The 15 Most Extraordinary Performances of the 2012 NBA Playoffs
If NBA legacies are indeed made in the postseason, a few current stars have pushed their way up the legend list this year.
This list breaks down the 15 best of the biggest performances. It’s dedicated to those moments where a guy decides, “Screw it, I’m not letting us lose this game.”
As a result, most games that make this list come during wins, although there are a couple outrageous outings that came in losses as well.
15. Kobe Bryant, Game 5 vs. Denver
Stats: 43 points, six rebounds, five assists
With four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant did his best to bring the Los Angeles Lakers back from an 11-point deficit in the final period.
Bryant was the only Laker to score more than 16, finishing with 43.
He needed 32 shot attempts to score those points, which came in a losing effort. Otherwise, Bryant would be higher on this list.
14. Brandon Bass, Game 5 vs. 76ers
Stats: 27 points, six rebounds, 9-for-13 from the field
Brandon Bass shifted the scoring burden for the Boston Celtics in Game 5.
Bass was able to knock down open jumpers and also went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line to spark the Celtics. His hot shooting made sure Philadelphia couldn’t key on Boston’s big four—not that that’s an easy task itself.
Perhaps more impressive, Bass did this while not committing a foul in 37 minutes of play.
13. LeBron James, Game 5 vs. Pacers
Stats: 30 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists
As usual, LeBron James did a little bit of everything in this lopsided Miami win.
James had a game-high 30 points and a game-high eight assists to lead the Heat to a win.
Miami and Indiana were tied at two games apiece entering this game. Once LeBron was finished, the Pacers had not even a sliver of momentum left in this series.
12. Kevin Garnett, Game 6 vs. Atlanta
Stats: 28 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks
Kevin Garnett protected the paint for Boston in the first-round clincher. He turned away five Atlanta shots.
Then he cashed in on the other end, scoring a game-high 28 points. His 14 rebounds were a game-high as well.
The 36-year-old Garnett played 38 minutes in this game, announcing to the Eastern Conference his age would not catch up with him this postseason.
11. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Game 7 vs. Nuggets
Gasol Stats: 23 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks
Bynum Stats: 16 points, 18 rebounds, six blocks
The two Los Angeles seven-footers dominated the interior against the Denver Nuggets in the final game of the series.
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 35 rebounds—20 offensive—and 39 points in the Lakers victory. They also blocked 10 shots.
Twenty offensive rebounds gave L.A. plenty of second-chance points. Granted, a lot of their rebounds came from their own misses: They went 13-for-34 from the field. The duo’s ability to (eventually) turn those misses into buckets allowed L.A. to advance.
10. Serge Ibaka, Game 4 vs. Spurs
Stats: 26 points, five rebounds, three blocks, 11-for-11 from the field
Oklahoma City knows it will get offensive production from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The other guys are there to play defense, get rebounds and make the occasional open jumper.
Serge Ibaka did that job expertly in a Game 4 win over San Antonio.
Ibaka drained all 11 of his field goal attempts to bring a new dimension to the Thunder offense—if only for a game.
Ibaka’s hot shooting gave the Spurs another scoring threat to account for, and they couldn’t do it.
9. Rajon Rondo, Game 1 vs. 76ers
Stats: 13 points, 17 assists, 12 rebounds, four steals
The second of Rajon Rondo’s four triple-doubles this postseason was the most impressive.
Rondo dialed up 17 dimes, grabbed a dozen rebounds and scored 13 points. He had four steals to boot.
Rondo came up big down the stretch, scoring six points with five assists and four rebounds in the decisive fourth quarter. He ended the game by alertly running around with the ball, not allowing the 76ers to foul.
He set the tone for this series from the start.
8. Dwyane Wade, Game 6 vs. Pacers
Stats: 41 points, 10 rebounds, 17-for-25 from the field
He started the game with 26 points in the first half—20 in the second quarter.
Instead of taking over the game by getting to the free-throw line, Wade dropped daggers all night. He shot 68 percent from the field en route to 41 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds
That earned Miami a 105-93 win and trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
7. LeBron James, Game 7 vs. Celtics
Stats: 31 points, 12 rebounds, two assists
One game after his Wilt Chamberlain-like performance, LeBron James sewed up a trip to the NBA Finals by taking charge offensively.
LeBron looked for his shot and looked for it often.
As the game’s best player, he has been criticized for being too passive at times. He debunked that idea in this game, putting up 21 shots while recording only two assists.
That led to 31 points for LeBron and—more importantly—a 101-88 Game 7 victory for the Heat.
6. Kevin Durant, Game 6 vs. Spurs
Stats: 34 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, 48 minutes
With a chance to seize his first Western Conference crown, Kevin Durant did not let the opportunity slip away.
He stayed on the court the entire 48 minutes and led the Thunder to a 107-99 win.
Along the way he led the Thunder in points (34), rebounds (14), assists (5) and blocks (2).
This game further enhanced Durant’s emerging reputation as one of the premier clutch players in the NBA. He helped Oklahoma City erase a 15-point halftime deficit to clinch the series and a trip to the Finals.
5. Tony Parker, Game 2 vs. Thunder
Stats: 34 points, eight assists, 16-for-21 from the field
When San Antonio won its 20th straight game, the Spurs looked like the most brilliant offensive basketball team anyone has seen in the last decade.
The ball moved around the court with crisp precision to the open man.
That was all sparked by point guard Tony Parker. Often in this game, he was the open man.
Parker shot a staggering 76 percent from the field in this game to score 34 points. He also passed out eight assists as the point man of the postseason’s most fluid offensive display.
4. LeBron James, Game 4 vs. Pacers
Stats: 40 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists
Remember way back in the Miami vs. Indiana series, when Pacers guard Lance Stephenson animatedly called LeBron James a choker?
Well that was in Game 3.
In Game 4, LeBron shoved the proverbial It down Stephenson and the Pacers’ throats.
He went for 40 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. He also gave out nine assists as LeBron and Dwyane Wade sidestepped a 10-point second-half deficit by scoring 23 of the Heat’s 25 points in a 25-5 run that shifted the momentum of the series.
LeBron proved to haters—and Lance Stephenson—that he doesn’t take too kindly to being called a choker.
3. Kevin Durant, Game 4 vs. Spurs
Stats: 36 points, six rebounds, eight assists
A big lead slipped away from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the fourth quarter as they tried to even their series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Luckily for the Thunder, they’ve got Kevin Durant on their team.
He scored 16 straight Thunder points in the final period to keep the Spurs from taking the lead.
He hit jumpers and got to the rim. Everything he put up was going in.
San Antonio was as defenseless against Durant as defenders at Rucker Park.
2. Rajon Rondo, Game 2 vs. Heat
Stats: 44 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, 53 minutes played
The thought was that Rajon Rondo didn’t score. He’s a distributor but can’t make buckets. Of Boston’s Big Four, Rondo’s the one you don't want taking shots.
Rondo put that theory to bed in the second game of the Eastern Conference finals.
He was 16-for-24 from the field, hit both his threes and was 10-of-12 at the line.
Rondo never came out—and the game went to overtime. He played 53 minutes, scored a game-high 44 points and handed out a game-high 10 assists. He also led the game with three steals.
Rondo did it all in this game. Except get the win. Miami won, 115-111.
1. LeBron James, Game 6 vs. Celtics
Stats: 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists
LeBron James silenced any and all choke talk with this game.
He put up a ridiculous stat line to lead Miami to a 98-79 win and stave off elimination. That game had him drawing comparisons to the most dominant player ever to step onto NBA hardwood.
It also inspired Adrian Wojnarowski to call it a F--- You game from James. That’s about the most accurate description you can give such a dominating showing in such a clutch situation.
James scored from wherever he wanted. He scored whenever he wanted. He decided his team was going to win and asserted his dominance.
LeBron’s legacy shifted with this game. He proved he can come through when his team needs him most.