Greatest series ever? Phil-Astros 1980
I’ve just seen the completion of the greatest NBA playoff series ever, Boston’s seven-game survival of Chicago that included four overtime games and seven overtime periods, plus a last-second shot by Ray Allen to win one of the games in regulation.
Nothing else in NBA history can come close to that for drama, and I don’t care that it was only a first-round game. You had the defending champs, you had a franchise that’s trying to get back to its elite status of the ’90s, you had two of the big-dog sports cities in America. You had big shot after big shot virtually every other night for two weeks.
But I’m not as convinced that it’s the greatest series in all of sports. I just don’t know. I need to digest this one a little before I decide between Celtics-Bulls and Phillies-Astros in the 1980 National League Championship Series.
It’s been 29 years, and details fade, but the hard facts remained. Five games. Four extra-inning games. The blowout in the series Game 1, which the Phillies took 3-1 with Steve Carlton outdueling Ken Forsch.
Game 2: Astros 7-4 in 10 innings. Each team scored one run in the eighth to make it 3-3, then the Astros scored four runs in the top of the 10th, with the wonderful Jose Cruz’s RBI single getting the first run and Dave Bergman’s two-run triple capping the rally. The Phillies rallied in the 10th with a run, but Juaquin Andujar — remember him? — came on for the save.
Game 3: Houston 1-0, 11 innings. When you make a list of the greatest pitching duels ever, don’t forget this one. Larry Christenson pitched six innings for the Phils, then Dickie Noles took over into the eighth, when Tug McGraw came on and pitched the rest of the way. Joe Niekro pitched 10 innings for the Astros before Dave Smith came on. The Astros won it in the bottom of the 11th when Joe Morgan led off with a triple, the Phils walked Cruz and Art Howe intentionally and Denny Walling lifted a game-winning sacrifice fly.
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