MIAMI — Game 7 of The Finals is the ultimate basketball experience for both players and fans. One game for everything. And it often lives up to the moment.
The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat will play the 18th Game 7 in Finals history on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), the last since the Los Angeles Lakers edged the Boston Celtics in 2010. That one went down to the final minute, as have many others. In fact, 12 of the 17 previous Finals Game 7s, including each of the last four, have been decided by seven points or less. They have featured some wild comebacks and several scary moments for the eventual champions.
The home team has won 14 of the 17, but we can’t forget that the Celtics had a three-point lead midway through the fourth quarter of that Game 7 three years ago. In 2005, the Spurs and Detroit Pistons were tied with 12 minutes to play.
That was the only Finals Game 7 the Spurs have played. Neither the Heat nor LeBron James have ever played in a Finals Game 7. Pat Riley has been there multiple times, however.
Here’s a look back at the five best Finals Game 7s of all-time, along with a full list below.
And for a complete history of Game 7s, check out NBA.com/Stats.
5. 1955 – Nationals 92, Pistons 91
The Nats trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter. Fortunately though, the league instituted the 24-second shot clock, invented by their owner Danny Biasone, that season. That allowed them to come all the way back and George King hit one of two free throws with 12 seconds left to give them a one-point lead. He then stole the ball from Ft. Wayne’s Andy Phillip to seal the championship.
4. 1988 – Lakers 108, Pistons 105
Up 3-2, the Pistons lost Game 6 similarly to how the Spurs lost Game 6 on Tuesday. They had a three-point lead with a minute to go and the championship trophy was ready in their locker room. But a Byron Scott jumper and two Kareem Abdul-Jabbar free throws pushed the series to Game 7.
With Isiah Thomas limping around on a bad ankle, the Lakers built a 15-point lead early in the fourth quarter of Game 7. But the Pistons came back to within two with just over a minute to go. They were down one with six seconds left, but A.C. Green broke away from the pack to make it a three-point game again and, as the crowd began to storm the floor, Thomas couldn’t get a game-tying three off.
3. 1969 – Celtics 108, Lakers 106
With Jack Kent Cooke‘s balloons up in the Forum rafters, the Lakers trailed by 17 early in the fourth quarter and lost Wilt Chamberlain to an injury midway through the period. But Jerry West led them back within a point. With just over a minute left, the Lakers’ Keith Erickson stripped John Havlicek, but the ball went straight to Don Nelson, who launched a jumper that hit the back of the rim, bounced high in the air, and dropped through the net.
It was Bill Russell‘s 11th and final championship and the first time the road team had won Game 7 of The Finals. West, the only Finals MVP from a losing team, finished with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in the deciding game.
2. 1962 – Celtics 110, Lakers 107 (OT)
There’s no better way to cap a great series featuring multiple Hall of Famers than with an overtime in Game 7. It wouldn’t have gone to OT, however, if the Lakers’ Frank Selvy hit the eight-foot, baseline jumper at the end of regulation.
He didn’t and the Celtics built a five-point lead in overtime before holding on for their fifth championship and fourth on their run of eight straight. Elgin Baylor led all scorers with 41 points, while Russell registered 30 points and 40 rebounds for Boston.
Each of the final five games of the series was determined by five points or less. Here’s video of West winning Game 3 with a steal and layup in the final three seconds.
1. 1957 – Celtics 125, Hawks 123 (2OT)
Two overtimes for the NBA title? Yes, please. The Hawks tied the game in the final seconds of regulation with two Bob Pettit free throws and in the final seconds of overtime with a Jack Coleman jumper. With his team down two again at the end of the second OT, St. Louis’ Alex Hannum purposely threw a full-court pass off the backboard to Pettit, but the Hall of Famer couldn’t convert and the Celtics won their first of 17 championships.
Boston rookies Russell and Tommy Heinsohn combined for 56 points and 55 rebounds.
Finals Game 7s
|Year||Home||H Pts||Away||A Pts||Margin||Video|
|1955||Syracuse||92||Fort Wayne||91||1||Dolph Schayes: The Evolution of the Game|
|1957**||Boston||125||St. Louis||123||2||1957 Celtics|
|1962*||Boston||110||L.A. Lakers||107||3||1962 NBA Finals|
|1966||Boston||95||L.A. Lakers||93||2||1966 NBA Finals|
|1969||L.A. Lakers||106||Boston||108||2||1969 Game 7|
|1970||New York||113||L.A. Lakers||99||14||1970: Willis Reed|
|1978||Seattle||99||Washington||105||6||1978 Game 7|
|1984||Boston||111||L.A. Lakers||102||9||1984 Game 7|
|1988||L.A. Lakers||108||Detroit||105||3||Big Game James|
|1994||Houston||90||New York||84||6||1994 Game 7|
|2005||San Antonio||81||Detroit||74||7||2005 Game 7|
|2010||L.A. Lakers||83||Boston||79||4||Game 7 Mini-Movie|