San Antonio Spurs: Remembering the Memorial Day Miracle
By Maitland Rutledge
On this Memorial Day weekend, take a look back at one of the most iconic moments in San Antonio Spurs history.
Throughout their history, the San Antonio Spurs have become one of the most successful teams in the NBA. With five championships and six finals appearances, the Spurs have produced several remarkable moments in NBA playoff history. One of the greatest came during the team’s first championship run in 1999.
During a lockout season, San Antonio finished with the best record in the NBA at 37-13. In the opening round against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kevin Garnett, the Spurs won three games to one before sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers led by Shaquille O’Neal and a young Kobe Bryant.
San Antonio would then face the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference finals, who had just eliminated a powerful Utah Jazz team. In Game One the Spurs continued their playoff dominance, defeating the Blazers 80-76 despite a late rally by Rasheed Wallace and company. Game Two on Memorial Day 1999 was a far different story as Portland looked to even the series.
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The Blazers came out firing on all cylinders and at one point led by 18 in the third quarter. As would be the case throughout their postseason history, the Spurs were in need of a hero to bring them back. Sean Elliott answered the call. As one of the team’s best perimeter shooters, Elliott helped San Antonio close the gap to just two points with 12 seconds to go.
On the Spurs’ final possession, Mario Elie inbounded the ball from half-court with Elliott catching it inches away from the sideline. With Wallace bearing down on him, Elliott gathered himself and made a last-second three-pointer with just nine seconds to go. In impressive fashion, Elliott managed to stay on his toes with his heels not touching the ground out-of-bounds. The shot helped San Antonio secure an 86-85 victory and a 2-0 lead over Portland in the series. Afterwards, the moment became known as the “Memorial Day Miracle”.
Elliott would finish the game with a postseason-high 22 points and six three-pointers made.
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After the “Memorial Day Miracle”, San Antonio won both games in Portland to claim their second consecutive playoff sweep. Less than a month later, the Spurs defeated the New York Knicks in Game Five of the NBA Finals for their first championship. Elliott’s miracle shot became the defining moment of his career and of the Spurs’ first title run.