10 of the Worst Blunders in NBA Finals History

Updated on February 22, 2020
Jan Michael Ong profile image

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JR Smith Spaces Out

There is no excuse for any player being paid thirteen million dollars to not be mindful of the score and the game clock.

J.R. Smith apparently was not paying attention. George Hill misses his second free throw and the score is tied. J.R. Smith rebounds the ball and has a chance to win the game by either passing it to a teammate for a shot or by shooting it himself.

What does he do instead?

He dribbles out the ball as if they had the lead.

LeBron James then approaches Smith and makes Smith realize his mistake. J.R. realizes his mistake and passes it to George Hill for a three-point shot with barely any time remaining and if Hill made the shot, it would not have counted anyway.

This led to the Cavs losing in overtime and J.R. Smith being mocked by Warriors fans as the series "MVP."

Countless memes have been made of this scene where LeBron James expresses his frustration over J.R.'s boneheaded play.

This scene was truly a Shaqtin' A Fool moment.

Pistons Allow the Steal by Bird

The Celtics are down by one and Larry Bird uncharacteristically misses the clutch shot. The Celtics lose the ball out of bounds as Larry's teammate fails to save it.

Isiah Thomas inbounds the ball and all they needed to do was run out the clock to win. Out of nowhere Larry Bird swoops in and steals the inbound pass. He hands the ball to a cutting Dennis Johnson to steal the game from the Pistons.

The Pistons had a golden opportunity to gain control of the series and lost the chance.

Starks Forgets How to Shoot

Space Jam was a movie released during the height of Michael Jordan's popularity. It featured Michael Jordan leading a bunch of Looney Tunes characters to victory against a bunch of evil space aliens.

The aliens stole the talent of several NBA players and this left the victims inept in playing basketball.

This appears to be what happened to John Starks. John was Patrick Ewing's sidekick in New York. As much as Patrick dominated the paint, John was an outside threat.

For some inexplicable reason, John seemingly lost his shooting touch when it mattered most. In Game 7 against Houston, John shot a putrid 2/18 from the field and 0/11 from rainbow territory in 42 minutes of play.

It seems that the Monstars stole John's talent.

Mailman Gets Robbed

The Utah Jazz had lost the previous Finals to the Bulls and were out for revenge. This time, they had the home court advantage.

Utah would use this advantage to draw first blood and take an early 1-0 lead in the series.

After five game, the Bulls were up 3-2 in the series. Game 6 was crucial as it was win or go home.

The game was close in the dying seconds.The Jazz were leading 86-85 with less than 24 seconds left in the game and 11 seconds left in the shot clock.Malone had the ball and was making a move. If he made the basket, he could have put the Jazz up by three or if he kicked it out to Stockton or Hornacek for a three-pointer, he could have iced the game with a four point cushion.

Instead, Jordan robs Malone and makes "The Shot" over Bryon Russell. The Bulls win their sixth championship in the Delta Center.

Draymond Gets Suspended for Game 5

The 73-win Warriors eclipsed the two decade-old record of Michael Jordan and the 72-win Bulls team. All they needed was to win the championship to be solidified as the greatest team of all time.

Things look good as the Warriors were up 3-1 after four games and no team in Finals history has ever come back from such a deficit.

The game 4 victory was short-lived as Drymond Green, the Warriors' defensive anchor, was suspended for game 5 for swiping LeBron's groin.

This would prove to be the Warriors' undoing as the Warriors lost game 5 and the momentum shifted to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A later injury to center Andrew Bogut and strong play from both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving would bring Cleveland back from elimination and help capture Cleveland's lone NBA Championship.

Spurs Get Slayed by Allen

The San Antonio spurs were ready to hang their fifth championship banner in the Gregg Popovich era. They were leading the series 3-2 and had a hefty 10-point cushion leading into the 4th quarter.

The Miami Heat slowly chipped into the lead but the Spurs were still up by three with not much time remaining in the game. LeBron James attempts a three that misses. Chris Bosh rebounds the ball and hands it over to Ray Allen. Ray shoots the three and ties the game with five seconds remaining.

The Spurs do not have timeouts left and Tony Parker misses the potential game winner.

The Spurs lose in overtime and lose again two nights later.

Nick Anderson Missed Free Throws

Nick Anderson was the first ever draft pick of the Orlando Magic. He was a good selection too as he became one of the premiere marksmen in the league. Nick was the first building block in what would be a powerful Orlando Magic team.

Orlando would then draft Dennis Scott, Shaquille O' Neil and Anfernee Hardaway. They also sign 3-time champion Horace Grant. This gave the Magic one of the most formidable starting line-ups in the league.

The Magic were only in their sixth year and were one of the best teams. They were able to dispatch the Celtics , Bulls and Pacers to reach the finals. Take note that they dispatched a returning Michael Jordan without much problem.

The stage was set and it seems that Orlando might actually pull it off. They had home court advantage, led by twenty points and were still leading by three points with 10.5 seconds left in regulation. Nick Anderson was then fouled and could seal the deal with one free throw.

Nick was a 70% free throw shooter so it was more than probable he would at least hit one of two. Nick ended up missing both. He fortunately came up with a rebound and was fouled again. He shot two more free throws and missed both again.

Anderson's struggles at the free throw line would do in the Magic as Kenny smith hit a clutch three pointer on the other end and the Rockets would end up winning in overtime.

This loss demoralized the Magic and they ended up being swept in the Finals and would lose Shaq to free agency soon after.

Dallas Collapses in Game 3 of the 2006 Finals

Dallas was one of the most offensively potent teams in the league with players like Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Terry. They ran roughshod on the league that season and ended up with 60 wins.

The Mavericks were heavy favorites to win the Finals and Dallas seemed to have the Finals in the bag. They had double-digit wins against the Heat in the first 2 games and were up by 13 with half a quarter to go.

The Mavs do not seal the deal and get decimated by Dwyane Wade. The Heat ended up with a 2-point win and controlled the series moving forward.

The Heat won in six games and the Mavericks squandered a championship.

Big Shot Bob Sinks the Pistons

"Big Shot Bob" is someone who is not a superstar during the regular season but lives for the big moments in the playoffs. In his stints in Houston, Los Angeles and San Antonio, he has been pivotal in his Finals appearances for these teams by making clutch shots.

Therefore, leaving Horry open in the finals can easily lead to disaster.

Rasheed Wallace apparently did not get the memo and left Robert open with 5.8 seconds left in overtime in order to help on Manu Ginobili.

"Big Shot" did what he did best and sunk the game winner and put the Spurs ahead in the series with a 3-2 lead.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Mock Dirk Nowitzki

Instead of acting professional, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade acted like Degeneration X's Shawn Michaels and Triple H and mocked Dirk Nowitzki's flu-like symptoms instead of praising him for playing through it.

Dirk did not get distracted by the duo's antics and scored 29 points in leading the Mavericks to a 3-2 series lead.

This was a pivotal game as the game was very close in the dying minutes of the 4th quarter and the series could have still gone either way.

With game 5 in the bag, Dirk and company capitalized and took the series in six games.

Making fun of Dirk was not the smartest thing to do for LeBron and Dwyane as it ended up motivating Dirk to upset the newly minted superteam.

NBA Finals Blunders

Which is the worst blunder in NBA Finals history?

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    © 2019 Jan Michael Ong


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