As sports fans, we live for high-drama, winner-take-all games. That’s why the Super Bowl and the NFL playoffs are so compelling to watch. Of course, we get that from the NBA too whenever there is a Game 7 in the playoffs. Granted, not every Game 7 of a series lives up to the hype. However, they sometimes exceed the hype and give us a memory that will last forever. That’s why we wanted to put together a list of the best Game 7s in NBA playoff history.
Clippers vs Spurs, 2015
The Clippers were the higher seed in this First Round series, but many expected the defending champion Spurs to prevail, especially after taking a 3-2 lead. The game featured 31 lead changes and 16 ties, as neither team was willing to give an inch.
It looked like things were headed to overtime after Tim Duncan made a pair of clutch free-throws to tie the game with nine seconds left. But Chris Paul banked in a shot over Duncan to give him 27 points in the game and give the Clippers a 111-109 win.
Celtics vs Hawks, 1988
While it was just the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins put on an incredible show. The two attempted to one-up each other all night. Wilkins ended up winning the individual battle with Bird, scoring 47 points for the Hawks in his second 40-plus game of the series.
However, Bird scored 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter while getting help from Kevin McHale’s 33 points and 13 rebounds to give the Celtics a 118-116 win.
Raptors vs 76ers, 2019
The game-winning shot by Kawhi Leonard alone makes Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals unforgettable. Between the time he released the shot and the time it fell through the bottom of the net, it felt like an eternity. Of course, the 47-plus minutes before that were also incredible. The game went back and forth in an emotionally charged Scotiabank Arena.
Remember that Leonard missed a free throw in the waning seconds, allowing Jimmy Butler to tie the game. But Leonard immediately redeemed himself with that magical shot, which was somehow the first Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA playoff history.
Cavaliers vs Warriors, 2016
Even after the Cavs came from 3-1 behind to force a Game 7, the Warriors would surely prevail after winning 73 games during the regular season. But Cleveland played an outstanding defensive game against Golden State’s potent offense. Needless to say, the biggest defensive play of the game was LeBron James tracking back at full speed to block what appeared to be an easy layup for Andre Iguodala.
The block preserved an 89-89 tie, setting up Kyrie Irving’s game-winning shot a minute later, giving the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland a long-awaited championship.
Bulls vs Pacers, 1998
This game was the closest the Bulls came to getting eliminated during their two three-peats. It was just one of two Game 7s that Chicago played during those years and the Bulls actually looked like losing at times. The Pacers led in the fourth quarter after slowing down Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen better than most teams could ever dream.
But Toni Kukoc scored 21 points to help lead a fourth-quarter comeback, giving the Bulls an 88-83 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, setting up the last of their six titles during the 90s.