The 60 Greatest Playoff Moments: Nos. 51-60
After making a free throw to give Syracuse a 92-91 lead over Fort Wayne, George King chased down Andy Phillip and made a steal to secure Game 7 in dramatic fashion. Bedlam ensued as Syracuse fans streamed the floor to celebrate the Nats' only championship.
It's no wonder they called him "Big Game" James. Heading back to L.A. down 3-2 to the Pistons, the Lakers scored a one-point win in Game 6, setting the stage for Big Game. In Game 7, Worthy saved his best Finals performance for last with a triple-double: 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers became the first team since the 1969 Celtics to repeat as NBA champions.
The Los Angeles Lakers had won 19 straight heading into Game 1 of the 2001 Finals, including 11 consecutive wins in the Western Conference playoffs. The Philadelphia 76ers had just finished their second consecutive seven-game series three days before, but the Sixers and league MVP Allen Iverson took it to the mighty Lakers. Iverson poured in 48 points to lead Philly to a shocking Game 1 overtime triumph.
Having trailed by as many as 18 points late in the third quarter, and down 85-83 with 12 seconds remaining, Sean Elliott produced one of the most memorable plays in Spurs history. Elliott, coming off a screen in the low post, took a pass that was nearly picked off by Portland's Stacey Augmon. Elliott's momentum carried him to the sideline, where he pirouetted to avoid stepping out of bounds. On his toes and with little time to set himself, Elliott let fly from the corner. The ball dropped through, putting the Spurs up 2-0 in the series and serving as momentum that would result in the first ever title for David Robinson and the Spurs.
After already having come back from a 2-1 series deficit in the first round, Houston completes yet another stunning comeback, this time from 3-1 down against the Suns as Mario Elie nails the game-winning three-pointer from the left corner and then blows a kiss to the hushed Phoenix crowd. On its way to the title, Houston would be known as “Clutch City.”
Called "the greatest play I've ever seen" by Red Auerbach, Larry Bird converted a remarkable shot in the fourth quarter of Boston's 98-95 victory. Following his own miss, Bird grabbed the rebound on the run with his right hand and while in midair, with his momentum about to take him behind the backboard and out of bounds, he switched the ball into his left hand and somehow scooped it into the hoop.
The only thing more amazing about Rik Smits’ game-winner at the buzzer to boost the Pacers over the Magic 94-93 might have been the events that preceded it. Leading the Series 2-1, but trailing in the game 89-87, the Magic’s Brian Shaw knocks down a three to give Orlando the lead with 13.3 seconds left. That was followed by a go-ahead three by Reggie Miller with 5.2 seconds left and that was followed by another three, this time by Penny Hardaway, recapturing the lead for Orlando with 1.3 seconds to go and setting the stage for Smits.
Shaquille O'Neal had 36 points and 21 rebounds but it was 21-year-old Kobe Bryant who turned in the eye-opening performance in the Lakers 120-118 overtime win over Indiana. Leading 112-109 with 2:33 remainingin the extra session, O'Neal fouled out, leaving Bryant to try and hold off a hard charging Pacers team, which is exactly what he did in scoring six of the Lakers final eight points, including a tip-in that proved to be the game winner. Said Bryant following the contest, "This is the game I've been dreaming about."
In a stunning upset, Denver defeats the Sonics 98-94 in overtime to secure one of the greatest wins in playoff history. The series marks the first time ever a No. 8 seed beat a No. 1 seed in the playoffs and leaves us with the indelible image of Dikembe Mutombo clutching the ball in ecstasy as he lay on the court.
Philadelphia lost a two-game lead the year before and were on the verge of blowing another. The Sixers emerged victorious in one of the most memorable games in franchise history behind 34 points by Andrew Toney, who earned the nickname, "Boston Strangler." Toney averaged 26.5 points in the series. Acknowledging defeat to their archrivals, the Boston Garden crowd sends the Sixers into the Finals with an encouraging chant of "Beat L.A.!"
The Garden faithful had watched this scene unfold too many times, especially at the hands of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The clock showed 1:26 remaining and the Knicks had already blown a 14-point third quarter lead when John Starks instantly became a part of New York sports lore. Flashing around a Patrick Ewing screen, Starks drove baseline and exploded to the rim. Horace Grant and Jordan be damned, Starks rose to the rafters inhabited by past Knick greats and threw down a vicious, lefty tomahawk jam over both. An incredulous Garden crowd erupted at the sight as Starks bounded down the court forever a legend.
Defended by Michael Jordan and playing on a sprained ankle, Reggie Miller buried a three with with 0.7 seconds remaining to tie the series at two games apiece. Michael Jordan’s attempt hits the rim.
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