You don’t need me to point out that tonight is the biggest game of the season. Massive. Enormous. Undertaker-huge. Rings are resting on these 48 minutes. The winners of Game 5s in the Finals win the series 77% of the time. If Miami wins, wrap it up. If Dallas wins, they have a death grip on it.
Because of the 2-3-2 format, Game 5s always seem to carry some type of legendary stench. The air is stuffy with expectations and formality. Just look at tonight, at all of the storylines. LeBron. D-Wade’s moment. Dirk pushing for that one ring. Riley and Cuban. All of the vets on either side trying to ride off with just one ring. Going up 3-2 in any series, let alone the Finals, brings a team to within tasting distance of the Champagne.
This may end up being the best game of the series, and historically some of the best Finals games are Game 5s. Here are the greatest:
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2006 Finals: Miami beats Dallas 101-100
You know the story: Wade finished with 28 field-goal attempts and 25 free-throw attempts. Dallas was up eight at the half and blew it again. Josh Howard blows a timeout. Cuban’s head blows off. Ball game.
2005 Finals: San Antonio over Detroit 96-95 in OT
Rasheed Wallace goes and places the Big-Shot Crown directly on Robert Horry’s head. How the Pistons didn’t win this game, and this series, I still don’t know. This is a contender for most-ridiculous-18-minute-stretch-of-basketball-by-a-role-player-ever.
1999 Finals: San Antonio over New York 78-77
Avery Johnson with his one shining moment. Hardly any one particular shot ever annoyed me as much as this one did. I just couldn’t stand the Spurs: boring, old and slow.
1998 Finals: Utah over Chicago 83-81
This was possibly Karl Malone’s best performance ever in the Finals. Too bad he was kinda neutralized in this series’ other five games. This game included some oddities, like Toni Kukoc dropping 30, Scottie Pippen shooting 2-for-16 (Pip & MJ combined to shoot 11-for-42) and Jordan’s last-second three-point heave coming up just inches from being one of the greatest shots ever.