The 60 Greatest Playoff Moments: Nos. 11-20
Rodney McCray passes to Ralph Sampson who, with his back to the basket and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar defending, caught the ball in mid-air, spun and blindly lofted the ball towards the basket where it hit the front of the rim, hung tantalizingly in the air, drifted down, glanced off the back rim and tumbled through the hoop as time expired, propelling the Rockets into the NBA Finals and ending the Lakers four-year run of Western Conference dominance.
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.
Playing on an ankle so severely sprained he could barely put weight on it, Isiah Thomas scored 25 points in the third quarter -- a Finals record for points in a quarter. Despite his valiant effort, the Pistons would lose Game 6 and eventually the series to the Lakers.
In the fourth quarter of Game 4, with his Sixers trailing 2-1 in the series, Julius Erving delivered perhaps the ultimate move of his highlight-filled career to help Philly to a 105-102 win. Dr. J drove baseline, elevated, reached back behind the backboard with the ball and somehow emerged on the opposite side of the basket to convert the circus shot. Magic Johnson called it "the greatest move I've ever seen in a basketball game."
The Los Angeles Lakers were making their first Finals appearance and it looked as if they were going to make it a success thanks to Elgin Baylor. The forward poured in a Finals record (and then-playoffs record) 61 points against the Celtics in the Boston Garden, giving the Lakers a 3-2 series lead.
After tying this classic in regulation and at the end of the first overtime, John Havlicek hit a rainbow over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to give Boston a 101-100 lead with seven seconds left in the second OT. From there, Oscar Robertson inbounded the ball to Kareem. The league MVP dribbled down the right and hit a difficult sky hook over Henry Finkel, in the game to replace the fouled-out Dave Cowens, to give Milwaukee a 102-101 win and send the series to a seventh game. The Celtics would rally to win Game 7 on the road, with Cowens playing all but one minute of the clincher, scoring 28 points and pulling down 14 rebounds.
Bitten hard by the flu bug, Michael Jordan was so ill some speculated that he wouldn't be able to play in Game 5 against the Jazz in Utah with the series tied at 2-2. Jordan fought the Jazz, dehydration and exhaustion (he could barely walk to the bench during timeouts) -- and won. Jordan turned in another masterful performance with 38 points and seven rebounds, sending the series back to Chicago with the Bulls up 3-2 in the series. Two days later, the Bulls won their fifth title in six years.
Playing a game of can you top this, LA’s Derek Fisher hits a fadeaway jumper from the left corner over Manu Ginobili at the buzzer – after having watched Tim Duncan hit a 20-foot fadeaway of his own with 0.4 seconds remaining – as the Lakers take command of the series and head back to Los Angeles up 3-2.
After 11 consecutive years of playoff exits, the NBA’s foremost duo, John Stockton and Karl Malone finally get their chance to play for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Stockton scores 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer off (what else?) a Malone screen as time expires, to give the Jazz a 103-100 victory over the Houston Rockets and send the Jazz on their first ever trip to the NBA Finals.
Cavs fans got their first taste of Jordan’s greatness when MJ caught the inbounds pass along the sideline, sprinted across court with the ball, elevated and magically tossed in his dagger over the vainly outstretched arm of Craig Ehlo. Richfield Coliseum patrons could only admire his brilliance and watch as Jordan pumped his fists in triumph.
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