Greatest Performances in NBA Finals History (Part 3, 15-11)
After a one day break from the countdown, we resume the countdown of the greatest performances in NBA finals history. We have seen some great and iconic moments in NBA history already, and if you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the countdown.
15. Tim Duncan, Game 6, 2003 NBA Finals
21 Points, 20 Rebounds, 10 Assists, 8 Blocks (Video)
That stat line alone makes this performance worthy of inclusion in this countdown. What makes it even more impressive is the context that can be applied to some of those numbers. The 10 assists almost all came from the defense collapsing on Duncan and him delivering the ball to wide open teammates for clean looks in which they converted on (Robinson, Speedy Claxton, Stephen Jackson etc.). The blocks were all in the paint, where New Jersey loved to attack with Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson. The Nets, on paper, were perhaps the weakest team to make the finals in the last 30 years. But at this time, they were actually peaking. Heading into the finals, they had won 10 straight games and pushed San Antonio to their limit. Duncan’s performance was clutch and needed to seal the championship
14. Lebron James, Game 7, 2013 NBA Finals
37 Points (5/10 3 pointers), 12 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 2 Steals (Video)
This game should be fresh in everyone’s mind, but let’s have a look at the context anyway: Lebron, up until this point, really hadn’t dominated in this series, and at times, looked quite shaky. All the criticisms, ranging from him passing too much to him relying on his jumpshot too often looked quite prophetic. But in game 7, he attacked early and often, and took what the defense gave him with confidence and a purpose. Yes, he had some major help in Chalmers and Battier, but James’ game 7 was a career defining moment, and regardless of what happens the rest of his career, will go down as one of the best winners of all time.
13. Allen Iverson, Game 1, 2001 NBA Finals
48 Points, 6 Assists, 5 Rebounds, 5 Steals (Video) Shaq: 44 Points, 20 Rebounds, 5 Assists (Video)
I absolutely had to include Shaq’s stats in this, just because had Iverson not exploded and The Lakers had won the game, Shaq’s performance against DPOY Dikembe Mutumbo would have made this countdown. It was only right that I paid homage to Shaq’s game because it only adds to what Iverson did. But some brief context: Philly had scraped and clawed their way to the Finals, having played 18 games (the maximum was 19 in those days, when they had a best of 5 format in the first round). The Lakers, on the other hand, had gone 11-0 and were well rested. Philly, and especially Iverson, were physically worn out, and started out slowly in game one, trailing 18-5 at one stage before Iverson took control. As I mentioned in The Legend of Allen Iverson article, he would single-handedly end the Lakers historic post season winning streak and place real doubt in Los Angeles. The game capped off 3 straight 40 point performances by Iverson in the playoffs (Games 6 and 7 against Milwaukee) and that, in my opinion, makes it even more impressive. The Lakers absolutely knew what was coming, and they couldn’t contain it at all. It’s a shame that when people bring up Iverson’s name, the majority of “fans” identify his rant about practice before this game. This was a generation defining game, only emphasised by how confused and frustrated Kobe looked trying desperately to stop him.
12. Bob Pettit, Game 6, 1958 Finals
50 Points (limited stats were recorded back then) Video
In a rematch of the 57 final, St. Louis found themselves up against the juggernaut Celtics lead by the great Bill Russell. Russell was limited with a severe ankle sprain suffered in game 3, but nothing could detract from Pettit’s 50 point performance (a playoff record at the time) to seal the championship. The loss would be the only one suffered by Russell in the finals in his entire career, and truly Is an underated performance in NBA History.
11. Shaquille O’Neal, Game 2, 2001 Finals
28 Points (12/19 fg), 20 Rebounds, 9 Assists, 8 Blocks, 1 Steal (Video)
As I mentioned before in the summary for Iverson’s performance, The Lakers had steamrolled through the Western Conference before losing game 1 of the finals unexpectedly. Fans were preparing for an undefeated playoff run by L.A., but now all the pressure was on their shoulders to just get a split in the first two games. Can you imagine what would have happened had they dropped both games at home to the 76ers with the next 3 games to be played in Philadelphia? The Lakers had to respond, and Shaq was beyond dominant in this game. What made his performance go ahead of Duncan and Walton’s near quadruple doubles is O’Neal’s came against defensive player of the year, Dikembe Mutumbo. After this game, “Most Dominant Ever” was no longer just a catch phrase. Fans began to seriously take note that Shaq was rapidly ascending amongst the best big men that have ever played the game.