Plays of the NBA Playoffs, Vol. 2 (Nos. 12-1)
Hello again, folks. Yesterday, we posted Volume 1 of our favorite plays of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, as we counted down from 25-13. Today, we offer our Top 12, and once again, we're using that "Top 12" term loosely, as we've packed in another 20+ clips into this one - there were just too many plays we loved!
We can't deny it: we absolutely love this page. Loved putting it together, love watching the clips over and over. Damn near the full variety of why we love the Playoffs so much is expressed below. Hope you enjoy and have fun with it.
Once again, we'll note that we're partial to little guys who take it to big guys, big guys who display some skills, high degree-of-difficulty assists and game-changing/deciding plays. Once again, here we go:
12. Kobe Spins One to Pau
Here's the situation: Orlando leads 87-82 with the clock winding down to half a minute in Game 4, the Magic poised to tie the Finals at 2-2. Then the Lakers get out on the break, Kobe attacks the lane, spins, and drops a behind-the-head assist to Pau to cut the lead to 3 and set up a couple decisive plays that you just might be seeing a little later. Really, assists don't get much better than this: smart, clutch, creative, gorgeous, with excellent court vision.
11. The Josh Smith Experience
We feel like Josh Smith's performance in Game 1 of the Hawks-Heat series went a little under the radar. Dude delivered no less than five mammoth dunks that you can see in the clip below. You had a little bit of everything: halfcourt alley-oop, reverse finish on the halfcourt alley-oop, a huge rebound follow, and a hammer dunk out on the break. All of them seemingly with his head at the rim and arms reaching up to the top of the square. Crazy.
Only thing that was missing in Game 1 was throwing one right in somebody's mug, so we can't resist adding this one from Game 5 over Jermaine O'Neal. We're going to refrain from including the comedic value of the between-the-legs miss later in Game 5 - you can go to YouTube for that gem.
10. Celtics-Bulls: Epic Clutch
Much like we could probably find 25 LeBron plays, we could probably also find 25 plays from the Celtics-Bulls series. Here are four great clutch shots from that all-time great first-round series.
Game 2: Ray Allen knocks down the game-winning three over Noah (:02)
Game 4: Ben Gordon ties it with a tough three and gives the modified Cassell Dance (:04.5, OT)
Game 5: Paul Pierce calmly knocks down the game-winning pull-up (:03.4, OT)
Game 6: Ray Allen sends it to a third OT with a three, part of a 51-point game (:07.6, 2OT)
This is one of those plays that's kind of forgotten/under-the-radar, but we absolutely love. LeBron delivers the behind-the-back pass to Varejao from the low post. We have no idea how LeBron saw the passing lane, and we marvel at the precision of the delivery - he had to throw that thing hard, behind-the-back, with a bounce... and he pinpointed it. Unreal. This is the single best pass of the postseason to us.
We also throw in a similar play from Kenyon Martin, who delivers a no-look, behind-the back assist to the Birdman while on the move in the lane, in Game 3 vs. the Lakers.
8. Dahntay Jones Scales Mt. Dampier, + Windmill
This is our choice for the single best dunk of the Playoffs: Dahntay Jones takes it right at, and over, Erick Dampier in Game 3 of the Nuggets-Mavs series. Look out below.
For good measure, we also give you the completely entertaining, completely unnecessary windmill dunk from the first quarter of Game 4 of the Lakers series. And, you know, we respect Mike Breen as a true pro as a broadcaster, but this clip demonstrates a pet peeve we have. If Marv had called this one, it would have been: "Jones on the break... WITH THE WINDMILL!", and then he would have offered a wry aside to question the wisdom of the play. In other words, he would have captured the full scope of the play: that might not have been a very smart play, but man, it sure was fun to watch.
Breen's call? "Here's Jones ahead of the pack. Should be an easy one.... Makes it a little more difficult, but it stills counts as two." It's just a tad schoolmarmish and joyless for our tastes. A play can be both ill-advised and awesome, and it's OK to acknowledge as such.
7. Artest-Brooks Alley
It's another rule of Plays of the Playoffs: if you're under 6-feet and you convert the oop end of an alley-oop off an inbounds pass from half-court, you make the list. Ron Artest hits Aaron Brooks at the halftime buzzer of Game 4 vs. L.A. Nice D, Lakers.
6. The Birdman vs. The Candyman
Please forgive us for saying this, T-Ziller, but if you don't like this sequence, you don't like NBA basketball. A 6-10 man with skill goes right at a 6-10 man with athleticism. In the first play, Chris Andersen serves up the best block of the Playoffs, denying a Lamar Odom dunk right at the rim in the first quarter of Game 5 - about as perfect a block as you'll ever see.
However, in the fourth quarter, Lamar came right back at the Birdman, dunking over him impressively and drawing the foul, a key play with the Lakers' season possibly in danger.
5. Iggy's Tough Game-Winner
2009 was a damn good year for last-second clutch shots in the NBA Playoffs. We've already featured four from Celtics-Bulls, we've got a couple more here, and there are still a few more to come. And we didn't even include stuff like Thaddeus Young and Hedo Turkoglu hitting game-winners in back-to-back games of the Magic-Sixers series, or Deron Williams beating the Lakers in the final seconds.
As a representative of playoff clutch, we're going with Andre Iguodala's game-winner at the end of Game 1 vs. Orlando, mainly for the insane degree-of-difficulty: he crosses over and steps back, drives and steps back again, and still has Turkoglu draped all over him as he shoots. Crazy tough shot.
We're feeling guilty about not showing the Magic enough love, so we're also going to include another high degree-of-difficulty clutch shot, from Rashard Lewis in Game 4 vs. Cleveland. Trailing 98-97 in the final seconds, Raw Lew catches while running away from the basket, yet still gathers and turns to his left for the fluid three with 4.1 seconds left. The Cavs sent the game to OT on LeBron FTs, but Orlando prevailed in OT to take a commanding 3-1 lead.
[Ed note: As pointed out in the comments, other late game-winners included Big Baby vs. the Magic, Carmelo (controversially) vs. the Mavs, and Rashard in Game 1 vs. the Cavs. All worthy.
I will point out that we included 9 last-minute, game-deciding shots among this list, and have listed 6 others, including the ones in this blurb/ed. note. That's 15 worthy last-minute shots, plus probably a few more that could've been included. Sorting through all those shots was easily the most difficult aspect of this exercise. In retrospect, we probably should have titled this one Game-Winners Galore, and just used AI/Rashard's shots as reps of all these, as listed the others, since the story here is the volume of last-minute shots in '09.]
4. Kobe With the Spectacular Shot
This is another play that I sure hope doesn't get forgotten. I really think that MJ's spectacular move has nothing on this one from Kobe.
It's Game 5 of the NBA Finals and the Lakers are trying to hold off a 3rd-quarter push by the Magic to keep their season alive. Kobe gets into the lane, elevates, shows the ball to Dwight Howard on one side of his body, then gathers and shoots around the other side of Superman while on his way down. A classic display of Bryant's supreme set of varied skills. Possibly more impressive than MJ because Kobe has to evade a huge Defensive Player of the Year. Given the magnitude of the moment, it's nothing less than one of the very best plays of the Hall of Famer's career, and deserves to be remembered as such.
3. Joakim Noah Goes to Coast-to-Coast
You didn't think we were going to put Celtics-Bulls to bed without this one, did you? Remember how we said we liked big guys displaying their skills? Well, there's no better example than this one. 7-footer Joakim Noah makes the steal and drives the length of the court before finishing with an emphatic dunk that draws a 6th foul on Paul Pierce late in the 3rd OT of the classic Celtics-Bulls Game 6.
2. Derek Fisher Delivers in the Clutch Again... And Again
He's synonymous with ".4" for Lakers fans, and he hit a ton of clutch shots in the Lakers' '00-02 three-peat, and Derek Fisher did it again in the decisive Game 4 of the NBA Finals. First he hit the game-tying three with 4.6 seconds left in regulation.
Then, Fish sealed the ballgame - and, effectively, the championship - for L.A. with a three that put the Lakers ahead for good at 94-91 with 31.3 left in OT.
1. LeBron at the Buzzer
LeBron gets the nod narrowly over Fish for our favorite play of the playoffs. Didn't affect the outcome of the series, we know, but we give it the edge because of the high degree of difficulty on the shot, plus the fact that he only had one second to shoot and it turned defeat into victory right at the buzzer. Tough call, but we're sticking with LBJ. Great shot (and a great call by Marv, who immediately and succinctly conveyed every relevant piece of information).
Thanks for playing. As a reminder, you can also watch clips 25-13 (and then some) in Volume 1 of our Plays of the Playoffs. And don't fret, opening night is closer than you think.