Game 5 of 2-2 NBA Finals: The greatest hits through the years
Best-of-7 becomes best-of-3 for the NBA championship this Sunday evening in Oakland.
The preliminaries are over: The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have probed, prodded and tested each other in four games and two cities. They’ve absorbed each other’s best punches so far, though the Cavs have clearly thrown and landed many more of them. Now comes the sprint to the finish line of the 2015 season. The pressure becomes thicker, the air much harder to breathe. We can’t wait for Game 5 of a 2-2 Finals series.
What’s new about the 2015 Finals — not unprecedented, but relative to the past 30 years of pro basketball — is that the higher seed hosts Game 5 once again, something not seen since the Boston Celtics handled the Los Angeles Lakers in the Garden in the 1984 Finals. In this YouTube journey, we go back to that period in the NBA’s history — the early 1980s — and take you through some of the more memorable and decisive performances in Game 5s of 2-2 Finals:
1980 NBA FINALS, GAME 5: LAKERS 3, SIXERS 2
KAREEM’S FINEST HOUR
Later on in this list, you’ll see another “greatest game ever” from an elite player in this supreme pressure cooker, one exceeded only by a Game 7 in a Finals series.
Crossover Chronicles writer Joseph Nardone reflected on Magic Johnson’s remarkable performance in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals as a rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers. That game — 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the floor — is rightly viewed as one of the all-time great performances in NBA history.
However, it won the Finals — as opposed to merely tying the series at 3-3 — because of what Kareem did on a busted ankle before he sat out for Game 6.
At 3:40 in the clip linked above, you’ll see Kareem, who finished with 40 points, injure his ankle on a landing. Yet, not only did Abdul-Jabbar return to the game; he provided big baskets down the stretch, including the game-winning, and-one dunk in the final 35 seconds. If Kareem doesn’t max out in this game, Philadelphia would have smelled blood heading home for Game 6, and Magic might not have played with the sense of freedom he exhibited on the night that made him a world champion for the first time.
1984 NBA FINALS, GAME 5: CELTICS 3, LAKERS 2
A BIRD AS HOT AS HIS GARDEN
In Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals, the old Boston Garden’s lack of air conditioning — combined with a heat wave in New England — created a very uncomfortable experience for most of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Larry Bird, on the other hand, was happy and content in his Garden — he threw a Garden party there, hitting 15 of 20 field goals en route to 34 points, good for a Celtics lead. Boston would return to its home floor for Game 7 and continue its mastery of the Lakers in the Finals.
JORDAN, THE APPETIZER
Michael Jordan and his career, in a nutshell: He scored 46 points in this 2-2 Game 5.
This was not his best Game 5 in a 2-2 Finals — not even close.
1997 NBA FINALS, GAME 5: BULLS 3, JAZZ 2
THE FLU GAME — THE GREATEST EVER FOR THE GREATEST EVER
The game’s greatest player delivered his best career performance, given all the other surrounding circumstances . . . in Game 5 of a 2-2 Finals . . . on the road. Jazz fans, look away.
2005 NBA FINALS, GAME 5: SPURS 3, PISTONS 2
BIG. SHOT. BOB.
Oh no, Rasheed Wallace — you didn’t leave Robert Horry open with a two-point lead in the final 10 seconds of a 2-2 Game 5 in the Finals, did you?
2011 NBA FINALS, GAME 5: MAVERICKS 3, HEAT 2
The Dallas Mavericks trailed late in Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals. They trailed late in Game 4. They trailed late in Game 5. They won all of those games, and because of their ability to close — as shown in this presentation of the final few minutes of Game 5 — they won their first NBA championship, avenging the 2006 Finals, when sketchy officiating in Game 5 of a 2-2 series did not go their way.
Your turn, LeBron and Steph. Your turn, Delly and Draymond. Your turn, J.R. and Klay.
How will you perform in Game 5 of a 2-2 NBA Finals, one of the great crucibles in professional sports?
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