The Most Clutch Shots of the NBA Playoffs
Clutch buckets, buzzer-beaters and late-game heroism are awesome enough in the NBA's regular season, but in the playoffs, they're transcendent.
We haven't yet reached the midpoint of the 2013 postseason, and there have already been a half-dozen jaw-dropping shots.
Kevin Durant and Chris Paul have tossed in a couple of game-winners, Andre Miller took a rookie to school and of course, Nate Robinson and Joe Johnson traded huge baskets during the postseason's signature game: a triple-overtime thriller that pushed both teams (and millions of viewers) to the limit.
There are sure to be a few more entries before the playoffs conclude, and as we progress further into the postseason, the stakes will only get higher. But even if the list stopped now, we'd have a pretty darn impressive collection of clutch shots.
6. Professor Andre Miller's Offensive Instruction
The Golden State Warriors would go on to defeat the Denver Nuggets in their first-round series, notching a minor upset by beating the West's No. 3 seed in six games. But it sure didn't seem like that was in the cards after Andre Miller and the Nuggets took a hotly contested Game 1.
Miller's game-winning shot was impressive enough, as he worked his way to the hoop against Draymond Green, the Warriors' defensive Swiss army knife, but it was hardly surprising.
Miller had been tearing up the young Warriors all night, hitting pull-up jumpers, tossing 45-foot lobs to Denver's big men and using his old-man savvy to dominate on the block. In other words, his last big shot felt almost inevitable.
Since Miller apparently only gets better with age, this probably won't be his last entry on a list like this. He'll probably have a whole slew of new moves by the time he gets into his 40s.
5. Joe Johnson Gets No Respect
It's unfair that Johnson's buzzer-beater, which actually negated a shot that is going to rank even higher on this list, checks in at the No. 5 spot.
But in a way, that's fitting for Johnson who, after drilling a handful of game-winning shots during the regular season, hit the biggest one of Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls and still didn't get his own "We Are Watching" commercial.
Johnson will have to content himself with the $68 million he's due to make over the next three seasons.
Anyway, his running floater was definitely impressive. He knew how much time he had to execute as he caught the ball on the move, lulling the Bulls defense into contesting a potential pull-up at the top of the circle as he rounded the corner.
The decision to take the extra dribble and the touch demonstrated on the release make Johnson's buzzer-beating shot worthy of a spot on this list.
Brooklyn would go on to lose the game, but Johnson's big shot at least forced the beleaguered Bulls to finish the job in a third overtime.
4. Ginobili's Redemption
Gregg Popovich said it best about Manu Ginobili, who shot 5-of-20 in Game 1 over the Golden State Warriors: "I went from trading him on the spot to wanting to cook him breakfast tomorrow. That's the truth." (via Adi Joseph of USA Today).
After heaving up an ill-advised three late in the game, Ginobili redeemed himself by burying the game-winning three with 1.2 seconds left in the Spurs' win in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Ginobili had a rough night himself, but his huge triple completed a massive Spurs rally with a win.
San Antonio trailed by as many as 16 points in the final period, but marshaled its veteran grit to claw back against a Golden State squad that effectively froze up down the stretch.
Oh, and if you're wondering what on Earth Jarrett Jack was thinking when he switched off of Ginobili despite the absence of a screen, you're not alone.
3. KD Doesn't Need a TO
Too often, coaches muck up late-game sequences by calling timeouts in situations like the one Kevin Durant found himself in at the end of Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
A scattered, semi-transition scenario is generally an advantage for the offensive team, as defenders are scrambling to find their matchups and everything's happening in a blur.
Durant made the most of OKC's last possession against the Grizzlies, taking a rebound up the floor and pulling up in isolation to hit the go-ahead jumper. Had the Thunder opted to use one of their two remaining stoppages, it's hard to imagine they'd have done anything other than isolate Durant and hope he could score against a dug-in Memphis defense.
It's safe to say this worked out better for Oklahoma City.
2. Chris Paul and L.A.'s High Point
As you watch the video above, note how terrified Mike Conley is of leaving Jamal Crawford open in the right corner. Instead of stepping in to shut down Chris Paul's driving lane, he stayed glued to his man.
That just goes to show that for every great offensive play, there's usually a defensive head-scratcher that helps make it possible. In fact, you could toss in Tony Allen's perplexing decision not to force Paul to his left hand an even bigger blunder.
Anyway, Paul's running banker constituted the Los Angeles Clippers' absolute apex of the 2012-13 season. When the ball dropped through the net, L.A. was in possession of a 2-0 lead against Memphis and looked like a team prepared to roll into a deep playoff run.
Four straight Grizzlies wins later, Paul and the Clippers were finished.
That fact shouldn't detract from the shot in question, though. It literally won a game at the buzzer, which is something none of the other entries on this list can boast. Of course, it also has the distinction of marking the Clips' downfall.
So it's a mixed bag, really.
1. Nate's Party
After scoring 23 points in a fourth-quarter blitz that still doesn't seem like it really happened, Nate Robinson outdid himself in overtime of Game 4 against the Nets.
The go-ahead bucket he tossed in over Deron Williams with 1.7 seconds left in the first overtime was a perfect encapsulation of his game.
It was a horrible shot; there's no other way to say it. The ball practically dripped with the irrational confidence he had been oozing all game long, and the unintentional backboard use seemed absolutely appropriate.
He was on fire, and for the first time in a while, Robinson's actual output matched his own belief in how good he was.
No, it wasn't a game-winning shot. And yes, Johnson erased it with his own runner on the next possession. But still, Robinson's improbable heave has become the signature moment of these playoffs.
There's plenty of time left, but so far, nobody has topped Robinson's clutch shot.