Top 10 moments of playoffs (so far)

ByRoyce Young ESPN logo
Thursday, May 28, 2015

The NBA playoffs are really about the moments.

From momentum-swinging dunks to dagger 3s to buzzer-beaters, the postseason is defined by memorable plays. It's the window dressing to legacies, the necessary b-roll that is fired up any time a player is brought into a discussion about the all-time greats.

Jordan's spectacular move. Bird's steal. Magic's skyhook. You play for the ring. But you also play for the moments.

And while the 2015 NBA postseason hasn't necessarily been the best or most dramatic, it has produced its fair share of unforgettable plays.

Here are the 10 best moments (so far) as we ready ourselves for a Finals that promises to produce plenty more. And as is the rule with any list on the Internet, be sure to point out in the comments how completely wrong I am for forgetting (insert play here).

10. 'First-Team All-Defense'

After the Warriors did what everyone expected them to do against the Grizzlies in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal, there was limited belief anything would change for Memphis in Game 2.

But Mike Conley returned wearing a mask, and Tony Allen shut down Klay Thompson and stomped all over the floor shouting "first-team All-Defense" to anyone who would listen. It was the quintessential grit-and-grind performance, orchestrated by the Grindfather himself.

9. Pierce's 3 that was waved off

See, this is what I'm talking about. The second-round series between the Hawks and Wizards isn't going down as an all-timer. But that didn't stop it from producing three timeless moments -- the capper being a 3 that wasn't, withPaul Piercea fingernail away from hitting a remarkable step-back 3 at thebuzzer to force overtime in Game 6. After a review, the Hawks walked away clean and into the Eastern Conference finals.

8. Horford puts the Hawks back in control

Pierce had done it again, drilling a corner 3 right in front of the Atlanta bench with eight seconds remaining in Game 5 to put the Wizards in the lead and on the verge of a 3-2 series lead.

The Hawks' final possession was a bit of a scrum, with John Wall blocking Dennis Schroder's layup attempt. But Al Horford swooped in for a putback with a second left to give Atlanta the 82-81 win.

7. 'I called "game" '

You have to think the Hawks' huddle before the Wizards' final possession in Game 3 went something like this: "Don't let Paul Pierceget the ball. And if by some miracle he does, DO NOT let him get to an elbow."

Pierce got the ball. And he got to an elbow. And you know what happened next. Then to top it all off, his postgame interview was maybe better than the shot itself. Paul Pierce didn't call bank. Because he called game. Oh, man.

6. CP3's series winner against the Spurs

Had things not gone horribly wrong against the Rockets a round later (we'll get to that in a second), this might have been the defining moment of Chris Paul's career. He was already playing on one leg with a bum hamstring in a Game 7 against the defending champion San Antonio machine. But he also was battling against a history of agonizing postseason close calls.

All of that dissolved, at least for a couple of weeks, as Paul's running floater somehow inched its way over Tim Duncan's outstretched hand to kiss off the backboard and take the Clippers into the second round.

5. The Rockets' remarkable Game 6 comeback

Or the Clippers' Game 6 meltdown, depending on your perspective, of course. The Clippers led by as many as 19 in the second half and held a 92-79 lead after three quarters.

But with an astounding 40-15 fourth quarter, with nearly all of it with MVP runner-up James Harden sitting on the bench, the Rockets came back to win as the Clippers helplessly watched a seemingly punched ticket to the Western Conference finals slip through their fingers. With a Game 7 loss to follow, Game 6 is the kind of heartbreak you might get over in something like 200,000 years.

4. Rose didn't call bank

The Chicago Bulls eventually exited the postseason rather listlessly at the hands of the Cavaliers, but one enduring positive from their run was the apparent resurgence of Derrick Rose. Not every game was perfect, but he averaged 20.3 points and 6.5 assists, and had multiple games and moments that had people declaring: "Rose is back!"

None was bigger or better than his Game 3 buzzer-beating 3 to drop the Cavs. Two big dribbles to his right, a plant and liftoff. You could almost see the weight of the adversity of the past three years melt off him as he tried to stifle a smile before leaping into Joakim Noah's arms.

3. Curry stuns the Grizzlies from very, very deep

The Grizzlies finally had the Grindhouse rocking. They had whittled the Warriors' 15-point lead to five with seconds remaining in the third quarter. They had the ball and a chance to make it a one-possession game heading to what would be a frenzied fourth quarter.

But then Andre Iguodala stuffed Jeff Green. And the only player on the court who didn't quit on the play wasStephen Curry, who scooped the ball up and let it fly in one motion. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he knew it was good almost from the moment it left Curry's hand. It put the Warriors up by eightgoing into the final quarter and was the final gut-punch to put away the pesky Grizzlies.

It's like everyone has been saying: You just can't leave Steph open from 62 feet or he'll make you pay.

2. Curry's corner 3 against the Pelicans

With six minutes left in Game 3 of their first-round series, the Pelicans led the Warriors by 17. After two somewhat surprisingly competitive games in Oakland, it was going to be the kind of win that would establish that the Warriors were about to have a series on their hands. But with the young Pelicans tightening, the Warriors erased the deficit and had a chance to tie with nine seconds left.

Curry forced up a left-wing 3 that was short, the ball rattled around and somehow, someway found its way back to Curry in the corner he has absolutely owned this season. With Anthony Davis about to form-tackle him like Patrick Willis, Curry hit all net to force overtime.

1. LeBron beats the Bulls at the buzzer

Coach David Blatt did his best to prevent what might end up being the best moment of the 2015 playoffs. Late in Game 4 against the Bulls in the second round, with the score tied, Blatt tried to call a timeout the Cavs didn't have, which would've resulted in a devastating technical foul had the refs noticed. Then, for some reason, he wantedLeBron Jamesto inbound the ball with 1.5 seconds left.

None of that happened, though, and LeBron instead knocked down one of the biggest shots of his career, a deep 2 right in front of the howling Bulls bench to ice the game at the buzzer. It tied the series 2-2 and propelled the Cavs to a six-game winning streak that has them in the NBA Finals.

Honorable mention: LeBron's and Dwight Howard's trick shots; LeBron's soaring dunk in Game 4 against the Hawks; Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle taping his mouth shut; Jerryd Bayless' buzzer-beater;Blake Griffin's humiliations (plural) of Aron Baynes

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