Who Do You Take? Miami and Boston’s Best Game 7 Performers

Who do you want on your team in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals? It’s as simple as that. The playoffs can boil down to the most basic of decisions at this stage. Pure ones and zeroes. This or that? Paul Pierce or Dwyane Wade? After forcing the return to Miami, the Heat take on the Celtics on Saturday. It should be another incredible game in this series, but some of the Heat and Celtics’ biggest stars have been more productive than others in Game 7s in their careers. Here’s who they are.

For LeBron James, who just had a historic, Wilt Chamberlain-esque night in Game 6, it will be his second time facing the Celtics in a Game 7 after May 18, 2008. But he’s on the short end with only two 7s in his career. Ray Allen has the most, with nine. Before Saturday’s matchup in Miami, here are the most valuable Game 7 performers. For reference, all averages are points/rebounds/assists/turnovers.


6. Rajon Rondo. Game 7 averages: 11.1 ppg/6.7 rpg/9.1 apg/2.0 tpg. For still such a relatively young player, Rondo has played in six Game 7s in his career. The good news is they’ve all become progressively better. The bad news is that turnovers are a common trend among them. He’s had games of four and three TOs, while his points have increased almost game to game as his role in the C’s offense mirrors that. Three of his six have been at least double doubles.

His last game, against Philly, was an 18 point, 10 assist, 10 board and seven turnover night that would be hailed as a true masterpiece if not for the turnovers. The takeaway from that night, however, wasn’t the TOs, but his three to put Boston up 10 with just more than 2 minutes to go and essentially ice the game.

5. Dwyane Wade. Game 7s: 21.5/3.5/5.5/4.0. Wade is a two-time Game 7 player whose 31-point performance in a loss to Atlanta in 2009 was his last. His only other game was a rookie-year performance in 2004. He’s a remarkable talent outside of Game 7s but there’s just not enough history there. Ray Allen may not have the averages Wade does, but the consistency outweighs it.

4. Ray Allen. Game 7s: 17.8/3.5/2.5/1.5. There was a weird stretch in his career where he had Game 7s of four and seven points and only one assist in each of those games. In his nine, however, he’s been remarkably smooth, going for at least 23 points five times, with zero turnovers three times. If you’re looking for the quintessential “don’t screw up” guy, Allen is that player in his career. You’re never going to get many rebounds from him, but his rebounding here isn’t far below his career average of 4.5.

3. Paul Pierce. Game 7s: 21.6/7.0/3.3/3.7. The Truth is a bit creakier than he was in his best Game 7 performances but he can still get it done. Against Philly he had 15 points and nine boards. One of the best performances of his playoff life, not just in a Game 7, was against the Cavaliers (and LeBron) on May 18, 2008, when Pierce went for 41 points, four boards, five assists and four turnovers. It was a duel that brought Bird vs. Wilkins to mind. Even earlier, however, in that ’08 title run, he had a Game 7 against Atlanta where he went for 22 points, eight boards and three assists. I vote him down to this spot because his position requires more athleticism than a post like KG, and at this age I think Wade and James are better fits. But don’t doubt the Truth’s playoff credentials after playing in seven of these.

2. Kevin Garnett. Game 7s: 19.6/12.2/2.0/1.6. It was a young KG moment, in another uniform, in the second round, but give us this: his 32-point, 21-board night against a Divac-Webber-Bibby Sacramento team to win a second-round matchup in 2004 was an incredible game to watch. It helped push Garnett well past his “can’t win a first round” criticism, and delivered him into a conference final with aplomb. That was the first of five Game 7s, with an impressive rebounding line as a constant throughout except, most notably, in the final of the 2010 Finals against L.A. He had only three boards there, to go with 17 points. Something tells me he won’t be that inactive against Miami on Saturday.

1. LeBron James. Game 7s: 36/6.5/4/2.5. LBJ is like your run of the mill politician when it comes to courting public opinion. You have your diehard supporters and those that will never believe in him. In between there are those who ebb and flow with him. Count me in after his Game 6 on Thursday, with 45 points and 15 boards. But it’s not only that. He only has two Game 7 performances, but they’ve all been monsters. In 2008, against the Celtics, it was a 45-point, five-board, six assist night with just two turnovers. Before that, he went for 27 points, eight boards, two assists and three turnovers. The sample size is low, admittedly, and the latter game was a loss. Those samples, however, feature averages that would be hard to top on NBA 2K. You already know where you sit on LeBron, but after a game like last night, I think we see another big Game 7 from James.

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