The 2021 NBA Finals are fast approaching, with four teams having booked their place in the Conference Finals. The Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, and Milwaukee Bucks are the only remaining sides in the playoffs, and whoever wins it all will record a first since the NBA/ABA merger of 1976.
The Suns recorded the highest regular-season finish of the remaining teams and were second in the Western Conference, dominating the NBA ATS Standings.
With the playoffs headed to what should be an exciting finals series, we take a look at some of the most iconic moments in NBA Finals History.
Ray Allen’s Baseline Game-Tying 3 vs. San Antonio
The Miami Heat was as good as Game 6 of the 2013 NBA finals, but Ray Allen would get a word in and change NBA history in all but four seconds. The Heat, down three with the shot clock off, looked to LeBron James, who had brought them closer with an earlier three. King James lined up again but missed, only for Chris Bosh to rebound and get the ball to Allen. The sharpshooter backpedaled to ensure he was in three-point range and let a contested three fly. Game tied with 5.2 seconds left, Heat goes on to win in overtime, win their third championship in Game 7.
The Spurs had been up by five with less than 30 seconds to go, and the yellow rope had already been placed around the court in preparation for a trophy presentation. Allen, though, had other ideas.
Kyrie Irving’s Game 7 3-Pointer To Give Cleveland First-Ever Championship
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James didn’t have that great a relationship but combined to give the Cleveland Cavaliers their first and only championship in 2016. The Golden State Warriors were the NBA’s most dominant force at the time and had usurped the Cavs in the NBA finals the previous year. Cleveland had to rally back from 3-1 down to force a Game 7 and, with 1:09 left in the fourth quarter and the teams tied at 89, the ball was inbounded to Irving, who got Steph Curry to switch on him via a screen. The guard could not beat Curry off the dribble but wouldn’t need to as he measured patiently, stepped to his right, and rose to sink a three that put his team ahead. The Cavs went on to win 93-89, with James hitting one of two free throws and Steph missing his own attempt at a three.
LeBron James Chase down Game 7 Block
Another clutch play from Cleveland’s Game 7, this time on the defensive end. The teams were at that same 89-89 tie mentioned above, with neither scoring since the 4:39 mark. Irving’s missed layup led to a fast break from Andre Iguodala, who was racing towards the Cavs basket for a seemingly uncontested layup. LeBron wasn’t about to let that happen, however, chasing his opponent down to smack his attempt off the backboard and give his team the possession, which ultimately led to the above.
Robert Horry Drains Clutch 3 To Hand Spurs Win Over Pistons
You simply can’t have such a list without Robert Horry, A.K.A Big Shot Bob, on it. The man has more rings than Michael Jordan and is known for making some of the most clutch shots in NBA history. From the 2005 NBA finals, this one was on the back of four blowout games that saw the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons take the floor in Game 5 tied 2-2.
Horry had already hit four important threes in the game and, with 5.8 seconds left in overtime, found himself wide open as Rasheed Wallace went to help on Manu Ginobli. Wallace, an excellent defender, made a crucial mistake he will likely rue for the rest of his life as his extra coverage led to Horry stepping up to drill a fifth three to give the Spurs a 96-95 overtime win. The Spurs went on to win the series in seven games.
Michael Jordan’s Steal & Game Winner vs. Jazz
Considered the most iconic shot in NBA history, Michael Jordan’s title-winning jumper against the Utah Jazz has been shown over and over throughout the years. Jordan’s Chicago Bulls were the most feared team in the NBA once he rose to become the best player in the game and the six-time champion is responsible for some of the most memorable plays ever made.
Jordan’s shot came on the back of a crucial steal from Karl Malone in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals. After stealing the ball from the star known as the Mailman, he dribbled down the court, crossed over Byron Russel – there was a bit of a shove too – and nailed a 20-foot jumper with calm and poised that seemed to belittle the moment. The shot gave the Bulls an 87-86 lead with 5.2 seconds left. They ultimately won the game, claiming a third consecutive ring and a sixth overall. The jumper was Jordan’s last in a Bulls jersey.
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