To say it’s been a bad couple of weeks is an understatement. A deadly pandemic is sweeping the globe, stock markets are crashing and most important of all the NBA season has been put on hold. With no basketball being played, now is a good a time as ever to go back through the archives of NBA history and watch some of the games greatest moments. Here are three classic NBA games to watch while quarantined.
3. Bird vs Wilkins, 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 7
Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins are two of the greatest players to ever touch an NBA court, and in 1987 they were at the height of their powers. The two seasons previous in 1986 Larry Bird won his third MVP award in a row, a feat achieved only three times in NBA history. He also led Boston to the NBA championship over Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. The season prior he once again dominated, but came up just short of both the MVP and the finals, losing to the Lakers in 6 games.
Dominique Wilkins led the NBA in scoring in 1986 at 30.3 points per game and in 1988 bested that number by averaging 30.7 points. He was looking for revenge this series, his Hawks were bounced in the second round by Birds Celtics in 1986 and in 1988 he had a second chance. With the series down to a game 7, both players wanted more than anything to get the win.
What followed was one of the greatest fourth-quarter duels the NBA has ever seen. Heading into the fourth Dominiques Hawks were up by two. Wilkins was red hot, he already had 33 points in the game. Bird, on the other hand, had just 14 heading into the final frame. As the fourth quarter progressed Bird caught alight, making basket after basket. He single-handedly kept Boston in it as Wilkins matched Bird for every bucket. Finally in the closing seconds and the game tied Bird drove to the basket, hitting a layup that would seal the win for Boston. In the fourth quarter, Bird finished with 20 points, Wilkins with 14.
It’s an all-time great playoff game and one that showcases two of the games greatest scorers near the height of their powers.
2. The Shrug, 1992 NBA Finals Game 1
“He set out to do nothing less than destroy, not just Portland, but Drexler as well…” – David Halberstam on Michael Jordan
It wouldn’t be a list of classic games without at least one virtuoso performance from the G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan was a competitive dude, nearly to the point of insanity, but there is no question it drove him to incredible achievements on the court.
Leading up to the 1991 NBA finals many in the media saw this as an opportunity to prove who the best player in the league was. Drexler just had his best statistical season and made two NBA finals in three years. If he won this title over Jordan many in the media thought that he deserved to be considered the best player. Jordan was not happy with this, he set out to absolutely obliterate Clyde Drexler.
It took Jordan exactly halfway through Game 1 to cement himself as the best player in the league. A career 32 percent shooter from beyond the arc, Jordan suddenly got red hot from deep. To this day Jordan doesn’t know how he did it. At the time he said, “Let me tell you, I surprised them as much as I surprised you and myself, the way I was shooting today,”. By the end of the first half Portland was reeling and Jordan had knocked down six three-pointers and 35 points, both finals records. After the sixth one, MJ hit his iconic shrug. Nobody could believe it, and above all, he couldn’t believe it either.
1. Triple OT Thriller, 1976 NBA Finals Game 5
There’s a reason this game is often referred to as ‘The Best Game in NBA History’. It had absolutely everything, three overtimes, buzzer-beaters galore, officiating controversy and clutch shot after clutch shot.
Going into the game the series was tied 2-2 and Phoenix wanted to pull off a huge upset. They had just a 42-40 record going into the playoffs but thanks to a huge upset of the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the western conference finals they found themselves in their first NBA finals ever. Fun fact about the Warriors series, Phoenix ended up winning the decisive game because the Warriors star player Rick Barry refused to shoot the ball for most of the second half in an act of spite after he felt that his teammates didn’t back him up during a fight earlier in the game.
This is a game that is hard to explain in text, in order to truly understand how crazy this ending was it’s best to just watch it. But below is a summary of the end of the famous second overtime so you can get an idea of how wild this game was.
With 20 seconds left in the second overtime, Boston led 109-106. Dick van Arsdale quickly buried a jumper to pull Phoenix back within one and then Paul Westphal stole the inbounds pass away from John Havlicek (ironically doing to Hondo what he had done in the 1965 eastern finals, the famous “Havlicek stole the ball!” play). Phoenix capitalized, Curtis Perry, sank a 15 footer to put Phoenix up 110-109 with six seconds left.
This is where pandemonium erupts. John Havlicek of Boston drives and banks in what appears to be the game-winning layup as time expires. Jubilant Boston fans storm the court in celebration. But something is wrong, the referees debate with the score table and decide that the clock had in fact not struck zero, the Suns would have the ball with one second left.
It took a while but the officials were finally able to clear the court, but not before an angry fan assaulted referee Richie Powers. With one-second remaining Phoenix decided to take a timeout which they did not have, resulting in a technical free throw for Boston. This was intentional because due to a loophole in the rules at the time it allowed Phoenix to inbound from midcourt rather than from under their own basket. This interesting loophole gave Phoenix player Gar Heard enough time to make a beautiful turnaround shot as time expired to send the game to a third overtime.
Because of the Coronavirus, this will probably be an ongoing series of articles, feel free to comment below games you want to see or message me on twitter.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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