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Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Top 10 Game 7 performances

By Peter Newman

The NBA Finals has seen 16 Game 7s, and these are (arguably) the best individual performances from that collection of games. Among these top 10 are a whopping six that feature the Celtics. (Some summaries from NBA.com)

1) Walt Frazier, NY (1970)
In the 1970 NBA Finals, Walt Frazier had 36 points, 19 assists, 7 rebounds in a game best remembered for Willis Reed's triumphant return to the Knicks. New York would win the game 113-99 and the NBA title against the Lakers.

2) Bill Russell, BOS (1962)
In the 1962 NBA Finals, Bill Russell had 30 points and 40 rebounds as the Celtics won 110-107 in overtime. The game famously ended with Bob Cousy avoiding defenders while dribbling the clock out. The 40 rebounds is the most by any player in a Game 7.

3) James Worthy, LAL (1988)
“Big Game James” Worthy may have had his biggest game in the 1988 NBA Finals. He recorded his first triple-double as the Lakers beat the Pistons 108-105. Worthy finished with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers became the first team since the Celtics in 1968 and 1969 to repeat as NBA champions.

4) Bill Russell, BOS (1966)
In the 1966 NBA Finals, Bill Russell helped coach Red Auerbach retire with a title. After a Game 1 loss to the Lakers, Auerbach stated that he would step down after the season and Russell would take over as coach. The Celtics fought back in the series and forced a Game 7. Russell had 25 points and 32 rebounds in Game 7 as the Celtics won 95-93, and Auerbach retired on top.

5) Don Nelson, BOS (1969)
The Celtics were watching a 17-point fourth-quarter lead slip away against the heavily favored Lakers at the Forum. With the lead cut to 103-102 in the final minutes, the ball was knocked away from John Havlicek into the hands of Don Nelson at the free-throw line. Nellie put up a shot that hit the back of the rim and got the ultimate shooter's bounce: Straight down and straight through the net. From there, Boston held on to win 108-106 as Bill Russell retired with the most improbable of his 11 titles. Nelson finished with 16 points.

6) Tom Heinsohn/Bill Russell, BOS (1957)
If this series had taken placed today, it might be called the greatest ever. It opened with St. Louis defeating the Celtics in the Boston Garden 125-123 in double OT. It ended in Game 7 with St. Louis losing to the Celtics in the Boston Garden, 125-123 in double overtime after Bob Pettit's last-second attempt rolled off the rim. Each of the Hawks' three wins were by two points. With the exception of Game 7, the Celtics never won by less than five points. How did the two Celtics "rookies" handle the pressure of Game 7 in the Finals? Russell had 19 points and 32 rebounds and Heinsohn had 37 points (highest-ever total in an NBA Finals Game 7 win) and 23 rebounds.

7) Bill Russell, BOS (1960)
The Celtics won their second consecutive title, thanks to Bill Russell, who scored 22 points and grabbed 35 rebounds vs. the St. Louis Hawks.

8) Hakeem Olajuwon, HOU (1994)
The Rockets trailed the series 3-2 but came back and won Game 7 behind MVP Hakeem Olajuwon. He had 25 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 blocks in the clincher.

9) Manu Ginobili, SA (2005)
San Antonio's Tim Duncan had 25 points and 11 rebounds, but Manu Ginobili was the shooting star as he had 23 points (8-13 FG, 5-5 FT), 5 rebounds and 4 assists and the Spurs won 81-74 over the Pistons.

10) Dave Cowens, BOS (1974)
The Celtics went on the road in Game 7 against the Bucks and won 102-87 behind 28 points and 14 rebounds from Dave Cowens, who outplayed the much taller Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.