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Greatest Game 7s in NBA playoff history ahead of two deciders in this year’s conference finals

We look back at the five greatest Game 7s in playoff history ahead of the deciders in this year's conference finals.

Jay Asser 2018/05/27

Sit back and enjoy the ride because the NBA is delivering us not one, but two Game 7s in the conference finals.

The Boston Celtics will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night before the Golden State Warriors travel to meet the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

This will be the first time since 1979 that both conference finals have gone down to a deciding Game 7. For reference, that was more than five years before LeBron James was even born.

With the talent on display and storylines on offer between the remaining four teams, we could be in for something epic.

That got us thinking of the greatest Game 7s in history. Here’s our top five:

2016 NBA Finals – Cleveland Cavaliers 93-89 Golden State Warriors

It’s fitting the list starts with this all-timer, because James and the Warriors will be in action over the next two days.

Game 7s in any round of the playoffs are tense enough, but in the NBA Finals? That’s another level. And this battle two years ago didn’t disappoint as it featured James’ legendary chase-down block and Kyrie Irving’s game-winning 3 in the final minutes as the Cavaliers came back from 3-1 down to defeat 73-win Golden State and raise their first banner.

1988 NBA Finals – Los Angeles Lakers 108-105 Detroit Pistons

This one featured a weird ending that would never happen today, as the crowd flooded onto the court before the clock ran out. Magic Johnson also hit Isiah Thomas – who only managed 10 points and seven assists on a sprained ankle – on the last play, but no foul was called as the Lakers were crowned champions.

1981 Eastern Conference Finals – Boston Celtics 91-90 Philadelphia 76ers

This was quite the rivalry back in the day and Game 7 was a worthy chapter to close out a phenomenal series.

Boston at one point trailed by double digits, but came storming back before Larry Bird banked in a famous shot in the final minute that would serve as the game-winner. The 76ers had a chance to steal the game on the final play, but Bobby Jones couldn’t connect with Julius Erving on an alley-oop inbounds pass.

1969 NBA Finals – Boston Celtics 108-106 Los Angeles Lakers

To truly get a sense of this game, you have to know the backstory. Lakers owner Kent Cooke had put celebratory balloons in the rafters before the game in anticipation of his team winning, but the move got the attention of Bill Russell, who made sure those balloons never fell as Celtics held on in the final minute to claim their 11th championship.

1957 NBA Finals – Boston Celtics 125-123 St. Louis Hawks

There may not be many people left that remember watching this game, but it was as dramatic as you can get.

The Boston Celtics were pushed the limit by the Hawks, who sent the game to overtime on two free throws by star Bob Pettit. That set the stage for a crazy last play in which the Hawks sent an inbounds pass full court, which caromed off the backboard and to Pettit, who couldn’t hit from point-blank range as the Celtics narrowly escaped.

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Bill Russell Bob Pettit Boston Celtics Detroit Pistons Houston Rockets Isiah Thomas Julius Erving Larry Bird LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson Philadelphia 76ers