Donald Sterling’s comments have cast a shadow over not only the NBA but what is fast becoming one of the 16 greatest playoffs in league history (see list below). The Los Angeles Clippers took a 3-games-to-2 lead over the Golden State Warriors after Sterling’s banishment Tuesday while the underdog Wizards have already advanced and the underdog Memphis Grizzlies, Brooklyn Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, and Atlanta Hawks are all even or better in their series leading to the potential for the most Game 7s in the history of the NBA playoffs.
The Sweet 16 All-Time NBA Playoffs
16. The 2014 playoffs already feature five opening round series that are either 3-games-to-2 or 2-2. Only once in the history of the NBA have five series IN THE ENTIRE PLAYOFFS gone to a Game 7. Here is the rest of the countdown. The Thunder, Pacers, and Warriors all have a chance to force a Game 7 with a win Thursday, while the Mavs-Spurs and Nets-Raptors could force a Game 7 if they split their next two starting Tuesday. The Rockets would have to beat the Trail Blazers twice to force a Game 7. If some of those happen, this season could be competing with the following 15 seasons that featured much Game 7 drama.
15. In 1951, the Rochester Royals defeated the New York Knicks 79-75 in Game 7 of the Finals. It is still the only title for the team that would become the Sacramento Kings, as they defeated Fort Wayne two games to one in the opening round, and then upset the No. 1 seed in the West Minneapolis three games to one in the semis. Arnie Risen led them with 16.3 points-per game that season.
14. In 2009, the Orlando Magic defeated the Boston Celtics 101-82 in Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals for the 4th Game 7 in 15 best-of-seven series. While Kobe Bryant and the Lakes then easily dispatched of the Magic in the finals, they were taken to a Game 7 by the Rockets in the second round.
13. In 2006, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 127-107 in in Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals for the 4th Game 7 in 15 best-of-seven series. Fourth-seeded Dallas stunned top-seeded San Antonio in a rare Game 7 road win, and then defeated 2-seed Phoenix to get to the championship. Eastern top seed Detroit was stretched to seven games by Cleveland before being upset by Dwyane Wade, who continued his magic with an almost one-man defeat of Dallas after the Heat had fallen behind two games to none.
12. In 1960, the Boston Celtics defeated the St. Louis Hawks 122-103 in in Game 7 of the Finals. Bill Russell and the Celtics defeated Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia Warriors in six games in one semifinal, while it took Chamberlain seven games to beat the Syracuse Nationals – making it two of three best-of-seven series going the distance.
11. In 2012, the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics 101-88 in in Game 7 of the Conference Finals for the 4th of 15 best-of-seven series. This playoff was really made early when both Los Angeles teams fought through Game 7 wins in the opening round, and then Miami fought through a tough six-game series with Indiana and seven-game series with the Boston Celtics, while Oklahoma City upset the top seed in the West, San Antonio, for make the championship where they lost to Miami four games to one.
10. In 1979, the Washington Bullets defeated the San Antonio Spurs 107-105 in in Game 7 of the Conference Finals in what was the fourth consecutive series of the playoffs to go to a Game 7. The finals was a little anti-climactic as Jack Sikma dominated the boards to help Seattle beat Washington four games to one for the title.
9. In 1974, the Boston Celtics defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 102-87 in in Game 7 of the Finals for the 3rd Game 7 in 7 best-of-seven series. Dave Cowens led the Celtics in points, rebounds and blocked shots, and almost led the team in steals to give the Celtics enough firepower to dominate the first rounds before overcoming a tough challenge by the Bucks’ Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
8. In 1981, the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 91-90 in in Game 7 of the Conference Finals for the 4th of 7 best-of-seven series. This playoffs was great because it marked the only time two teams with losing records met in a Conference Finals, as the Rockets and Kansas City Kings both won preliminary series 2-games-to-1 and took Game 7s in the Conference semifinals despite both going 40-42 in the regular season. The Celtics than managed to finish off the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the Finals to avoid having this be the second playoffs to ever feature five Game 7s in one season. It took Larry Bird, Cedric Maxwell, and Robert Parish to hold off the most dominant player in the playoffs, Moses Malone.
7. In 1962, the Boston Celtics had to go the distance in both series, defeating Philadelphia and then Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7s, the last one being a 110-107 overtime win. Bill Russell broke his own finals record with 40 rebounds to make the Celtics the only team in NBA history to win the title four years in a row.
6. In 1970, the NBA got its dream scenario as both the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers took opening round Game 7s, and then went seven games against each other in the Finals before the Knicks won 113-99 in the third of three seven-game series in the two largest media markets. The Knicks had to overcome Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, but Willis Reed stunned the TV audience by returning from injury and Walt Frazier picked the Lakers with steals for the victory.
5. In 2005, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons 81-74 in in Game 7 of the Finals for the 4th of 15 best-of-seven series. Tim Duncan (20.6 points, 14.1 rebounds in playoffs) led the way after Chauncey Billups had led Detroit past Miami and a young Wade in seven games – the year before Wade would win his first title.
4. In 1992, Michael Jordan hit one of his most memorable shots of his career to eliminate Cleveland on the road, but what most people forget is the both teams were almost eliminated in the previous rounds. The Cavaliers finally beat the Boston Celtics 110-81 in in Game 7 of one conference semifinal, and Chicago beat the Knicks in Game 7 to force the classic matchup in the Conference finals. Jordan and Scottie Pippen then took their second of six titles in six games over Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers.
3. In 1988, Magic Johnson had to fight for his final NBA title with three consecutive Game 7 wins. The Lakers survived the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, and Detroit Pistons in order–the final in a 108-105 war.
2. In 1966, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 95-93 in in Game 7 of the Finals after both teams had to go the distance earlier. The Celtics were stretched to the final game in a best-of-five by the Cincinnati Royals, and the Lakers survived a Game 7 against the St. Louis Hawks to set up the showdown between Jerry West and Bill Russell.
1. The greatest overall playoffs occurred in 1994 when five out of seven best-of-seven series went to a Game 7. It is the only year the NBA playoffs have featured five Game 7s, even though since 2003 there have been twice as many seven game series (15). The Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, and New York Knicks all won Game 7s in the conference semifinals (only the Indiana Pacers won in six games). Then the Rockets took only five games to beat the Jazz, while the Knicks took seven games to beat the Pacers and set up the ultimate matchup at center as Hakeem Olajuwon outdueled Patrick Ewing to give the Rockets the title.