5. Reggie Miller; 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5—The 1994 playoffs were the first to be Michael Jordan-less in years and the Knicks, that’d come so close the year before were looking to capitalize. They had no idea what they were going up against though when Reggie Miller and the Pacers came to town. With the series tied at two games apiece and the Knicks up 12 entering the fourth quarter of Game 5, confident fan Spike Lee, sitting courtside at MSG, got into an exchange with Miller that ignited the Pacers sharpshooter. Miller went crazy, hitting 3-pointer after 3-pointer and gesturing to Lee after each one. When the dust settled, Miller had gone off for 25 points in the quarter, 39 for the game, and the Pacers had a shocking 93–86 win.
4. LeBron James; 2007 Eastern Conference Finals Game 5—LeBron James in 2007 was a 23-year-old fourth-year veteran that had carried the team into the playoffs, as he normally did in Cleveland, and continued the job once he got there. Never was that more evident than in Game 5 against Detroit in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. With the series tied at two games apiece and his Cavs trailing by seven with just over three minutes left James took over, scoring nine points in the last 3:01 of regulation to force overtime. He was just getting started though. In the two overtime periods, James scored all 18 of Cleveland’s points—including the game-winning layup with two seconds left to win it. In all, James scored the last 25 Cavalier points and 29 of their last 30, finishing with 48.
3. Isiah Thomas; 1988 NBA Finals, Game 6—Before his unsuccessful stint as GM of the Knicks, Thomas was one of the NBA’s best ever point guards. His performance against the Lakers here in Game 6 cemented that status. With the Pistons up three games to two but trailing LA in the third quarter, Thomas took over, scoring 14 straight points before painfully rolling his ankle. Even with a bum ankle, Thomas stayed on the court, continuing to burn the Lakers. “Zeke” scored 11 of the team’s final 15 points of the quarter and finished with 43 for the game, though the Pistons ultimately lost the thriller 103–102.2. Michael Jordan; 1997 NBA Finals, Game 5—With all due respect to Jordan’s performance in Game 6 the following year, this was the six-time Finals MVP-Jordan’s finest finals moment. Forever known as the “flu game” a flu-ridden Jordan, who was so exhausted by the fourth quarter he had to be helped to the bench by teammates, somehow mustered enough energy to score 38 points in the 90–88 win. Included in his point total was a back-breaking 3-pointer that broke up an 85-all tie in the final minute, propelling the Bulls to the pivotal victory.
1. Magic Johnson; 1980 NBA Finals, Game 6—With center and League MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out with an ankle sprain, 20-year-old point guard Magic Johnson started at center in the decisive tilt against the Sixers. The 6-foot-8-inch Johnson filled in brilliantly, scoring 42 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists in the series-clinching 123–107 win and earning Finals MVP. The otherworldly performance was just the beginning for Magic who won four more titles with the Lakers.
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