It will be debated for some time whether the San Antonio Spurs collapsed in Game Six of these NBA Finals, or if the Miami Heat willed themselves to an incredible comeback victory.
Either way, NBA fans can now scoot to the edge of their seats and rev up for one of the most exciting moments in all of sports: Game Seven.
The Heat and Spurs will clash Thursday night at the American Airlines Arena for the 18th Game Seven in NBA Finals history. Duncan and his running mates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have felt the kind of pressure a Finals Game Seven brings before, but this will be a whole new endeavor for Miami’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
In 2005, San Antonio outlasted the Detroit Pistons for the third title in the franchise’s history.
Of the 17 previous Game Sevens in the Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have participated in a combined 17 deciding games, with the Lakers counting nine. They faced each other four times, with L.A. finally besting the Celtics in 2010. Boston had won the previous three matchups in the 1960s.
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Boston also holds an incredible 7-1 record in Finals Game Sevens.
The New York Knicks and the Detroit Pistons are third and fourth, respectively, in Game Sevens in the Finals. The Knicks appeared in four, winning one, and the Pistons, who previously played in Fort Wayne, have lost both of their two attempts.
Below is a quick synopsis of each Game Seven in NBA History.
2010 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, Lakers win 83-79
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers repeated as champions, despite the Finals MVP shooting 6-for-24 from the field. L.A. became the third team in NBA history to win Games Six and Seven en route to the championship.
2005 San Antonio Spurs vs. Detroit Pistons, Spurs win 81-74
Duncan tallied 25 points and 11 rebounds, while overcoming a horrid 10-for-27 shooting and five turnovers, and captured his second Finals MVP and title of his career. Ginobili added another 23 points, and the Pistons were 2-for-14 from three-point range.
1994 Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks, Houston wins 90-84
Slightly overshadowed by one of the more surreal moments of the 1990s taking place during Game Five, the final match up of this series is best remembered for John Starks 0-for-11 display from deep. Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon essentially posed for his Hall of Fame bust with 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks, outplaying Knicks center Patrick Ewing for most of the series.
1988 L.A. Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons, Lakers win 108-105
The Isiah Thomas-led Pistons had finally dethroned Boston and become the dominate team of the East in the late 1980s, but were facing James Worthy and Magic Johnson in their primes. Worthy filled the stat sheet with a triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists, and Johnson had 19 points and 14 assists.
1984 Boston Celtics vs. L.A. Lakers, Boston win 111-102
At the height of the NBA’s greatest rivalry, Boston had missed a chance to close out L.A. in Game Six, but compiled a total team effort to best Johnson and the Lakers. Boston legend Larry Bird scored 20 points and Cedric Maxwell had 24, leading six Celtics in double figures. Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 29 points and six rebounds. Bird would win his first Finals MVP award.
1978 Seattle Supersonics vs. Washington Bullets, Washington win 105-99
This would be first of two consecutive championship battles for Seattle and Washington. The Bullets, now Wizards, took the first one thanks to clutch free throws from Finals MVP Wes Unseld. It is still the only NBA title for Washington.
1974 Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics, Boston win 102-87
Boston went through a five year title drought after Bill Russell’s retirement, and had to overcome Abdul-Jabbar’s dominate 26 points and 13 rebounds in the process. Boston’s Dave Cowens compiled 28 points and 14 rebounds, making up for would-be series MVP John Havlicek’s 16 points on 6-for-20 shooting. It was a blowout due to Milwaukee’s inability to sink free throws, going for 15-for-26.
1970 L.A. Lakers vs. New York Knicks, Knicks win 113-99
The first title in the New York Knicks history came off the injured leg of Willis Reed, who sank his first two shots. Inspired from there, Walt Frazier’s 36 points and Dick Barnett’s 21 points carried New York over the mighty Lakers roster, which included Hall Of Famers Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, and Elgin Baylor.
1969 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, Boston win 108-106
The Celtics managed to extend Russell’s career by one more game after winning Game Six, but nearly lost a 17-point lead. West led a wild Lakers comeback, with Chamberlain sidelined for the final five minutes of the fourth quarter with a knee injury. West set the record in a Finals Game Seven with 42 points along with 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
1966 L.A Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, Boston win 95-93
West scored 36 points, leading several comebacks, but Boston would win their ninth title with 32 rebounds from Russell.
1962 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, Boston win 110-107 OT
The first of many Game Sevens for these two clubs went in Boston’s favor. Russell would snatch a Finals record 40 rebounds, and Baylor had 41 points. Russell also had 40 points, but Boston escaped a missed jumper from Frank Selvy in the closing minutes of regulation. The win also would start a streak of six consecutive series victories over L.A.
1960 St. Louis Hawks vs. Boston Celtics, Boston win 122-103
1957 St. Louis Hawks vs. Boston Celtics, Boston win 125-123 2OT
These two clubs would meet three times in the Finals over five years, with Boston victorious in each. The Celtics, Russell, and Red Auerbach dynasty was born. The matchup in 1957 was the first Game Seven to go to overtime, with St. Louis’s Bob Petit scoring 39 points, and Boston’s Tommy Heinsohn 37 points, before fouling out.
1955 Fort Wayne Pistons vs. Syracuse Nationals, Syracuse win 92-91
The Nationals would win their third and last trip to the Finals, in the closest Game Seven in history. This was also the first season the shot clock was introduced.
1954 Minneapolis Lakers vs. Syracuse Nationals, Lakers win 87-80
1952 Minneapolis Lakers vs. New York Knicks, Lakers win 82-65
In 1954 the Lakers won the last title of the George Mikan Era. They dropped the sixth game despite Mikan’s 31 points, but built an early in the seventh and never looked back.
The Knicks would force a Game Six in 1952, but Minneapolis dominated the seventh game, sending New York home without a title in consecutive seasons.
1951 Rochester Royals vs. New York Knicks, Royals win 79-75
The first Game Seven in league history provided the shortest road trips for both clubs, and came down to the final two minutes. Rochester leading scorer Arnie Risen had 24 points, and Bob Davies added another 20 points in the finale.