There have been other recent Finals games that have reached a special place where you throw off the analyst hat, close the laptop, and just take it all in with a wide-eyed giddiness and a tension so profound it surprises you. A few that stand out: Boston’s Game 4 comeback from 24 down against the Lakers in 2008; the Mavs’ rally in Miami in Game 2 of the 2011 Finals, a Dirktastic comeback that began after the Heat prematurely gloated on the bench; both Game 2 (Courtney Lee’s missed layup at the buzzer) and Game 4 (Derek Fisher and overtime) of the Lakers-Magic Finals in 2009; the Lakers using unattractive but gutty brute force to rally from 13 down to win Game 7 over Boston three years ago; and Game 5 between Detroit and San Antonio in 2005 — the “Robert Horry Game,” and one of the most underrated great games in league history. Heck, even Games 2 and 4 of last year’s Finals — Durant’s game-tying miss and the controversial non-call in Game 2, Russell Westbrook’s furious 43 points and LeBron’s cramping in Game 4 — were pretty damn awesome.
But in terms of the stakes at hand, the palpable urgency, and the overall quality of play, this was the greatest Finals game since … I’m not sure when. There are a couple of Utah-Chicago games from the 1997 and 1998 Finals that have a place in the discussion, especially the Jordan Flu/Food Poisoning Game, but if you prefer last night’s elimination thriller to that legendary non-elimination game, then you have to reach back into the peak Jordan-Bird-Magic years to find something that compares. That’s how great this game was. I can still barely process it.