The NBA Finals is the highest level of basketball. The world’s best players give their blood, sweat, and tears to raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Since 1947, The Finals have provided countless iconic moments. After 75 years, it has not lost its luster. Modern-day players continue to evolve and add to the NBA’s rich history.
The last decade has produced several classic series. Continue reading for our writers’ best Finals picks since 2010.
2013 Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs
Headed into the 2013 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat were four wins from back-to-back titles. In the 2012 NBA Finals, the Heat handily defeated the Thunder in five. Miami was The Finals favorite for the third consecutive year. The 2012-13 Spurs were dominant in their own right with a 12-2 playoff record coming into the NBA Finals.
In Game 1, San Antonio held Miami’s “Big Three” to a combined 48 points and 42.6% shooting (20-47). Behind Tony Parker & Tim Duncan’s 20-point outings, the Spurs won Game 1, 92-88.
Games 2 & 3 were blowouts. The Heat won Game 2 (103-84) thanks to a defensive clinic. The San Antonio Spurs dominated Game 3 (113-77) with hot-shooting and Danny Green’s seven 3-pointers.
Seven years ago today, Danny Green knocked down 7️⃣ triples and finished with 27 PTS in a Game 3 victory of the NBA Finals 👌
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) June 11, 2020
With a 2-1 lead, San Antonio was in the driver’s seat. The Spurs were limiting Miami’s stars while getting unexpected help from Green.
The Heat’s Big Three torched San Antonio in Game 4 with 85 combined points, knotting the series at 2-2. After shooting 60% from the field, the Spurs answered yet again with a Game 5 win.
Leading 3-2, San Antonio was one win away from glory. Duncan was a one-man wrecking crew in Game 6. He put up 25 points and eight rebounds on 10-12 shooting in the first half… but it wasn’t enough.
The Spurs led 95-92 with 19 seconds on the clock. They needed one stop to be crowned 2013 champs. However, the Heat would not go down. James dominated in the fourth with 16 points on 7-11 shooting.
After James missed a 3-pointer with seven seconds left, Chris Bosh reeled in an offensive rebound and kicked it to Ray Allen. Miami’s season was on the line, a championship was on the line. What did Allen do? With ice in his veins, the shooting specialist drained an iconic corner 3-pointer to tie the game.
.@Hoophall Class of 2018: Greatest shot in NBA Playoff history? Ray Allen’s Game 6 Classic in the 2013 NBA Finals is certainly in the conversation. Miami went on to win Game 6 in overtime and then take Game 7 for its second straight championship. pic.twitter.com/iTC4vrlZBy
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) March 31, 2018
Game 6 headed to overtime after the Spurs’ Parker failed to hit a buzzer-beater. Miami won an improbable Game 6 in overtime, 103-100.
Game 7 was controlled by defense, neither team shot over 44%. Ultimately, the Heat’s defense won the day. The Spurs shot 37.8% from the floor and went 6-19 from beyond the arc.
James iced the series in the dwindling seconds. He hit a mid-range jumper with 27 seconds left, putting Miami up 92-88. Following a defensive stop, James knocked down two free throws to seal the game. Miami defeated the Spurs 95-88 and was crowned 2013 champions.
The 2013 NBA Finals is a classic. We saw the peak of nearly every player from both teams. The series featured dominant showings and improbable comebacks. Few NBA Finals can top this 2013 show-stopper.
2011 Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat
What makes sports so special for fans is the storylines that go along with a game or a player. The storylines add drama and value to the game that draws fans in.
The 2011 NBA Finals was a rematch between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat from 2006. In the latter season, Dwyane Wade led the Heat back from down two against Dirk Nowitzki, who squandered his opportunity to win his first title. That was the start of the stigma that Nowitzki was not a “big game” player.
In 2011, the Mavericks were massive underdogs, as James took his talents to South Beach, joined by Bosh. The two All-Stars and friends joined friend Wade, who also happened to be an All-Star, as the three quickly became the favorite to win the NBA Finals.
The Heat won an evenly matched Game 1 in which the teams were feeling each other, and neither could put their stamp on the series. The Heat’s star power closed out the game scoring 17 of the Heat’s fourth-quarter points. Nowitzki tried to keep his team close, scoring 10 of the Mavericks’ 23 points but had little help from his teammates.
Game 2 was the turning point, as the Heat were up by 15 points with seven minutes left. If the Heat won this game in blowout fashion, it could have symbolically ended the Mavericks’ championship hopes. Throughout the playoffs, and just as recently as Game 1, the Heat proved how suffocating they could be in the fourth quarter to close out games. The Mavericks won 95-93 behind Nowitzki’s nine and Jason Terry’s eight points.
Dirk Nowitzki hits the game-winning layup to even the series 1-1 in the 2011 NBA Finals! pic.twitter.com/YAKn5WS72C
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) May 12, 2022
The series was turned on its head while heading to Dallas, in which the Heat won a crucial Game 3. Even though the Heat led for most of the game, the Mavericks made it interesting in the second half, but it was too little too late.
Game 3 was the final game the Heat won, as the Mavericks won the next three to close out the series. In Game 4, James played poorly, scoring just eight points, while Bosh and Wade combined for 56, but the Mavericks played a complete team game with five players in double digits.
The final two games saw the most significant two biggest victories in the series, as the Mavericks won by nine and then 10 points. The Mavericks led for over 30 minutes in each game, decisively winning the championship.
Jason Terry closed out game 6 with 27 PTS in the 2011 NBA Finals! pic.twitter.com/ylNqYM3H3k
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) May 20, 2022
Nowitzki averaged 26 points and 9.7 rebounds to be the Finals MVP, and as the only star on the teams’ roster, up against three. In a closeout Game 6, Terry averaged 18 points in the series and went off for 27 to put the Heat away in Miami, completing a remarkable upset.
2016 Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors
The 2016 NBA Finals was a rematch between the teams who met in the Finals a year prior. Golden State was looking to claim a back-to-back NBA Championship while the Cavaliers were looking to avenge a loss. With a record-breaking 73-9 regular-season record that season, the Warriors looked ready to be crowned champion once more, however Cleveland Cavaliers had other plans.
The first two games of the series were lopsided wins for the Warriors, with Golden State Warriors winning Game 1 104-89 and Game 2 110-77.
While Steph Curry and Klay Thompson struggled to get going in Game 1, their supporting cast came through, with the Warriors’ bench outscoring Cleveland’s 45-10.
Game 2 was more lopsided. As the Cavaliers struggled to shoot the ball, finishing shooting a 35.4 field goal percentage and 21.7% from 3, the Splash Brothers got in a groove, each hitting four 3’s while Draymond Green led with 28 points.
Game 3 swung the Cavs’ way as the series moved to Cleveland. While Curry was held to 19 points, James and Irving combined for 62 to win 120-90 and their first game of the series.
After a 30-point rout the previous game, the Warriors looked to bounce back in Game 4. Curry went off for 38 points while Thompson added on 25 more, propelling Golden State to a 3-1 series lead with a 108-97 win.
With Game 5 headed back to Oakland and the Warriors squarely in the driver’s seat, they looked poised to put the series away and win another championship.
Games 5 and 6, however, belonged to Cleveland. With Green suspended in Game 5, James and Irving took advantage, leading the Cavaliers with 41 points each and a 112-97 win.
OTD 5 years ago,
Lebron and Kyrie put on one of the greatest performances we have ever seen by a duo in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA finals down 1-3 in the series! 🔥
41 pts, 3 rebs, 6 asts, 2 stls
41 pts, 16 rebs, 7 asts, 3 blks
— OutOfSightSports🚀 ™️ (@OOSSports) June 14, 2021
James continued to have his way in Game 6, scoring 41 again while three of the remaining four starters for Cleveland also scored in double digits. Curry added 30 before getting tossed in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers tied the series 3-3 with a 115-101 win.
Although the previous games in the series all ended in double-digit wins, Cleveland battling back from down 3-1 set up a thrilling Game 7 between the teams.
The final game was an exciting one, featuring multiple lead change. Coming down to the final two minutes and the game tied at 89, a few final key plays pushed the Cavaliers to a win. “The Block” by James on Andre Iguodala, Irving’s 3-pointer over Curry and Kevin Love contesting Curry on a 3 to force a miss defined the end of the game and series, as Cleveland took Game 7 93-89.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 19, 2021
There’s a reason the Cavaliers are still the only team to have come back from down 3-1 in a Finals and win. James and the Cavaliers did just that, bringing a major sports championship back to Cleveland for the first time in 52 years.
Since 2010, the Finals have not disappointed with several classic series. Will the 2022 NBA Finals be the next?
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Riley Thomas / Jose Rohdin / Megan Teske