It's rare that an NBA playoff series goes to seven games and more rare for one to go that deep as a conference finals matchup. So it's important to cherish the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers playing a Game 7 on Monday night. A ticket to the NBA Finals is on the line, after all.
Miami owns a couple spots in the recent history of conference finals Game 7s, though the Heat had varying success in those games. And overall, while the Game 7s of conference finals matchups don't necessarily have a correlation to which team wins the championship, they routinely find a highly-regarded place in the lore of the NBA playoffs.
June 9, 2012: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat
This might've been the moment LeBron James truly arrived as not only the most talented player in the world, but the best. At least, it was his breakthrough moment -- as well as Miami's -- that ended the "LeBron can't finish" talk. James scored 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 101-88 victory against the rival Celtics that marked the improvements of Erik Spoelstra's team from a year before. Miami went on to win the title fairly easily in five games against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
June 6, 2005: Detroit Pistons vs. Miami Heat
Just like the current power-packed roster in South Beach, the acquisition of a league superstar, Shaquille O'Neal, and the pairing of him with Dwyane Wade gave Miami a jolt in 2005. It ended with the same falling short in the first go-round. The Heat lost, 88-82, to the defending-champion Detroit Pistons in Game 7 despite O'Neal leading his team with 27 points. Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups led the way for Larry Brown's squad, which held the Heat to 16 points in the fourth quarter.
June 2, 2002: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings
One of the most memorable series in the last decade fittingly ended with a thrilling Game 7 that went to overtime. It was hard to live up to Robert Horry's game-winning three-pointer atop the key from earlier in the series, and there wasn't the Tim Donaghy officiating controversy as there were in prior games. The Kings simply made too many mistakes and not enough shots despite 29 points from Mike Bibby, and they fell, 112-106, in overtime as the offense sputtered in the final five minutes. Shaquille O'Neal led Los Angeles with 35 points and 13 boards while Kobe Bryant poured in 30 more.
June 3, 2001: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Though the Lakers were the dynasty then, the Eastern Conference held its own in star power. Allen Iverson was the MVP, and the Milwaukee Bucks had a formidable Big Three of Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell. It was the former who had the last laugh. Iverson scored 44 points and got help from center Dikembe Mutombo, who put up a line of 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks as the 76ers walloped the Bucks, 108-91. The Sixers wound up losing to the Lakers in the finals.
June 4, 2000: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The initial year of the Lakers' run of three titles with both Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in tow almost didn't happen. The Blazers led by 15 points early in the fourth quarter in this clincher, but Los Angeles mounted the greatest fourth-quarter, Game 7 comeback in history and outscored Portland, 31-13, in the final quarter for an 89-84 win. Bryant led the Lakers with 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks and hit go-ahead free throws late in the game to seal the victory.