Reed's game vs. Lakers tops list
To coincide with the 40th anniversary of Willis Reed's dramatic return for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals (May 8th) here are the greatest Game 7's in NBA history.
1) 1970 NBA Finals - Knicks beat Lakers 113-99
• It was Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, and nobody knew if Willis Reed would play. The center and captain of the New York Knicks had suffered a torn muscle in his right thigh during Game 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers, and had not played in Game 6 when Wilt Chamberlain's 45 points and 27 rebounds enabled the Lakers to tie the series at 3-3. When the teams took the floor for pre-game warmups, Reed was not with his New York teammates. He remained in the lockerroom, deep in the bowels of the building. "I wanted to play," Reed recalls. "That was for the championship, the one great moment you play for all your life. I didn't want to have to look at myself in the mirror 20 years later and say I wished I had tried to play." Reed took an injection to dull the pain in his leg, and just moments before tipoff he limped through the tunnel and onto the court. Waves of cheers cascaded down from the Garden stands as fans caught sight of the Knicks' captain, a sight that was not lost on New York's opponents. "I saw the whole Laker team standing around staring at this man," said Knicks guard Walt Frazier. "When I saw that, when they stopped warming up, something told me we might have these guys!" Reed lined up against Chamberlain for the opening tap and scored the Knicks' first two baskets of the game. Those would prove to be his only points, but his presence was more than enough to inspire the Knicks to a 113-99 victory and the franchise's first NBA Championship. Overshadowed by Reed's emotion-charged effort was one of the great playoff performances in NBA history by Frazier, who led the Knicks with 36 points and 19 assists.
2) 1965 Eastern Conf. Finals - Celtics beat 76ers 110-109
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3) 1957 NBA Finals - Celtics beat Hawks 125-123 in 2OT
• The Boston Celtics and St. Louis Hawks staged one of the best rivalries of the NBA's early era, meeting in the NBA Finals four times in five years beginning with the 1956-57 season. That would be the first of a record 16 titles that immortalized the Boston Celtics as the most successful franchise in pro basketball, and it went down to the wire. The Celtics survived for a 125-123 double overtime victory in Game 7 as St. Louis player-coach Alex Hannum threw a court-length inbounds pass off the backboard to Hawks star Bob Pettit, whose attempt at a tying shot rolled off the rim as time expired. How did the two Celtics "rookies" handle the pressure of Game 7 in the Finals? Bill Russell - 19 points, 32 rebounds; Tom Heinsohn - 37 points and 23 rebounds, along with Frank Ramsey were instrumental in leading the Celtics to its first ever NBA title. If this series had taken placed today, it might be called the greatest ever. It opened with St. Louis defeating the Celtics in Boston Garden 125-123 in double-OT. It ended in Game 7 with St. Louis losing to the Celtics in Boston Garden 125-123 in double overtime after Pettit's last second attempt rolled off the rim.
4) 1988 Eastern Conf. Semis - Celtics beat Hawks 118-116
• This seventh game will be remembered for the shootout between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins. But it was Dennis Johnson, who was bleeding around his right eye, who sealed the Boston Celtics' victory. Johnson, an insignificant part of the offense in the first half, scored 10 of Boston's 25 third-period points and hit two throws in the closing seconds to help the Celtics to a 118-116 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the deciding game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series. Bird and Wilkins squared off in the fourth quarter, matching clutch basket for clutch basket. Bird finished with 34 points, 20 in the final quarter. Wilkins scored 16 of his 47 in the final period. "It took everything we had to give," said Bird, who was 9 of 10 from the field in the fourth period. "It was one of those games that you feel whoever makes the first mistake will lose." Going into the final 12 minutes, Bird had an ordinary 14 points and Wilkins a more impressive 31. Then the shootout began. "It was like two gunfighters," said Boston forward Kevin McHale, who finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds. "Who was going to draw first? Who was going to drop first? Larry got that look in his eye. You could see that look. It says, 'I want the ball.' Larry Bird just won't let you lose."
5) 1962 NBA Finals - Celtics beat Lakers 110-107 in OT
• After Frank Selvy missed a game-winning shot for the Lakers at the end of regulation, the Celtics prevailed 110-107 in OT. Bill Russell had 30 points and 40 rebounds, and Bob Cousy famously scurried around the backcourt with a clock-burning display of right-handed dribbling.
--Complied by Peter D. Newmann