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Art Garcia

Red Auerbach celebrates after the Celtics' win in 1984.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

L.A., Boston brace for another chance at a seventh heaven

Posted Jun 16 2010 5:38PM

We've made it. The 2010 NBA Finals are going to the max, with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics revving up for a what could be a Game 7 to remember. The deciding contest is Thursday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The league's two premier franchises are no strangers to championship series going the distance. In the 12 Finals meetings between the Celtics and Lakers, this is the fifth to be decided in a winner-take-all game. Boston won the previous four in 1984, '69, '66 and '62.

A seventh game in The Finals isn't nearly as common for the rest of the league. Only three times in the last 25 years, after the switch to the 2-3-2 scheduling format, have two teams gone to a seventh game to decide a champion. San Antonio outlasted Detroit in 2005, Houston slipped past New York in 1994 and the Lakers edged the Pistons in 1988.

Overall, the NBA has witnessed a Game 7 on 16 occasions, starting with the Rochester Royals getting the best of the Knicks in 1951. The Lakers and Celtics are about to make it 17.

So what should we expect Thursday, a nail-biter or dud? Given the split through six games, an evenly fought battle of wills could be in the cards. The last five Game 7s have been decided by nine or fewer points. Only four have featured double-digit spreads.

It all adds up to a good one in Los Angeles.

We can only hope.

Lakers-Celtics Game 7s

1984: Celtics 111, Lakers 102

Larry Bird was the MVP of the series, but it was Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell leading the way in the finale with 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists at the balmy Garden. (The game-time temperature was 91 degrees after Game 5 was played in 97-degree heat in the old building.) The Lakers cut a 14-point lead to three late in the game before Dennis Johnson iced the title with two free throws in the last minute.

1969: Celtics 108, Lakers 106

Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke had thousands of balloons placed in the Forum rafters ready to fall once the green hex was finally broken. They never fell, and the marching band Cook hired never played, either. Lakers stars Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain were both hobbling, but this game is remembered for sixth man Don Nelson's foul-line jumper. The prayer with one second left on the shot clock hit the back iron, bounced higher than the top of backboard and fell through to clinch the Boston win.

1966: Celtics 95, Lakers 93

Los Angeles forced Game 7 by winning the previous two games. The Lakers looked cooked early as Boston jumped out to a big lead. The inevitable rally, led by Jerry West, followed. But the Celtics had enough to hold on in Red Auerbach's last game as head coach. A final victory cigar was lit.

1962: Celtics 110, Lakers 107 (OT)

Oh, so close. The Lakers had the shot to win in regulation -- Frank Selvy's open 12-footer on the baseline -- only to feel heartache once again. The game-winner didn't fall and the Celtics prevailed in the extra session to win their fourth of eight straight titles. Bill Russell scored 30 points and grabbed a monstrous 40 rebounds, and Bob Cousy famously dribbled out the clock.

Others to remember

2005: Spurs 81, Pistons 74

The Pistons needed to win two games in San Antonio to repeat, and they nearly pulled the trick. Larry Brown, coaching in the city that brought him back to the NBA in 1988 and against his former assistant, had his Detroit squad tied with San Antonio going into the fourth quarter. That's when Finals MVP Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili took over, as Gregg Popovich's Spurs pulled away for their third title.

1994: Rockets 90, Knicks 84

Houston transformed from Choke City to Clutch City thanks for Hakeem Olajuwon and Co. The Dream poured in 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, had seven assists and blocked three shots to lift the Rockets to back-to-back championships. Vernon Maxwell chipped in a series-high 21 points. Knicks guard John Starks would rather forget this one. His 2-for-18 shooting nightmare included missing all 11 3-point tries.

1988: Lakers 108, Pistons 105

The Lakers needed to win two straight in Los Angeles to regain the title -- sound familiar? -- and that's what they did. "Big Game" James Worthy destroyed Detroit with a colossal triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. Coming off a valiant 43-point explosion in Game 6, Isiah Thomas played little in the second half due to a sprained ankle. It was the Lakers' fifth title since 1980.

1970: Knicks 113, Lakers 99

"And here comes Willis." Two jumpers and infinite inspiration from Willis Reed. What more needs to be written?

1957: Celtics 125, Hawks 123 (2OT)

This classic was the second in the series to go two overtimes. It almost went to three, but St. Louis star Bob Pettit missed a jumper off an inbounds pass that bounced off the backboard with one second left. The two teams were intertwined before the start of the season, as St. Louis traded the No. 2 pick in the Draft to Boston. That pick was center Bill Russell, who scored 19 points and grabbed a rookie-record 32 rebounds in Game 7.

1955: Nationals 92, Pistons 91

Syracuse won the first title of the shot-clock era in last-second fashion. Well, almost. George King, a 61-percent foul shooter, stepped to the line with the score tied. He made one of two to give the Nats the lead. King also stole the ball from Fort Wayne's Andy Philips after the ensuing rebound. Philips was bumped on the play, but the refs didn't make the call. Syracuse fans flooded the floor to celebrate. The Nats eventually moved to Philadelphia and became the 76ers.

1951: Royals 79, Knicks 75

The first Game 7 in league history came in a series that almost became the first Finals sweep. Rochester jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to see New York rally to force a final game. The Knicks weren't able to complete the comeback as the Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) held on to win their first and only NBA championship. Red Holzman, one of Phil Jackson's mentors, played for Rochester.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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