“Each one of them is so terribly exhilarating,” Stern said. “In addition to the exhilaration of the winning team, the despair of the loser is palpable. It’s sports at its best. It’s the essence of competition.”
Stern said it would be hard for this series to top Game 6, when LeBron James rallied the Heat from five down with 21 seconds remaining to win it in overtime. It kept Miami’s hopes of defending its title alive against Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the veteran core of the Spurs.
“I just think everyone, including the spectators, are on edge and that’s wonderful,” Stern said. “Every possession gets magnified. Every move, every coaching change, every adjustment, it becomes a clinic about the beauty of our game.”
Here’s a look at some of the most recent finals Game 7s:
Lakers 83, Celtics 79. Kobe Bryant had tried to pretend the Celtics were just another opponent, but he could finally admit otherwise after the Lakers pulled off a fourth-quarter rally to avenge a loss to their biggest rival two years earlier. It wasn’t a pretty performance for Bryant, who shot just 6 of 24 for his 23 points, but he got help from Pau Gasol (19 points, 18 rebounds) and a surprising 20 points from Ron Artest, before he was Metta World Peace. The Lakers needed a big comeback after the Celtics led by 13 in the second half. Boston’s old guys ran out of gas, with Paul Pierce shooting just 5 of 15, Ray Allen 3 of 14 and Rasheed Wallace wearing down after being forced to play 36 minutes because starting center Kendrick Perkins injured his knee in Game 6. With their second straight championship and 16th overall, the Lakers pulled within one of the Celtics for the most in NBA history.
Spurs 81, Pistons 74. Tied at 57 going into the final quarter, the final game of the 2005 season was anything but an offensive masterpiece. But the Spurs found more than enough scoring down the stretch to capture their third title in six years, with Duncan finishing with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Ginobili adding 23 more. Duncan opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a dunk, and the Spurs never trailed in the final 12 minutes. Robert Horry, Bruce Bowen and Ginobili all came up with big 3-pointers for the Spurs in the final quarter, with Ginobili’s basically serving as the backbreaker for Detroit, putting the Pistons in a 72-65 hole with 2:57 left. The Pistons never got within four again. Five players scored in double-figures for Detroit, with Richard Hamilton leading the way with a hard-fought 15 points on 6 for 18 shooting.