It’s a Miracle: Cavaliers’ first Game 7 proved legendary

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The Cleveland Cavaliers will play the sixth Game 7 in the 48-year franchise history Sunday when they host the Indiana Pacers in the decisive game of an Eastern Conference first-round series.

The game, which will tip off at 1 p.m. (ABC) will mark the first Game 7 in the 24-season history of Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers are 3-2 all-time in Game 7's.

Following is a recap of the first of five times the Cavaliers have played in a Game 7 -- played exactly 42 years to the day Cleveland and Indiana will go at it in Sunday's winner-take-all clash with the Pacers at Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland Cavaliers 87, Washington Bullets 85

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April 29, 1976

The Coliseum, Richfield (21.564)

The greatest highlight of a series full of them, Dick Snyder's driving floater down the left side of the lane put the Cavaliers up two as the Bullets took timeout with four seconds to play.

Wes Unseld's inbounds lob form halfcourt after a Bullets timeout toward the bucket, intended for Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes, was knocked free by Snyder as Hayes fell to the floor after getting his feet tangled with Nate Thurmond of the Cavaliers. The ball bounced into the right corner, where it was picked up by Phil Chenier of the Bullets. His shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim and the crowd at the Coliseum went berserk, storming the floor and tearing down the baskets.

On his gamewinning shot, Snyder caught an inbounds pass from Jim Cleamons, where he was met by Unseld, who had switched onto him after Jim Chones set a pick on Chenier. As the 6-foot-5 Snyder took the Bullets' 6-7 Hall of Fame center off the dribble, the 6-3 Chenier began to help Unseld.

Chenier's presence forced Snyder to leave his feet from outside of the left block and he put up a running right-hander, a rare shot for 1976.

“I had a lot of forward speed,” Snyder said in a 2016 story by Josh Weir of the Canton Repository. “Typically, I’d be closer to the basket on my takeoff and I’d lay it softly on the board. But I had to beat Unseld and Chenier was coming over to block it, so I had to take off pretty far out.

“So I’m going through the air and I can remember the thought going through my head: ‘OK, you better lay this up fairly high and soft.’ That’s all I thought about.”

The ball kissed off the glass and was perfect, going straight through the bucket, sending the 21,564 fans in the Coliseum into a frenzy.

A young Joe Tait's amazing call -- preserved for history on the album, "The Miracle in Richfield" (though it's become known as "The Miracle of Richfield") -- is unforgettable for those whom were fortunate enough to experience it. Believe it or not, the Game 7 was not televised locally. Remember, it was 1976.

"Flip to Snyder, sideline left. Snyder on the dribble drive. To the hoop. Put it up — SCORES! HE SCORES! SNYDER SCORES WITH FOUR SECONDS TO GO... AND THE BULLETS TAKE TIME! CLEVELAND 87 AND BULLETS 85 WITH FOUR SECONDS TO GO!"

Here's the final sequences as called from the floor, with the late Gib Shanley on the call:

After Chenier missed the final shot at the buzzer one of the greatest series in NBA playoff history came to a close. Two games were one-point games. One was decided by two points. One was an overtime finish. Three ended in last-second shots, including Snyder's in Game 7.

Here's Snyder doing a postgame interview on WKYC, Ch. 3:

The young Cavaliers, who did not have a player in the All-Star Game despite a 49-33 record, had six players averaged double figures in the series.

Cleveland led Washington, 29-26, after one quarter and 48-47 at halftime. The Bullets outscored the Cavaliers, 24-21, to take a 71-69 into the fourth quarter. With the pace slowed to a crawl, the two teams slugged it out. Cleveland scored 18 points in the final 12 minutes while limiting the high-powered Bullets to only 14.

Snyder led Cleveland in Game 7 with 23 points, and added five rebonds and two assists. Cleamons (14 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists), Jim Brewer (12 points, 16 boards, 2 assists), Chones (11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists), Campy Russell (11 points, 7 boards, 1 assist), Bingo Smith (10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), the late Thurmond (4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists), Foots Walker (2 points, 2 rebounds) and Austin Carr paced a balanced Cavalier attack, coached by Bill Fitch.

Here's a postgame interview with Smith, conducted by the late, great Nev Chandler of WEWS, Ch. 5 (Shanley is also seen at the end of the clip):

The star-studded Bullets, who had lost in the Finals to Golden State in 1975, were led by Chenier (31 points, 3 rebounds), Hayes (21 points, 11 boards, 3 assists) and Hall of Famer Dave Bing (12 points, 5 rebounds) reached double figures for Washington, with Nick Weatherspoon (8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist), Jimmy Jones (6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists), Truck Robinson (4 points, 3 rebounds), Unseld (3 points, 9 boards, 4 assists) and Mike Riordan all making contributions. The Bullets were coached by K.C. Jones.

Snyder's heroic shot to win Game 7 was the third gamewinning shot by a Cavalier in the series. Here's the second, pulled off by Cleamons exactly one week previous on April 22, 1976, to win Game 5, 92-91, again with the fantastic Tait on the call (note the subdued celebration of the Cleveland players after winning a thrilling Game 5 and compare that to what took place after LeBron James' terrific buzzer-beating jumper to win Game 5 of the current series):

Smith, an original Cavalier, had won Game 2 for the Cavaliers by making a 25-footer from the top of the circle, to win, 80-79, at Capital Centre in Landover, Md., on April 15, 1976. Unfortunately, video of that shot could not be tracked down, though it is part of the "Miracle in Richfield" album.