(5) 2011 Finals, Game 5 vs. Miami
The first four games of the Finals were thrilling but hardly a perfect example of basketball. Possessions were lengthened, the floor tightened up and a lot of the excitement the two teams had provided all season dissipated in exchange for tightly fought buckets in the final couple minutes that swung the game towards Miami (in Game 3) or Dallas (in Games 2 and 4).
Game 5 shattered that trend, with both teams lighting up the floor with 50-plus percent shooting. Dallas nailed 13 of their 19 three-point attempts, including four from J.J. Barea, part of his 17-point night, while Jason Kidd and Jason Terry both notched a 3-of-5 night from behind the arc. JET's memorable one, though, of course, came from the right wing late in the game. With Dirk struggling to find proper post position and LeBron James crowding him, Terry backed up, stared down and decided to launch a dagger over James' outstretched arms. It was money.
That euphoria can't be duplicated. Terry, who had provoked James by saying no one can guard him, who had tatted a trophy on his bicep before the season, improbably backed up all his swaggering talk with a longball dropped in as if it was all part of his grand scheme. In a way, it was. No basketball player can guarantee anything about how they'll play, but in Terry's mind, he always knew exactly how it was going to play out.
(12) 2011 Western Conference Finals, Game 4 vs. Oklahoma City
At some point in the fourth quarter, I thought, "Oh, well, tied 2-2 with three to go isn't bad." I'm pretty sure we all did. Down by 10 with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter isn't mess-around-and-get-a-W time. It's if-you-win-this-it's-one-of-the-greatest-playoff-comebacks-ever time.
They won it. It's one of the greatest playoff comebacks ever. It's overshadowed by an equally incredible Game 2 in the following NBA Finals and didn't have the pressure: if Dallas had lost, they would have still been favored for the series' final three games. But it's just as incredible that the Mavericks did what they did.
Those shots Dirk made in the final couple fourth quarter minutes -- all back-to-back, all shots that had to go in or the comeback was done -- are some of the toughest consecutive makes I've ever seen. Kobe Bryant probably has a series of three or four consecutive makes that can rival that. Tracy McGrady's nuclear detonation that one time against the Spurs tops this, sure. But to win a game in the Western Conference Finals, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who essentially hit four straight HORSE trick shots.