The most exciting game in the playoffs is not the opener. It’s easily the final game of the series where both teams have to win or are eliminated. Game 7 is the most pressured situation in all of the playoffs. If you are in that situation of having to play or go home, it makes it even more fun for the fans.
All 30 NBA franchises have played a Game 7 in their history. Some have played more than others. Among the 30 franchises, only 10 have winning records, while two have at least 10 wins in a closeout game. Only one team has more than 20 wins.
With the playoffs spicing up and some potential games on the horizon, we could see a Game 7 in the near future. What does their past say about their chances in that game? Let’s find out. These are the most Game 7 wins by each NBA franchise.
30. New Orleans Pelicans: 0-2
The first time came in the first round against the Heat in 2004. It was the first playoff experience for rookie Dwyane Wade. This was a year before the Chris Paul era, but the Hornets (name at the time) held their own before losing by eight points.
The next Game 7 came in 2008 in what might have been Paul’s best chance at leading New Orleans to their first Conference Finals in team history. The Hornets were playing the defending champions San Antonio Spurs in the semifinals. However, the championship pedigree outmanned the newcomers as the Spurs won 91-82, in a game that was played at New Orleans Arena.
29. Charlotte Hornets: 0-2
In recent years, Charlotte hasn’t had too many chances in the playoffs, so when the chance comes, the Hornets try to go down swinging. Their first appearance in Game 7 came in 2001 against a Ray Allen-led Milwaukee Bucks team. The Bucks won 104-95 to eliminate the team in the first round.
The last Game 7 for the Hornets was the last time the team played in the playoffs. In 2016, Kemba Walker was an All-NBA talent that was looking to get the team past the first round. The Hornets battled the Heat and dragged out the series, but came up short in a big way 106-73.
28. Memphis Grizzlies: 0-3
The old saying “third time’s the try” did not work out for the Grizzlies. In all three takes, the team has come up short. The first time came in 2011 against the Thunder 105-90 in the semifinals. The following year, the Grizzlies stretched out a seven-game series against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan’s Clippers before falling 82-72.
In 2014, the Grizzlies were fresh off their first appearance in the Conference Finals in team history. With a core intact, the team thought another run was possible, but the team was bounced in the first round. The Thunder, led by Kevin Durant, bounced the Grizzlies for a second time by a score of 120-109.
27. Brooklyn Nets: 1-3
In 2004, the Nets were the defending Eastern Conference champions and looked to make their third straight trip to the NBA Finals. In the second round, the eventual champion Detroit Pistons came up clutch to eliminate New Jersey. It was then nearly 10 years before their next Game 7.
Since 2013, Brooklyn has played in three of them. In 2013, the Chicago Bulls upset the Nets in the first round. The following year, the Nets eliminated Toronto with a 104-103 win. Last year, the Nets and Bucks played to a 115-107 overtime loss for Brooklyn. Kevin Durant was inches away from sending the Nets to the NBA Finals.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: 1-0
The Timberwolves own just one Game 7 in team history. That came during the 2004 playoffs, where the team won the most games in the Western Conference playoffs. Despite owning the best record, the Timberwolves were nearly eliminated in the conference semifinals.
The Timberwolves and Kings played down to the wire. The Kings were eager to play the Lakers again to get retribution. Instead, MVP Kevin Garnett and Co. held off the Kings in a defensive battle by a score of 83-80.
25. Sacramento Kings: 2-4
The second-ever Game 7 featured the Kings in the contest. The team was based in Cincinnati as the Royals. The team came up with a 79-75 win over the Knicks in the NBA Finals, which remains the team’s last NBA championship. The only other win from the Kings came in the 2003 semifinals against the Mavericks.
The biggest letdown in team history was losing Game 7 of the 2002 Conference Finals, a 112-106 loss in overtime to the Lakers. Many believe that the controversial officiating is what cost the Kings from making the NBA Finals. In the end, the Lakers won the game and completed their three-peat.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: 2-2
The first Game 7 came in 1990 in the semifinals against the Spurs. Without the win, the Trail Blazers would not have made the NBA Finals that year. In 2000, the Trail Blazers played the Lakers with a trip to the Finals on the line but came up short as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal advanced to their first NBA FInals together.
The team’s second loss came in the 2003 first round against the Mavericks. It would not be until 2019 that the team would play in a Game 7 again. In the semifinals, Damian Lillard and the team made their first Conference Finals together since 2000, only to get swept by the Warriors in the following round.
23. Orlando Magic: 2-1
The Magic have played very few games on this stage, but when they do, they make it count. In 1995, the Indiana Pacers thought they could finally get to the NBA Finals without having to play Michael Jordan. Instead, the Magic, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, won by 20 points to make the NBA Finals for the first time in team history.
The second time was a wake-up call for the franchise. Pitted against the 2003 Pistons, the Magic were defeated by 15 points in the semifinals. This was right before Dwight Howard’s time, who eventually helped the Magic close out some serious games. In 2009, the Magic defeated the Celtics by nearly 20 points, who were coming off winning the NBA Finals. Howard eventually led the Magic to the NBA Finals before falling to the Lakers.
22. Milwaukee Bucks: 3-8
The Bucks have found a way to stretch a playoff series as far as they can go. The problem is that the team has historically not been able to close out the series. Had the Bucks not come up big against the Nets last season, you would have been looking at a team with a 2-9 record.
Now, 3-8 is not that much better. The win last season was the biggest in team history. In 2018, their loss to the Celtics in the first round might have helped the core of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton grow. The other standout stat was the 2001 playoffs, when the Bucks won Game 7 in the second round, but then lost Game 7 in the Conference Finals to the 76ers.
21. Indiana Pacers: 3-6
The Pacers and Knicks traded Game 7 heartbreak with each other in 1994 and 1995. Then, in 1998, the Pacers nearly denied Michael Jordan and the Bulls from completing a second three-peat but came up short.
Among modern-day memory, the most memorable has to be the 2013 Conference Finals. The Pacers were led by Paul George, David West, and Roy Hibbert. Lance Stephenson was making headlines with his defense of LeBron James. The Heat was hated but proved why they were worthy of a championship pedigree when the team won 23 points.
19T. Toronto Raptors: 3-3
Since 2001, the Raptors have played in a Game 7 six times. Their first appearance was a heartbreaking 88-87 loss to the 76ers. Then, the team saw their hearts broken again in 2004 by the Nets 104-103. It wasn’t until 2016 that the team saw their tears turn happy when they pulled out two Game 7 victories in the same playoffs.
The most memorable will always be the 2019 semifinals against the 76ers. Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning shot that bounced off the rim, only to drop in, remains a playoff all-time great highlight. It led to Joel Embiid crying as he walked off the court and the Raptors would eventually win the NBA championship.
19T. Utah Jazz: 3-3
In 1996, the Jazz lost Game 7 to the SuperSonics to make the NBA Finals. Had that happened, it would have been the Bulls and Jazz in the NBA Finals three straight years. Jazz winning any of those times is another conversation.
In 2007 and 2017, the Jazz avoided elimination in the first round to come up clutch. Their last appearance was in 2020 when the team was knocked out by the Nuggets. That series featured Jamal Murry and Donovan Mitchell put up a scoring clinic before Utah was bounced from the first round.
18. San Antonio Spurs: 4-7
One of the most memorable Game 7s in team history was the 2005 NBA Finals. The Pistons were eager to defend their championship. Instead, Tim Duncan helped Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili winning their second championship together in a defensive masterpiece 91-82. The Spurs played one more Game 7 in the Finals in 2013, but the result was not what they wanted.
After failing to close out in Game 6, the Spurs were gassed and dominated by LeBron James to give him his second title. Since then, the Spurs have played in three Game 7s in the first round and have gone 2-1.
17. Chicago Bulls: 4-6
In the 70s, the Bulls lost three of their four opportunities to win a playoff series. It wasn’t until the 90s that they had a true closer on their team in Michael Jordan. After dropping a Game 7 in the Conference Finals to the Pistons, Jordan would help the Bulls win a Game 7 in 1992 and 1998.
The 2009 first-round series with the Boston Celtics remains legendary in team lore. The eighth-seeded Bulls used a hot shooting hand of Ben Gordon and a young Derrick Rose to take the one-seed to seven games before losing 109-99. Their win over the Nets, featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Joe Johnson, in 2013 has to be right up there in playoff highlights as well.
15T. Phoenix Suns: 4-5
The Suns won one Game 7 in the 70s, which included making the NBA Finals in 1976. That same situation happened in 1993 as well. Both teams made the Finals but unfortunately lost once they got there.
The 2006 playoffs saw the Suns come up clutch in both of the first two rounds. First, it was a seven-game series win over the Lakers. Then, they did away with the Clippers in Game 7 by 20 points to make the Conference Finals. As of now, 2006 is the last time Phoenix has played in a Game 7.
15T. Los Angeles Clippers: 4-5
Since 2006, the Clippers have played a Game 7 eight times. The most heartbreaking likely came in 2015. The team had used seven games to defeat the Spurs in the first round. In the second round, the team held a 3-1 lead over the Rockets before squandering it away. It would have been the Clippers' first appearance in the Conference Finals in team history.
In 2017, the team came up short against the Jazz in the first round. Both losses led to extreme criticism of Chris Paul. Last year, the Clippers eliminated the Mavericks in the first round on their way to making the Conference Finals for the first time in team history.
13T. Denver Nuggets: 4-3
Of their seven appearances in a Game 7, four came since 2019. In 2019, the Nuggets eliminated the Spurs in the first round but then were eliminated by the Trail Blazers in the second round. The 2020 series with the Jazz, as previously mentioned, saw the Nuggets come out on top.
The most recent appearance came during the same playoffs in 2020. The Clippers were trying to make the Conference Finals for the first time but were defeated by 15 points. It marked the first time that two-time MVP Nikola Jokic made it to the Conference Finals.
13T. Dallas Mavericks: 4-3
In 1988, the Mavericks had a chance to knock off the great Magic Johnson but were eliminated by the Lakers. In 2003, the team won two Game 7s in the opening rounds to make the Conference Finals before losing to the Spurs. In 2006, the Mavericks got revenge by beating the Spurs in overtime in the semifinals.
12. Atlanta Hawks: 5-9
During the Bob Pettit years, the Hawks used to get after it in Game 7. It was a normal spot for the tea, playing in seven Game 7s in the 60s. After 1966, the Hawks would play in Game 7 just two times up to the 2008 playoffs. Most of the time after that saw the team play in the first round with elimination on the line.
The most memorable Game 7 for most fans would be from last season. The Hawks played villain as the Trae Young-led group bested the No. 1 seed 76ers 103-96 to make the Conference Finals. The win had major implications for Philly, playing a huge role in Ben Simmons never suiting up for the team ever again.
10T. Detroit Pistons: 5-5
In 1987, the Pistons lost to the Celtics but would use that loss to help fuel them to make the NBA Finals three straight years. That included beating the Bulls in 1990 in the Conference Finals to make it a third time. From 2003 to 2006, the Pistons played in a Game 7 five times.
The highest-pressured situation came in the 2005 playoffs. With a trip back to the NBA Finals, the Pistons closed out the Miami Heat. The other four games featured stretched-out series in the first and second rounds.
10T. Golden State Warriors: 5-5
The Warriors join the Pistons as one of 11 teams to own at least five wins in a final game. The Warriors won their first-ever victory in a Game 7 back in 1948. Other notable appearances include the 1975 Conference Finals with a win over the Bulls. Then, the team came up short against the Suns in the same spot in the playoffs.
While the 2016 and 2018 wins in Game 7 remain impressive, the most talked-about Game 7 has to be the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors held a 3-1 lead and won an NBA record 73 games in the regular season. However, the team let the lead slip and then lost Game 7 in a down to the wire game.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: 5-2
For some teams, all they need is a Game 7. The Cavaliers have proven that they don’t mind the pressure. The first time LeBron James played in a Game 7 for Cleveland, the team scored just 61 points. In 2008, he came up short against the eventual champions the Celtics. Since then, he has never lost a Game 7 while playing for Cleveland. That includes the 2016 NBA Finals, as well as some other notable appearances.
That includes the 2018 first round against the Pacers and then the Conference Finals against the Celtics. By the time the Cavaliers made the NBA Finals, the team was swept. Playing a high amount of minutes certainly had its toll.
8. Philadelphia 76ers: 6-11
The 76ers have played the third-most times in Game 7 and are not in firm control of the third-most wins. There have been some solid performances along the way through. There’s the 2001 Conference Finals over the Bucks when MVP Allen Iverson led the team to the NBA Finals, which remains their last appearance.
The 76ers have been on the worse end of Game 7 in the last two appearances. That includes the 2019 and 2021 playoffs to the Raptors and Hawks respectively. While a lot of attention has been made to how great Joel Embiid is as a player, he has never led Philly to a win in Game 7.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder: 6-5
The SuperSonics nearly made the NBA Finals in 1993 but redeemed themselves in 1996 with a win in Game 7 over the Jazz. Since 2011, the Thunder have played in a Game 7 four times. The first time was a win over the Grizzlies. The Thunder beat the Grizzlies in Game 7 again in 2014, both times coming in the first round.
The third time was when the team lost a heartbreaking series to the Warriors in 2016, which led to the departure of Kevin Durant. The last appearance was the 2020 playoffs when the Thunder nearly beat the Rockets. Chris Paul was on a mission to lead OKC past his former team, but the Rockets won the narrow game of 104-102.
5T. Miami Heat: 6-4
In 1997 and 2000, the Heat won a Game 7 to reach the Conference Finals. Both times, they came up short of the NBA Finals. The Heat lost a chance to make the Finals in 2005 to the Pistons. However, the big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade did something legendary in three Game 7s.
In 2012, the Heat fended off the Celtics to make the NBA Finals. Then, the team fended off the Pacers in seven games in 2013. In the Finals, the team won the championship in seven games over the Spurs. Just go ahead and reread that and let that sink in how legendary that is.
5T. Washington Wizards: 6-4
It doesn’t feel like the Wizards should be a top team in crunch time, but historically the team has come through when given the opportunity. Lately, the Wizards haven’t had that chance, but if they do again, fans should feel good about their chances. From 1970 to 1979, the Bullets played in a Game 7 a total of nine times.
Those were different days as Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld helped the Wizards win Game 7 in the 1978 NBA Finals. Since then, the team has played one Game 7, which came in the 2017 semifinals. The Wizards lost to the Celtics by ten points.
4. New York Knicks: 7-8
The Knicks played the very first Game 7 in the NBA Finals in 1951. They lost to the Rochester Royals, but then returned to the Finals in 1952, where they lost that title chance as well to the Lakers. The Knicks got their rematch in the 1970 NBA Finals with a win over the Lakers.
The Knicks had plenty of opportunities in the 90s. The team bounced the Bulls, who were without Michael Jordan in 1994. Then they beat the Pacers to qualify for the NBA Finals. The Knicks made the Conference Finals in 2000 with an 83-82 win over the Heat. That was the last time the Knicks played in a Game 7.
3. Houston Rockets: 7-5
One of four teams to have won seven Game 7s, the Rockets are one of three teams with a winning record. The 1994 NBA Finals saw a tight back-and-forth battle between the Knicks and the Rockets but Finals MVP Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets to their first title in team history. The Rockets repeated in 1995, but it took a 115-114 win over the Suns in the semifinals to get there.
In the modern era, fans still remember their chance of returning to the NBA Finals in 2018. The Rockets were playing hard against the Warriors, but an injury to Chris Paul might have negated their chances. James Harden had one of his worst shooting nights and the Warriors defeated Houston.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: 16-8
The Lakers own the second-most appearances in a Game 7 in NBA history. The Lakers are also one of two teams with double-digit wins in the final game. In 1952 and 1954, George Mikan helped the Lakers win two titles in the final game. The Lakers and Celtics were frequent goes in a lot of those Game 7s, but the Lakers lost two times in the 60s.
In the 80s, Magic Johnson defeated his best friend Isiah Thomas and the Pistons in 1988. In 2000 and 2002, Bryant and O’Neal saved the three-peat with wins in the Conference Finals. Bryant won a title over the Celtics in 2010. There’s a lot of rich history here with a lot of big-time wins on the biggest stage of them all.
1. Boston Celtics: 24-9
The clear winner in Game 7 is the Boston Celtics franchise. The team owns the most appearances in a Game 7 and is the only team in the league with at least 20 or more wins in the final game. From 1957 to 1969, during the Bill Russell years, the Celtics won 10 consecutive Game 7s, which included five Game 7s in the NBA Finals. When you want to talk about one of the greatest winners, you have to include Russell.
The Celtics won the 1974 championship, as well as the title in 1984. Since 2005, the team has played in the final game seven times. Some of those notable appearances include losing the 2010 championship. Another includes losing to the Heat’s big three in 2012, which led to Ray Allen switching sides. The Celtics also lost to the Cavaliers in 2018 with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. All in all, historically speaking, the Celtics are the best to ever close out a series in Game 7.