Conventional wisdom says that Game 5s are crucial to the outcome of a series, and that's certainly what
Several of those occurred in Celtics-Lakers Finals, though that is probably inevitable given that they've played each other for the championship 12 times. In 1962, '63, '66, '69, and, as you should recall, 2008, the Lakers beat the C's in Game 5 only to lose the series. The only time the Lakers reversed that was in 1987 when they lost Game 5 in Boston but came back to take the title with a Game 6 win in L.A.
That kind of ancient history has limited value, though. I can imagine Jackson telling his team, "Guys,
Anyway, herewith a list of one man's opinion of the best Game 5s in the Finals. Note that closeout Game 5 wins are not included because Sunday's game is not in that category.
The Lakers had moved to L.A. only one season earlier and this represented one of their finest moments at Boston Garden. With the series tied 2-2, Baylor (get out your history books, fellas) scored a Finals-record 61 points. And Baylor did it while being tailed by an outstanding defender,
This game is most notable for what it set up -- the dramatic Game 7 entrance of
It was certainly not the last famous pronouncement of
This was not the season for the famous
This one still gives
It didn't happen. Portland played smart, its M.O., and Philly played dumb, its M.O., and Walton grabbed 20 defensive rebounds as the Blazers, playing team ball, overcame the brilliance of Erving (37 points). Portland took the title with a Game 6 win back in Portland, and Walton took off his shirt and celebrated with the crowd, an oft-played NBA moment.
As with the 1970 game, an injury foretold all. This Game 5 was the one in which Lakers center
Sick in Salt Lake. That described Jordan's condition the day before Game 5 when he was diagnosed with a stomach virus, food poisoning or the flu, the latter being the condition that stuck. And he wasn't feeling that much better the next day, getting up from a sweat-soaked bed just three hours before tipoff. Nevertheless, in an extremely weakened condition, he poured in 38 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, and played 44 minutes, collapsing in exhaustion after the final buzzer. If one man ever demonstrated his will over an entire team, this was the game.
Not even a contest. It's maybe the best single game ever. The only way to fully grasp what happened in this frantically-played classic is to
Got all that?
Anyway, the Celtics ultimately prevailed and won a series-clinching Game 6 in Phoenix that seemed like an anticlimax.
If Sunday's Game 5 has half that excitement, we'll be getting a good deal.