Watching the playoffs always brings up memories of what you used to watch and enjoy in postseasons past. Only being 22, my earliest NBA Finals memory dates back to what I consider the greatest NBA Finals series I've ever seen, the New York Knicks vs. the Houston Rockets in 1994. But my peak playoff observing years didn't really happen until around 1998 or 1999. so to give the best comprehensive list I can, I'm doing off the top of my head and putting in order the top ten postseason moments of the last decade. Now this can be at any series (first round, semifinals, conference finals and NBA Finals) and I'll date them to allow for more clarity on certain topics. Hopefully fans from all teams will remember in agony, remember in bliss or us fans who cheered for teams without much postseason memories of the decade can remember moments that, even though we had no emotional attachment, just made us say "wow." So here it is, GoHornets21's Top Ten Postseason Moments of the Decade.
10. Boston Celtics comebacks (from 21 down against the New Jersey Nets in Game 3 of the 2002 Conference Finals and from 21 down against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals) - In 2002, the Celtics were making their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals since the glory days of the Larry Bird era in Boston. Celtics fans were eager to see the team possibly match up against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals that season and a matchup with the New Jersey Nets left many thinking that it could happen. After splitting the first two games in New Jersey, the series shifted to Boston for a crucial game 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the Nets took a commanding lead through three quarters and were up by 21 going into the 4th quarter. Paul Pierce would take over in the 4th quarter and lead the Celtics to outscoring the Nets by a score of 41-16 in the 4th quarter which would equal the biggest comeback in the history of the NBA postseason. The Celtics, though, would not win another game in that series. Fast forward six years later (a very long six years for Boston fans) and the Celtics finally made the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. With the Celtics holding on a 2-1 series lead, a crucial game 4 in Los Angeles looked destined to take a turn for the worst when the Lakers jumped all over Boston in the 1st quarter, taking a 35-14 lead at the end of the first. But just as he did six years prior, Paul Pierce would take over and the Celtics would end the 3rd quarter on a 21-3 run to cut the lead down to 2 entering the 4th quarter. With 4:00 left in the 4th quarter, Boston's Eddie House would hit a shot to give the Celtics their first lead of the game, and would give Boston the lead for the good. The huge come from behind win was the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history and would all but clinch the Celtics first NBA Championship in two decades.
9. Steve Kerr's Game 6 performance versus the Dallas Mavericks (Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals) - Famous for hitting the final shot in the 1997 NBA Finals that gave the Chicago Bulls their fifth NBA Championship, Kerr had won four championships already as a member of the Bulls and the Spurs when he was on the bench for the Spurs in the 2003 Western Conference Finals. The Spurs were facing a young, upstart Dallas Mavericks squad that was in the Conference Finals for the first time in 15 years. After taking a 3-1 series lead, the Spurs were at home in game 5 and looked to close out the seemingly overmatched Mavericks. But after Dallas shocked the Spurs in game 5 with an upset victory in San Antonio, the series shifted back to Dallas for game 6. Hoping to send the series to a game 7 where anything can happen, the Mavericks came out and looked fantastic for three quarters and looked to have the Spurs on the ropes. But then the Spurs turned to Steve Kerr in the third quarter, and Kerr would hit four three point shots to overtake the Mavericks and give the Spurs the lead. Shellshocked, the Mavericks would fall apart in the 4th quarter and the Spurs would clinch the series and go on to win the NBA Championship.
8. Refereeing Controversies (Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat in Game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals and Phoenix Suns vs. San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals) - Fans of three certain teams look at the postseason the last decade with great resentment. Those fans are fans of the Mavericks, Suns and Kings. In all three matchups, a crucial game would result ina huge free throw disparity, questionable foul calls and create controversies that still exist to this day. With the Kings up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals against the two time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, a game 6 at Staples Center left the Lakers looking defeat in the eye. With the Lakers at home, they would shoot 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter for a four point victory and send the series back to Sacramento where the Kings would lose a game 7 in overtime. Years later, former NBA official Tim Donaghy would suggest that the NBA fixed that game 6 to give another game in one of the best playoff series of all time. A few years later, young NBA star Dwyane Wade would get superstar treatment during the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. With the Mavericks up 2-0 in the NBA Finals and up by 13 with 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter in game 3, the Heat would stage a great comeback to steal game 3 and stay alive in the series. In game 5, though, with the series tied at 2 apiece, Dwyane Wade would make 21 free throws, including two on a very questionable call with 1.9 seconds left in overtime, to win the series. For their conduct after the game, Dirk Nowitzki and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would be fined $5,000 and $250,000 respectively for their actions. The Heat would eventually win the series in the sixth game. In 2007, the Suns and the Spurs met up in the NBA playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons and would engage in one of the most personal playoff series of the decade. After Amar'e Stoudemire accused the Spurs of being a dirty team, the teams would match up in San Antonio for game 3 with the series tied at 1 game apiece. With contraversial referee Tim Donaghy at the helm for the game, the Spurs would receive a plethroa of questionable calls in their favor as San Antonio shot 36 free throws and 3 Suns starters finished with at least 5 fouls in a tightly contested game 3 victory which would give the Spurs a 2-1 series lead. All games have left fans from each respective team bitter even to this day.
7. Tayshaun Prince's block on Reggie Miller (Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals) - Making the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season, the Detroit Pistons looked set to not squander another opportunity at an NBA Championship. Matched up with the first seed Indiana Pacers, the Pistons were entering game 2 already having lost the first game in Indiana. Looking to win a game at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Pistons were holding on to a slim lead in the final minute of game 2. After receiving a fantastic outlet pass, Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller looked free for a laypu that would tie the game for the Pacers. Out of nowhere, second year players Tayshaun Prince would catch up to Reggie and, seemingly at the last possible moment, reached out and swatter Miller's layup attempt and effectively gave the Pistons the game 2 victory. The Pistons would eventually win the series after taking Game 2 jand Prince's block is the big reason why they did.
6. Robert Horry's Game 5 performance against the Detroit Pistons (2005 NBA Finals) - The 2005 NBA Finals, for anyone who watched it, was a terrific matchup of two of the most consistently successful teams of the decade in the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons. The Spurs had already won two championships in 1999 and 2003 and the Pistons were the defending NBA Champions when the two matched up in 2005, making for a tough, tightly contested matchup between two defensive minded teams. When the series was tied at 2 games a piece entering a critical game 5 in Detroit, things looked to finally get heated after four blowouts in the first four games of the series. What ensued was utter chaos. In a tightly contested game that featured 18 ties and 12 lead changes, the Spurs looked to Robert Horry off the bench, who did not score his first basket until the final play of the third quarter. Then Horry took over. Highlighted by a fantastic slam dunk and shooting 5 of 6 from the three point line, Robert Horry's final shot would prove to be a crippling blow to Detroit. With the Spurs down by 2 in overtime, Horry would inbounds the ball to Manu Ginobili, and Rasheed Wallace would leave Horry to double Ginobili in the corner. When he sensed this, Ginobili passed it back to Horry, who drilled a three pointer to give the Spurs the 96-95 victory and a 3-2 series lead in the NBA Finals. Scoring 21 points off the bench (19 in the 4th quarter and OT), Horry turned in one of the greatest single game performances in NBA Finals history.
5. LeBron James' Game 5 performance against the Detroit Pistons (2007 Eastern Conference Finals) - Now in the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth straight season, the Pistons were matched up with a young, upstart Cleveland Cavaliers team that was led by 23 year old phenom LeBron James. With the Pistons widely expected to use their experience to overmatch Cleveland and take the series, the Cavs shocked a lot of people to tie the series at 2 apiece heading to The Palace at Auburn Hills for a critical game 5. Still expected to come through when it mattered, the Pistons and Cavs battled it out until the 4th quarter, when LeBron James, criticized the first two games of that series for being too complacent, would take over the game and will his Cavaliers to victory. LeBron James would score 48 points in game 5, including the Cavaliers' final 25 points. Again, he scored his team's finals 25 points. LeBron would score all 18 of Cleveland's overtime points, including a dunk to tie the game and second it to a second overtime, and would then hit a layup with 2 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Cavs the 109-107 victory. LeBron's performance shocked Detroit and the Cavs would close out the Pistons in game 6 and make the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
4. Robert Horry's buzzer beater against the Sacramento Kings (Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals) - Going back to the 2002 Western Conference Finals, the two defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and their bitter rival Sacramento Kings would match up in one of the most memorable series in NBA history. With the Kings taking the first two games in Sacramento, they would lose game 3 in Los Angeles but still be primed to take control of the series if they could pull off a game 4 victory in Staples Center. The Kings led by as many as 24 points in the first half before watching the Lakers slowly chip away at the lead. On the court for the final possession, Horry, one of the NBA's historically clutch players, would see Lakers superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal miss consecutive shots to tie the game before Sacramento center Vlade Divac would hit the ball away from the basket, hoping for the clock to run out and allow the Kings to take the almost insurmountable 3-1 series lead. Horry, though, was waiting and squared up, caught the ball and launched a three pointer that hit nothing but the bottom of the net to give the Lakers the 100-99 victory. The Staples Center went nuts and the Kings looked shocked as Horry's shot tied the series at 2 games apiece. The Lakers would eventually win the series in seven games, and his shot is the biggest reason why that happened.
3. Golden State Warriors upset Dallas Mavericks (2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals) - After a heartbreaking defeat in the 2006 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat, the Mavericks claimed to be a team on a mission entering the 2007 season. Reeling off an NBA best 67 victories, the Mavericks looked focussed, deep and talented enough to win the first championship in franchise history. They were matched up in the first round with a Golden State Warriors team making their first appearance in 13 seasons and being led by former Mavericks head coach Don Nelson. In a move that would beg largely criticized, Mavs coach Avery Johnson would try to match Nelson's small lineups instead of using his size advantage and the Warriors would take full advantage of it. After losing the first game in Dallas, old skeletons of playoffs past would escape Dallas' closet and the Mavericks would enter a state of panic. Despite winning games 2 and 5 in Dallas after a Warriors team led by Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson would implode and receive plenty of technicals, the Mavs could not win in Golden State, losing by a combined 47 points in those 3 games as the Warriors would shock the Mavericks and become the second 8th seed in NBA Playoff History to upset a first seeded team. Johnson would eventually be fired the next year in Dallas and the Mavericks have still not removed the stigma from this series' lost (although they're looking to this season).
2. Derek Fisher's shot with .4 left to beat the San Antonio Spurs (Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conferece Semifinals) - In the 2004 Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antnio Spurs, winners of the NBA's last 5 Larry O'Brien Trophies, would match up in a very memorable series. With the teams trading victories, the series would continue in San Antonio for a crucial game 5 tied at 2 apiece. In a rough, physical, fantastic ball game, the Lakers took a 72-71 lead with 11 seconds remaining on a tough Kobe Bryant jumper. The Spurs would get the ball back, and Tim Duncan would hit a falling fadeaway shot to give the Spurs the lead with 0.4 seconds left. With 0.3 being the least possible amount of time for a team to get a shot off, the Lakers only had a catch and shoot option to try and pull off the victory in San Antonio. With Gary Payton inbounding the ball, he would pass the ball in to Derek Fisher who somehow caught it, turned around and swished a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give the Lakers the 74-73 victory and giving the Lakers the 3-2 series lead. With game 6 in Staples, the Lakers would end the Spurs hopes at a repeat and would win the series, and eventually the Western Conference Championship as a result of Fisher's miraculous shot.
1. Detroit Pistons upset Los Angeles Lakers (2004 NBA Finals) - Notice how in moment number two, I only mentioned that the Lakers won the Western Conference Championship, and that was because they were matched up with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. The Pistons (see Tayshaun Prince's block) had their own moments to make the finals, but looked out of their league against a Lakers team that included Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal; four future hall of famers. Making their fourth NBA Championship in five years (winning the previous three) and having home court advantage, the Pistons looked to be fodder for a Lakers team that was finally playing its best basketball of the season. But the Pistons, with a great lineup of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace, and led by legendary coach Larry Brown, would not be scared in their matchup against the Goliath Lakers. The Pistons would shock the Lakers and steal game 1 in Staples Center with an 87-75 victory to take home court advantage in the series. Although Kobe Bryant would lead the Lakers to a game 2 victory to tie the series at 1, when the series shifted to Detroit, the Pistons took control and dominated the Lakers by 20, 8 and 13 points respectively to win the NBA Finals 4-1. In what is considered by many the greatest upset in NBA History, the Pistons not only beat the Lakers, but completely dominated them for much of the five games that they played, leaving no doubt that it was a convincing victory for the Pistons.