 seconds left to give the Pistons a 92-90 victory to complete a five-game series win over the Portland Trail Blazers, for their second consecutive championship.

26. Game 4 1984 Lakers-Celtics
Behind in the series 2-1 and trailing in the second quarter of Game 4, the Celtics changed the direction of this series by ratcheting up the physical play when Kevin McHale clotheslines Kurt Rambis on a breakaway layup that caused both benches to clear.

Boston then made up a five-point deficit in the final minute of regulation to tie the game at 113-113 and send the game into overtime.

Larry Bird hit the go-ahead basket in the final seconds of overtime to give Boston a 129-125 victory.

While the series was only tied, the momentum turned in Boston’s favor, as they would win two of the last three games to win the series in seven games.

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