2007: Cleveland vs. San Antonio:
His first appearance in the NBA Finals took place versus the San Antonio Spurs back in the 2007 season. Game 1 was their first NBA Finals game in franchise history, and the first for each of its players (other than reserve point guard Eric Snow). However, the San Antonio Spurs had been to the Finals in three of the past eight seasons, winning a championship each time. With solid performances by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginóbili, the Spurs won the series opener in convincing fashion 85-76 at the AT&T Center, limiting LeBron James to 14 points on 4-16 shooting.
The Spurs took a stranglehold on momentum in Game 2. The Spurs' big three overwhelmed the Cavs and the Spurs led by as many as 29 points in the third quarter. They dominated the game during the first 3 quarters and played show-time basketball. A furious 25-6 rally by Cleveland in the final quarter wasn't enough despite 25 points from James as the Spurs took a 2-0 lead in the series by winning 103-92.
Rookie Daniel Gibson started Game 3 in place of the injured Larry Hughes but scored a series-low 2 points on 1-10 shooting. As a team the Cavs shot only .367, but out-rebounded the Spurs 48-41. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a 2006-07 season high 18 rebounds. On the game's final play, LeBron James who again scored 25 points missed a potential game-tying 29 foot 3-pointer. Game 3 was the lowest-scoring Finals game since 1955, with Tim Duncan of the Spurs having his lowest scoring game in his NBA Finals career, with 14 points. San Antonio edged Cleveland 75-72 at the Quicken Loans Arena to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
In game 4 San Antonio started out strong through the first three quarters, leading by as many as 11. While James would wind up with 24 points, Cleveland would stage a rally near the end of the third quarter and the first five minutes of the fourth scoring 14 consecutive points to take its first second-half lead of the series. However, the Spurs would stage a 12-3 rally of their own to retake the lead and win 83-82 taking the series in a 4-0 sweep.
2011: Miami vs. Dallas
Since making the decision to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat, Lebron and company made good on his promise to once again lead Miami all the way to the NBA Finals in search of the franchise's second ever title since 2006. In game 1, the Heat made only 28.6 percent of their shots during the first quarter, and this low scoring percentage early on left the Mavs with an 8 point lead early into the 3rd quarter. The Heat changed course from this point on, outscoring the Mavs 22–10 and taking a 65–61 lead going into the 4th quarter. Mavs power forward Dirk Nowitzki injured his finger within the last four minutes of the game, but remained in play, wearing a splint to support the torn tendon. Despite having a below-average performance early in the game, Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade and LeBron James collaborated on both defensive and offensive ends of the court in the fourth quarter, leading the Heat to win Game 1 over the Mavs 92–84 as the king finished with 24 points.
In game 2 the Mavs' 15-point comeback was the biggest in an NBA Finals game since the 24-point comeback the Celtics made against the Lakers in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki hit a 3 with 26.7 seconds left to give the Mavericks a 93–90 lead. However, Mario Chalmers tied it with another 3 with 24.5 seconds left when Jason Terry left him wide open. Nowitzki then made a driving layup with his injured left hand with 3.6 seconds left. The Heat had no timeouts left, and Dwyane Wade's potential game-winning 3 hit the back rim at the buzzer.The Mavs win broke the Heat's 9-game home winning streak in the playoffs, costing them a chance to tie the 1996 Bulls' mark of 10 straight. This is the second straight Finals with a 1–1 split after two games, after five straight years with one team leading 2–0 (2005–2009). Dallas would go on to edge Miami 95-93 as Lebron James finished with 20 points.
Game 3 featured Miami leading most of the way but the Mavericks fought back from a 14 point deficit. With 39.6 seconds left in the 4th, LeBron James found Chris Bosh for a 20-foot baseline jumper; Dirk Nowitzki had a chance to force OT, but missed a well-defended fadeaway jumper at the buzzer as the Heat handed Dallas another defeat to go up 2–1 in the series.It was Miami's 6th win in its last 7 NBA Finals games, 4 by 3 points or less. Miami would return the favor by edging Dallas 88-86 as James would finish with 17 points.
Game 4 was a back-and-forth affair, with 12 lead changes and 15 ties. Miami went up 74–65 early in the fourth quarter on a baseline jumpshot by Udonis Haslem, tallying their largest lead of the game. After a timeout, Dallas answered with 4 straight points by Jason Terry, similar to the 6 straight he scored with Dallas down 15 halfway through the fourth quarter of Game 2. Dallas would take their first lead of the fourth quarter with 5:15 left on a fastbreak layup by Terry. They held the lead for the rest of the game, although Miami cut the lead to 1 twice in the final minute. Up 82–81 with 20 seconds left after Wade missed 1 of 2 free throws, Dirk Nowitzki hit a driving layup with 14.4 seconds left to extend the lead to 3. After a dunk by Wade with 9 seconds left, 2 free throws by Terry pushed the lead back up to 3. With a chance to tie the game with a 3, Wade fumbled the inbounds pass with 6.7 seconds left, only to make a diving save to prevent a backcourt violation. The ball landed in Mike Miller's hands, whose desperation 3 airballed at the buzzer, preserving Dallas's 86–83 win. It would be one of James' worst postseason performances finishing with just 8 points on 3/11 shooting although he did record 9 rebounds and 7 assists battling most of the way through foul trouble.
After four low-scoring games, Game 5 saw the first time either team would break 100 points in this series. Dallas connected 13 times out of their 19 tries from three-point range. Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and J.J. Barea combined to make 10 of those 13 made threes. Late in the first quarter, Dwyane Wade ran into Brian Cardinal and had to go to the locker room with a hip injury; he eventually returned and hit a 3 to cap a 9–0 run that put Miami in front 99–95 with less than 5 minutes left in the game. Unhappy with Terry for missing a defensive assignment and setting a poor cross-screen, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle pulled Terry from the game, telling him, "Refocus. I'm putting you right back in." After less than a minute, Carlisle subbed in Terry and made the crucial decision to run the offense through him for the rest of the game. This move ignited Dallas' offense, leading them on a game-winning 15–3 run in which Terry scored or assisted on 11 points. With Miami leading 100–97, Terry passed to Dirk Nowitzki, who drew a double team and then kicked it back out to Terry for a game-tying 3. Nowitzki then drove baseline on Chris Bosh for a two-handed dunk (assisted by Terry) with 2:44 left in the game to give the Mavs a 102–100 lead they would not relinquish. After LeBron James was called for an offensive foul (Tyson Chandler drew the charge), Terry found Kidd for another wide-open 3 that gave the Mavs a 105–100 lead with 1:26 left. After Chandler blocked Dwyane Wade with 1:04 left, Chris Bosh made 1 of 2 free throws to cut the Mavs' lead to 105–101. On the Mavs' next possession, Terry knocked down a 28-foot 3 with LeBron James closely guarding him to give the Mavs an insurmountable 108–101 lead with 33.3 seconds left. The Mavericks won 112–103 and grabbed a 3–2 series lead going back to Miami. James would finish recording a triple double with 17 poitns, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
In game 6, LeBron James made his first four shots to contribute to the Heat taking a 20–11 lead. The Mavericks went to a zone defense that perplexed Miami and Dallas went on a 21–4 run in a span of 5 ½ minutes. They made 9 of 12 shots during this stretch with DeShawn Stevenson making two 3's in a 24 second duration to give Dallas a 40–28 lead with 9:42 left in the first half. Dallas turned Miami's first six turnovers into 14 points. The Heat then went on a 14–0 run to take a 42–40 lead. With 6:25 left in the half, Stevenson along with Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers received technical fouls after a scuffle occurred at midcourt during a timeout. In the second half, James did not score until making a layup with 1:49 remaining in the third, finishing with 21 points overall. The Mavericks led by 9 going into the 4th quarter after Ian Mahinmi hit a buzzer beater to give Dallas a 81–72 lead. The Mavericks took a 12-point lead with 8:12 remaining. With 2:27 left, Nowitzki made a jump shot to help build the Mavericks' insurmountable lead to 99–89. The Mavericks, who led for the final 22 minutes in the game, won their first championship in franchise history. Nowitzki was named Finals MVP. He had a poor shooting performance in the first half but managed to score 18 points in the second half. When the final buzzer sounded, an emotional Nowitzki went straight to the locker room in tears, although he re-emerged for the trophy presentation.
2012: Oklahoma City vs. Miami:
This marked the first time that the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared in the NBA Finals since the franchise's relocation from Seattle, Washington in 2008, and their first Finals appearance overall since 1996 as the Seattle SuperSonics. It also marked the Miami Heat's third appearance in the NBA Finals. The Heat previously appeared in 2006 and 2011. In game 1 the Thunder defeated the Heat, 105–94. Miami held the lead for most of the first three quarters, including a 13-point lead at one point during the second quarter. The Heat made five three-pointers to jump to a 29–22 lead by the end of the first quarter, but Oklahoma City kept on pace with Miami to keep the score at 54–47 by halftime. The Thunder then took the lead for good with 16 seconds left in third quarter after Russell Westbrook made a free throw to make it 74–73. Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 36 points, while Westbrook had 27. LeBron James led the Heat with 30 points, but was held to one basket during the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Heat won Game 2, 100–96, tying the series and giving the Thunder their first home playoff loss this season. Miami never trailed, building a 27–15 first quarter lead, and holding a 17-point advantage at one point. The Thunder attempted a comeback in fourth quarter, and with 37 seconds left in the game, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant made a three-pointer to cut the deficit, 98–96. After the Heat failed to score on their next possession, Kevin Durant missed a shot near the baseline that would have tied the game. Lebron James led the Heat with 32 points and squared the series at one game apiece clearly shifting the momentum coming back to the American Airlines Arena for 3 straight.
In game 3, the Heat defeated the Thunder in Game 3, 91–85. Miami had a slim 47–46 halftime lead before Oklahoma City began the third quarter with a 10–4 run, eventually building a 10-point lead midway through the period. However, Miami scored the last seven points in the third quarter to regain the lead at 69–67. With 7:36 remaining in the game, the Thunder came back to retake the lead at 77–76, but the Heat then scored eight unanswered points to build an 84–77 advantage with 3:47 left. A 6–0 run by Oklahoma City pulled them within one point of Miami with 90 seconds left, but the Thunder could not score again for the rest of the game while the Heat made five insurance free throws. Lebron James led Miami with 29 points along with 14 rebounds as Miami took a 2-1 series advantage.
Miami won Game 4, 104–98, to go up three games to one in the series. The Thunder jumped to a 33–19 lead by the end the first quarter, but the Heat rallied to cut the score to 49–46 at halftime, thanks to two huge three-pointers by Heat rookie Norris Cole. The two teams remained neck-and-neck throughout most of the third quarter, with Miami holding a 4-point lead at the start of fourth period. However, for the final 16 minutes of the game, Russell Westbrook (who led the Thunder with 43 points) and Kevin Durant (who had 28 points) were the only two Oklahoma City players able to score. With the other Thunder players struggling to make their shots, Miami was able to pull away in the end, largely thanks to late-game heroics from Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade. LeBron James led the Heat with 26 points, including the go ahead three pointer, but had to sit out during the final two minutes of the game due to leg cramps.
Miami won Game 5, 121–106, to win the series, four games to one and giving Lebron James his first NBA title in 3 tries. After trailing two points early in the first quarter, the Heat controlled the rest of the game, leading as much as 27 at one point. Miami was fueled by strong performances by James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, and by Mike Miller, who was 7 for 8 for three-pointers. With three minutes remaining in the game, both teams took their starters out of the game, with the Heat still leading by more than 20 points. With their Game 5 win, the Heat won their second NBA championship in their history, and the first for several Heat players, including James, who was named the NBA Finals MVP after registering a triple double.