The 60 Greatest Playoff Moments: Nos. 31-40
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar absorbed his share of the blame for L.A.'s crushing 148-114 Game 1 loss to Boston in the Memorial Day Massacre. Then the proud 38-year-old responded with a performance that made him the oldest Finals MVP in NBA history. "Cap" scored 29 points in L.A.'s series-clinching 111-100 road win in Game 6 -- the Lakers' first Finals win over Boston after eight series defeats, and the Celtics' only taste of Finals elimination on the floor of the Boston Garden.
Down 98-96 with 14.1 seconds left, the Bulls needed a basket to avoid a Game 7 on the road at Phoenix's America West Arena. Chicago worked the ball from Michael Jordan to Scottie Pippen to Horace Grant, who pitched it out into the reliable hands of John Paxson behind the three-point line. Paxson calmly drilled the three that clinched a Chicago three-peat, and later said, "I've shot like that in my driveway hundreds of thousands of times. It was just reaction."
Portland erupted in a wild celebration of Blazermania after Bill Walton (20 points, 23 rebounds, 8 blocks, 7 assists) and the Blazers held off the heavily favored Sixers to secure a 109-107 win and complete one of the greatest upsets in Finals history. Philadelphia jumped out to a 2-0 series lead before the Blazers rallied to win four in a row. Not bad for an expansion team that joined in the 1970-71 season.
After going up three games to two in the NBA Finals, the Knicks fumbled a chance to win their first NBA championship since 1973 when Hakeem Olajuwon deflected John Starks's three-point attempt and the Rockets survived with a 90-88 win in Game 6, forcing a Game 7, which Houston would win, 90-84, squashing the best chance Knicks center Patrick Ewing will have at winning a ring. Ewing performed valiantly in the battle of two of the game's premier centers, but was outdone by Olajuwon, who was named MVP of the NBA Finals to go along with his MVP honor from the regular season.
The only thing hotter than Joe Louis Arena on this night, a result of broken air conditioning, was the shooting touch of Bernard King and Isiah Thomas. Stunning the Knicks down the stretch, Isiah Thomas scored 16 points in a span of 93 seconds to force overtime but was outdone by Bernard King. The Knick superstar posted 44 points and 12 rebounds, despite playing with the flu and both of his middle fingers dislocated, and capped the extra session with a soaring put-back dunk over four Pistons and two of his own teammates.
After making his famous "Fo', fo', fo' ..." prediction, Sixers center Moses Malone virtually made good on his promise as Philly went ‘Fo, Five, Fo,’losing only once in the playoffs en route to an NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers. Malone was named Finals MVP.
After the heavily favored Lakers were upset in Game 1 to the Philadelphia 76ers, Shaquille O’Neal took matters into his own hands in Game 2, flirting with a quadruple-double -- 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and a Finals record-tying eight blocks in a 98-89 Lakers victory that tied the series. The Lakers never looked back, winning the next three games as O’Neal earned his second straight Finals MVP Award. The Lakers cemented their place in NBA history as one of the greatest teams of all time. The Lakers’ record-setting 15-1 record and .937 winning percentage during the postseason is the most dominating run in league playoff history.
The Lakers took an early lead and seemed ready to run off with another victory. From the bench, M.L. Carr screamed at his teammates to become more physical. Kevin McHale complied in the second quarter when he clotheslined Kurt Rambis on a breakaway layup, causing a ruckus under the basket. The incident awakened the Celtics and gave the Lakers reason to pause. Los Angeles later held a five-point lead with less than a minute to play. But Robert Parish stole a bad pass from Magic, and the Lakers' point guard later missed two key free throws, allowing the Celtics to force an overtime. Late in the extra period James Worthy faced a key free-throw attempt. Carr hooted loudly from the bench that he would miss and Worthy did; Maxwell stepped up and greeted him with the choke sign. The Celtics vaulted to a 129-125 win, thanks to Bird's game winner over Magic, which tied the series again, giving Boston the home-court edge.
Not wanting to be swept out of the playoffs at the hands of the Lakers, Sleepy Floyd helped the Warriors overcome a 102-88 deficit entering the fourth quarter by scoring 29 points in the final stanza – 39 in the second half – and 51 overall. Floyd was 12-for-13 from the field in the fourth quarter as the Golden State lived to see another game.
In 1986, Larry Bird was the NBA's best player and the Boston Celtics the league's best team. And in Game 6 of the 1986 Finals, Bird and the Celtics showed why. Bird helped Boston clinch its 16th NBA title with a triple-double performance of 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, earning Finals MVP honors. It was an amazing run for the Celtics who lost only once during the entire regular and postseason at Boston Garden in ’85-86. For Bird, it was a magical run as well, having earned his third consecutive NBA MVP Award.
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