The NBA’s first second-round series goes to two games as the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs play 120 minutes, and the former wins in overtime. Game one was a close fought game, both teams looked good, but the Suns eventually won, and game two saw the Suns play better and go to a playoff record 16 overtimes.
In the game between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks, the Suns were a close 1.5 points down in the first quarter. A Dallas turnover led to a quick Phoenix score. Dallas responded by scoring a quick basket with a 3 pointer, then a quick 3 pointer by one of the Miami players, then a 3 pointer by one of the Dallas players. The game ended with a Miami score of 7, and a Dallas score of 2, with over a minute left in the game. This is the longest game in NBA finals history, as the game ended with Dallas winning 88-87.
In the 75 years since the NBA was founded as the Basketball Association of America, only eight NBA playoff games have had extensions to three times. Two of those went to the fourth overtime: the first was the Eastern Conference semifinal game between the Boston Celtics and Syracuse Nationals in 1953, and the second was the Western Conference semifinal game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets in 2019. Of the remaining six, only two have reached the NBA Finals, and the Phoenix Suns, who returned to the title series for the first time in 28 years, were involved in both.
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The Phoenix Suns were founded in 1968 and have made the NBA playoffs 30 times. In those 30 appearances, the Suns have reached the Western Conference Finals 10 times, but have only advanced to the NBA Finals three times.
With a 42-40 record, the Suns finished third in the West in 1975-76 before beating the Seattle Supersonics in six games and the Golden State Warriors in seven to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in club history, where they faced the Boston Celtics.
In the 1992-93 season, Phoenix, led by NBA MVP Charles Barkley, had the best record in the NBA at 62-20. After saving the scare of their lives in the first round against the Lakers, in which they lost 0-2 and then won the next three series, the Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs in six games and the Sonics in seven games to take on Michael Jordan and the two-time defending champion Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals.
And then, of course, there’s the 2020-21 season, in which the Suns reached the postseason for the first time in 11 years, with a 51-21 win and second place in the West. Phoenix defeated LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the first round, then beat the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals and the Los Angeles Clippers in six games in the Western Conference Finals to meet the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals.
It remains to be seen if there will be triple overtime in the 2021 finals, but the Suns have played 63 minutes in each of the last two finals.
Some consider Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals between Phoenix and Boston to be the best game in history.
In Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, the Suns and Celtics are tied as they each play a game on their home court. With the score tied 2-2-1-1, the Celtics hosted the deciding game, and fans at the Boston Garden witnessed what some are calling the best game in history ….. and not just in the NBA Finals.
Boston got off to a good start and led by 18 points after the first quarter. But the Suns kept fighting and stood at the end of the regular season, when they erased a five-point deficit in the final minute to send the game into overtime. Phoenix should have even had a chance to win the game, as Celtics forward Paul Silas tried to call a timeout at the end of regulation, which Boston did not take. One of the referees seems to have seen the try but did not count it. As any Michigan Wolverines fan knows, calling a timeout when you don’t have one results in a technical foul, which would have given the Suns a chance to win the game at the free throw line.
Both teams scored six points each in the first extension, so the game went to the second extension with the score tied at 101-101. And then it really went wrong. With 20 seconds left to play, the Celtics led 109-106. The Suns had possession of the ball and had just taken their final timeout.
Dick Van Arsdale’s throw into the corner cut Boston’s lead to 109-108, and when the Celtics put the ball in play, Paul Westphal pulled the ball away from John Havlicek and kept it out of bounds by throwing the ball to Van Arsdale, who passed the ball to Curtis Perry, who shot wide from 18 yards. Havlicek grabbed a rebound, but couldn’t control the ball and ended up giving it back to Perry, who shot from 15 yards out and made it 110-109 in favor of Phoenix with six seconds left.
But Havlicek came back and scored on a shot that landed against the glass as the siren sounded. The Celtics 111-110 victory seemed assured, and Boston fans stormed the court. However, the decision was made to put a second on the clock. After clearing the floor, Phoenix faced the arduous task of running down the entire court, but Westphal wisely called a timeout that the Suns did not have. Yes, that gave Boston the right to shoot a free throw from Tech that Joe Joe White capitalized on to give Boston a 112-110 lead, but that timeout was to give Phoenix the ball in midcourt. Perry passed the ball to Gary Herd, who then made a spectacular turnaround jumper from the top of the penalty box to tie the score at 112-112 as time expired.
The third extension was less dramatic, but still exciting. Boston led by as many as six points, held on by two points (128-126) and won Game 6 in Phoenix to win the series.
The Suns withstood Michael Jordan’s 44 points to win Game 3 of the 1993 NBA Finals in triple overtime.
While Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals was certainly much more spectacular, Game 3 of the 1993 NBA Finals between the Phoenix Suns, coached by none other than Paul Westphal, and the Chicago Bulls was certainly a great game of its kind.
After losing the first two games of the series at home, the Suns needed a third game in Chicago to have a chance at their first NBA title. This time neither team could get back into the game, which remained tight. The game was tied 29-29 at the end of the first quarter. Phoenix held a 58-57 lead at halftime. After 36 minutes, the Suns held a one-point lead, 86-85. And at the end of the 48th. The game ended with a score of 103-103 in the 42nd minute.
Neither team scored in the first extension, with the Suns and Bulls scoring just eight points. Things got a little better in the second extension when each team scored seven points, leading to a third extension at 114-114. But while Chicago continued to struggle in the third extension and again scored just seven points, Phoenix couldn’t, scoring 15 points and winning 129-121. Dan Majerle was one of six Suns players to score in double figures. He led the team with 28 points, Kevin Johnson scored 25 and Charles Barkley 24.
Michael Jordan scored 44 points for the Bulls, who won the series in six games.
Statistics provided by Basketball Reference
COMPARED TO: Michael Jordan set two NBA records the last time the Phoenix Suns reached the NBA Finals
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