NBA: Top 5 Games of the Playoffs So Far
It might sound like heresy after the epic Western Conference Finals, but by some measure, the NBA playoffs have been one of the worst in the history of the league. What do we mean? There have been more games decided in blowout fashion (20 or more points) than games decided by five points or less in the 2016 postseason, which is certainly uncommon for the most exciting time of year in the sport. With how difficult some of these uneven contests have been to watch, we can all only hope that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors deliver some “instant classic” type games in the NBA Finals. Still, to discount the entire postseason as boring would be a mistake, as there has been some epic battles over the past several weeks.
Aside from all the blowouts, these playoffs have produced four Game 7’s, five overtime games, and several crazy/legendary/unexpected performances that have made watching the playoffs worth while. So, even in a postseason that has been disappointing at times, there is still several great games worth remembering and reviewing. With that, we have the top five games that we will be talking about for a long time from these playoffs so far.
5. Heat vs. Hornets: Game 6
The first-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs matched up several evenly matched teams who were trying to position themselves for a run at the Cavs and the conference championship. Luckily for us, that produced some classic games. One of the best contests of the entire first-round occurred in the Miami Heat-Charlotte Hornets series — in a Game 6 were everything was on the line for the road team.
After losing Game 5 at home (which served as the first loss by a home team in the series), the Heat found themselves needing a win in Charlotte to keep their season alive in Game 6. Miami came out and established a strong effort in the first half, earning a nine-point halftime lead. However, Kemba Walker — who scored 37 points in the game — and the Hornets kept it close, trailing by just two points with about a minute remaining. That’s when one of the best players of his generation took over.
Dwyane Wade proved what a terrific player he is in the clutch to seal the game for the Heat. After Charlotte got within two late in the fourth, Wade hit a three-pointer and a mid-range shot to give Miami a five-point advantage with :20 seconds remaining. He then came up with a clutch play on defense, blocking a Walker layup to essentially seal the win. Miami went on to cruise on Game 7 following this instant classic.
4. Cavs vs. Raptors: Game 4
The Eastern Conference Finals, for the most part, were the epitome of one-sided games this postseason. Five of the six games in the series were decided by double-digit margins, with three Cavs wins coming by at least 26-points. While much of the series saw lopsided scoreboards, the one game that was closely contested ended up being a terrific game to watch.
Coming into Game 4, the Raptors were coming off a brilliant effort in Game 3 that gave them some sense of optimism after getting ran off the court in the first two games. With another game on their home floor, they knew they would need a similar effort to tie the series, which is exactly what happened. Toronto established 16-point halftime lead. However, the Cavs made things close and actually took a three-point lead with six minutes remaining. All that did was set up an epic finish for Canada’s only NBA team.
Toronto rallied to take a four-point lead with under three minutes left in the game, but a Kyrie Irving three had the Cavs within two entering the final two minutes. That would be the last time Cleveland would score, however, as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry made clutch shots while Bismack Biyombo grabbed key rebounds and made defensive plays to secure the Raptors’ win. Cleveland won the next two games with ease, but that doesn’t diminish what the Raps were able to accomplish in this game.
3. Warriors vs. Trail Blazers: Game 4
While Stephen Curry was recovering from his early playoff injury, the rest of the Golden State Warriors held down the fort and had a 2-1 lead in their conference semifinal series against the Portland Trail Blazers. However, with the Blazers coming off an excellent Game 3 win in that series, the Dubs were in danger of allowing Portland to tie things up in Game 4 — which could’ve changed the series entirely. Enter the now two-time MVP, who came up with a record breaking performance in his first playoff appearance following a knee injury that forced him to miss several games.
In this Game 4, the Blazers had things in their control with a 10-point halftime lead. The Warriors did come back to take a lead going into the fourth, but once again, Damian Lillard (who scored 36 in the game) and Portland proved resilient, forcing overtime with the defending champs. Once OT arrived though, so did Curry. Prior to OT, Curry (who actually came off the bench for the first time in years) had a ‘meager’ 23 points. Steph then scored 17 of the Golden State’s 21 points in the extra period to clinch the victory. The 17-points were an NBA record for overtime and helped the Warriors clinch the series in five games.
2. Thunder vs. Spurs: Game 2
Game 1 of the Thunder vs. Spurs series in the Western Conference semifinals was a dud, to say the least. San Antonio looked unstoppable on their home floor, winning by 32-points and extending their playoff record to 5-0 in the process. Many though that the Thunder were finished after such a demoralizing blowout. Instead, OKC bounced right back in Game 2 to deliver maybe the craziest game of the playoffs to this point.
A back-and-forth affair, the Thunder found themselves with a one-point edge entering the fourth quarter. They extended to a nine-point advantage early in the quarter before the Spurs made several pushes throughout the period. Ultimately, the Thunder led by a score of 98-94 with 13 seconds left — which is when things got really interesting.
A Serge Ibaka foul put LaMarcus Aldridge on the line for three shots, all of which he made to bring San Antonio within one. Then, after a timeout, all Dion Waiters had to do was inbound the ball for the Thunder. Waiters seemingly committed an offensive foul while throwing it in (which wasn’t called) before throwing the ball away. The Spurs hectically raced down the court to try and steal the win, but all they could get was a missed three by Patty Mills. The Thunder won the game and ultimately the series, but of course, came up short against those Warriors in the conference finals.
1. Warriors vs. Thunder: Game 6
Being down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series is supposed to mark the end of the season for most NBA teams, which is why you heard that only nine teams in NBA history had overcome that deficit (out of a pool of 200+), indicating just how difficult the feat is to achieve. For the Warriors, the deficit in the conference finals against the Thunder was just yet another chance to prove their greatness. Among the three games they needed to win, Game 6 was likely the most difficult, as the contest produced an epic battle with an NBA Finals berth on the line for the home team.
A Game 5 got Golden State back to Oklahoma City, where winning Game 6 felt impossible. The Thunder really came to play and looked like they would close out the series, as they took an eight point lead into the final period. As was the case so many times this season for OKC, though, they simply couldn’t close out the game.
With a strong fourth quarter by the Splash Brothers (Klay Thompson and Steph Curry), the Warriors came back to get the game tied with 2:47 left (a Curry three knotted things up). With a 1:30 left, Thompson hit a three — one of his record 11 on the night — to give Golden State the lead for good. The win tied the series at three and forced a Game 7 in Oakland, which the Warriors won to reach the Finals once again — leaving the Thunder searching for answers.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN