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Memorial Day Miracle refers to Game 2 of the 1999 Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Portland Trail Blazers played at the Alamodome in San Antonio on May 31, 1999, which fell on the Memorial Day holiday.

The play

Portland, who narrowly lost Game 1, emphatically outplayed the Spurs in the first half of game two. In the third quarter, Portland increased its lead to eighteen points before the Spurs responded with an 8-2 scoring run. Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy called a time out to break the Spurs momentum, but the Spurs scored nine unanswered points and cut Portland's lead to three.

The momentum would shift back and forth until Portland's Damon Stoudamire was fouled late in the fourth quarter. He made one of two free throws, extending Portland's lead to 85-83 with just twelve seconds left. The Spurs called time out, which by rule allowed them to advance the ball to halfcourt. Following the time out, Spurs guard Mario Elie inbounded the ball past a diving Stacey Augmon to forward Sean Elliott.

Elliott, who was privately battling a kidney ailment which would require kidney transplant surgery, caught the inbounds pass very near the sideline. He stayed balanced on his tiptoes while turning to shoot a three point shot, careful not to set his heels down on the sideline and turn the ball over. With Rasheed Wallace leaping at him trying to block the shot attempt, Elliott arced his attempt over Wallace's outstretched hand and into the hoop. The basket gave the Spurs an 86-85 lead, their first lead of the ballgame. Time expired some nine seconds later, and the 86-85 score held up as a final.

Significance

The "Miracle" designation relates to the combination of circumstances involved:

  1. Elliott was playing with a serious kidney condition and would likely have not been involved in the game had he gone through with the transplant surgery sooner.
  2. The Spurs trailed by eighteen points in the third quarter; more often than not, a lead that large that late holds up in a playoff game.
  3. The Spurs' last play itself succeeded despite a near steal (Augmon), a near block (Wallace) and a near turnover (Elliott shooting from his toes with heels above the sideline).

Aftermath

The Spurs went on to win the last two games in Portland for a four game sweep, then defeated the New York Knicks in the 1999 NBA Finals, four games to one, to win their first NBA Championship.

External links

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