The 2021 NBA playoffs are moving right along. It almost feels too quick if you are a true diehard fan of the league, but there have been some great moments already.
After Damian Lillard’s historic performance in Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets, it sent us down memory lane. In the last 10 years, we have been spoiled with monumental moments.
That includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh winning two championships in four years with the Miami Heat. Then, LeBron made the NBA Finals four straight seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning the historic 2016 championship. During that time, we saw a dynasty with the Golden State Warriors, winning three championships in five seasons.
We got to witness greatness with Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors. We got to see LeBron lead the Lakers back to relevance during a time that saw the world reeling from the loss of Kobe Bryant. During all of this time, historic moments were made in the playoffs. et’s get down to the specifics of the greatest moments in NBA playoff history in the last decade.
15. Kevin Durant’s Iconic Shot Over LeBron James (2017 NBA Finals)
In Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant delivered a dagger three-pointer over LeBron James. What made the shot so iconic was that it gave the Warriors momentum towards clinching another NBA championship, which was Durant’s first overall title. It also was the moment that Durant hit that shot over his idol. At the time, it felt like the passing of the torch.
14. Isaiah Thomas Honoring His Sister (2017 NBA Playoffs)
The most heart-wrenching story of the 2017 NBA Playoffs had to be about former Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. The day before the Celtics’ playoff opener, his 22-year old sister, Chyna, was killed in a single-car accident in their home state of Washington.
After leading the Celtics to six overall wins in the playoffs, the day of her birthday arrived and it was game day. Thomas proceeded to score 53 points in a 129-119 overtime win in Game 2 of the Conference Semifinals. The day before this game, Thomas delivered the eulogy for his sister.
13. Damian Lillard’s 55 Points vs. Nuggets (2021 NBA Playoffs)
In a double-overtime thriller against the Nuggets in Game 5 of the 2021 playoffs, Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard went off for 55 points, including a franchise-record 12 three-pointers. Lillard hit not one, but two game-tying shots to send the game to overtime and double overtime.
12. Anthony Davis Hits Game-Winner (2020 NBA Playoffs)
In-Game 1 of the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets, it appeared that the Nuggets were going to steal a game at the Staples Center. With the game tied and the time expiring, Davis launched a three-pointer and drilled the game-winner. Los Angeles ultimately swept the series on route to winning a championship.
11. LeBron James Blocks Tiago Splitter (2013 NBA Finals)
The Miami Heat were dominating the San Antonio Spurs 86-67 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. A running Tiago Splitter thought he was going to throw down the hammer, but he was met by a wall in LeBron. Rising straight up in front of the rim, LeBron cleanly stopped all ball and the 7-footer had to walk of shame himself back to the defensive end.
10. Damian Lillard’s Game Winner vs. Rockets (2014 NBA Playoffs)
The Houston Rockets led the Trail Blazers 98-96 in Game 6 of the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. With just 0.9 seconds left on the block, the Trail Blazers called a timeout to move the ball up the court.
Lillard curled to the top of the key and received the inbound pass. He got the shot off from about two to three steps behind the three-point line and the ball swished right in. The Trail Blazers won the game and the series, sending James Harden and Co. home early.
9. Damian Lillard’s Game Winner vs. Thunder (2019 NBA Playoffs)
The OKC Thunder thought they had a stacked squad with Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the team. Instead, the Trail Blazers held a 3-1 series lead in the first round of the 2019 playoffs. Given the strained relationship between Westbrook and Lillard, it made what Lillard did next even more amazing.
With the game tied at 115-all and under 13 seconds to play, Lillard dribbled the ball up the court. George came over to defend as Lillard dribbled the clock down to 2.2 seconds. From around the Portland logo, Lillard pulled up with George’s hands in his face and hit the game-winner to send the Thunder home packing.
8. Kevin Durant’s Game 3 vs. Cavaliers (2018 NBA Finals)
In the 2018 NBA Finals, Durant helped the Golden State Warriors move to 3-0 after a historic performance. Durant finished the game with 43 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, and a +15 rating on the floor.
Durant scored a playoff career-high during this game. Eventually, the Warriors clinched the series and Durant secured his second straight NBA Finals MVP trophy.
7. LeBron James Scores 45 Points vs. Celtics (2012 NBA Playoffs)
The Boston Celtics made up of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo held a 3-2 series lead in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. On the brink of elimination, LeBron James scored 45 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in 45 minutes of work.
The Heat would go on win Game 7 and win the NBA championship that turned out to be the first championship for LeBron.
6. Klay Thompson’s Epic Game 6 vs. Thunder (2016 NBA Playoffs)
The Golden State Warriors entered the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals trailing 83-75 to the OKC Thunder and were trailing the series 3-2. The combination of Durant and Westbrook were meant to close out the series, but Thompson had other plans.
Thompson scored 19 of his game-high 41 points in the fourth quarter, including going 5-of-6 from three-point range. He set a then-playoff record of 11 three-pointers and helped Golden State force a Game 7. The Warriors would qualify for the NBA Finals before losing to the Cavaliers, which set up the scenario of Durant joining the Warriors.
5. Kyrie Irving And LeBron James Combine For 82 Points vs. Warriors (2016 NBA Finals)
With no Draymond Green (suspension) for Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers took advantage of the defensive specialist. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James became the first pair of teammates to combine for 80 or more points in a game.
James finished with 41 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists, while shooting 16-for-30 from the field, including 4-of-8 from three-point range. Irving had 41 points and six assists while shooting 17-for-24 overall, and 5-for-7 from behind the arc. The win staved the Cavaliers off from elimination and sent the series to a Game 7.
4. Kawhi Leonard’s Game Winner vs. 76ers (2019 NBA Playoffs)
With 4.2 seconds left in Game 7 of the 2019 Conference Semifinals between Toronto and Philadelphia, Marc Gasol took to the sideline to inbound the ball. Gasol was able to inbound the ball to Kawhi Leonard, who dribbled the ball to his right on the outside of the court for about three seconds.
With 0.4 seconds left on the block, Leonard was able to get the ball out of his hands as he faded to the right side of the baseline. The ball bounced on the front of the rim two times, then once on the backend, and then dropped through the hoop. Joel Embiid memorably sobbed as he walked off the court and the Raptors would eventually win the NBA championship.
3. Kyrie Irving’s Clutch 3-Pointer In Game 7 (2016 NBA Finals)
With 1:03 left on the block in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors and Cavaliers were deadlocked at 89-89. Irving battled Steph Curry one-on-one for about 10 seconds outside the three-point arc before launching the ball. The ball went right through the net.
The three-pointer is remembered as the dagger for the Cavaliers despite there still being 50 seconds left on the clock. The Cavaliers won the final score 93-89 and won the franchise’s first NBA championship.
2. LeBron James' Historic Block On Andre Iguodala (2016 NBA Finals)
With under two minutes left to play, the score was tied 89-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. After a tipped rebound was secured by Iguodala, the Warriors were ready to score in transition. However, LeBron had different plans.
LeBron ran down the court and blocked the shot by Iguodala off the glass. Given that the Warriors didn’t score in the final two minutes of the game, this block has gone down as one of the most historic plays in Cleveland’s championship season.
1. Ray Allen's Clutch 3-Pointer vs. Spurs (2013 NBA Finals)
The San Antonio Spurs held a 3-2 series lead in the 2013 NBA Finals. With 19.4 seconds left, the Spurs held a 95-92 edge. All the team needed to do was hold the Miami Heat to nothing on one more possession, and the team would win the NBA title.
With one more chance, the Heat dribbled the ball down the floor. Many wondered if the Spurs should have fouled, but the team elected to let the gameplay out. With about 10 seconds left to go, LeBron fired a three and missed, but Chris Bosh rose to secure the offensive rebound. Bosh turned around and found an open Ray Allen sitting on the baseline.
Allen fired the game-tying three-pointer and it swished right in with 5.2 seconds remaining. The Heat would go on to win Game 6 by a score of 103-100. Then, the Heat would win Game 7 to clinch their second title in consecutive seasons. LeBron would win his second straight ring, as well as NBA Finals MVP.
Credit for idea: Hoop Colony