The Most Defining Moment of Every NBA Team's 2012-13 Season

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2013

The Most Defining Moment of Every NBA Team's 2012-13 Season

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    As the 2013 NBA Finals mark the last chapter of the 2012-13 campaign, it's time to look back at the most defining moment of each team's season.

    Some clubs reached uncharted territories and broke records, while other squads' years can be summed up in a single disappointing loss.

    A couple franchises found their new cornerstones, and others saw their marquee players suffer injuries.

    What was the defining moment of the Lakers' roller-coaster season? How about the exciting Golden State Warriors? Which game epitomized the Nets' first go-round in Brooklyn?

    Find out as we take a league-wide tour of the year's signature moments.

Washington Wizards: Emergence of Dynamic Duo (Jan. 12-19)

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    While John Wall was sidelined the first few weeks of the season, Washington Wizards rookie Bradley Beal was trying to find his footing in the NBA.

    Once Wall returned, he brought out the best in Beal, and the youngster hit a groove.

    Starting with a January 12 meeting against the Atlanta Hawks, Beal had a superb week-long string of five games, averaging 19 points per contest.

    That week served notice that Wall and Beal are one of the league's best young backcourts.

Utah Jazz: Playoff Hopes Fall Short in Final Game (April 17)

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    Throughout the second half of the 2012-13 regular season, the Utah Jazz battled the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets for the last couple playoff spots in the Western Conference.

    The struggle game down to the 82nd game, and a win over the Memphis Grizzlies would have given the Jazz a chance to sneak into the No. 8 spot (with the help of a Lakers loss).

    Unfortunately, the Grizzlies stifled Utah and handed Tyrone Corbin's club an 86-70 defeat. Al Jefferson was the only player in double figures, and the Jazz lacked the firepower to earn themselves a postseason berth.

Toronto Raptors: Trading for Rudy Gay (Jan. 30)

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    Before the Toronto Raptors acquired Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies, they were 16-30 and had lost eight of their last 10 games.

    Once Gay made his way north of the border, Toronto had a legitimate star, and it went 18-18 the rest of the campaign.

    Gay provided a lift to the offense as a go-to player who can score inside and out. He scored 19.5 points per game and matched a career-high 2.8 assists per game.

    His departure from Memphis helped the Grizzlies, but it also gave the Raptors a boost.

San Antonio Spurs: Sweeping Memphis Grizzlies* (May 27)

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    The San Antonio Spurs might enjoy a more joyous moment in the near future, but for now, the convincing sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies symbolized their decade-long command of the West.

    Tony Parker absolutely carved Memphis up, scoring 24.5 points per game on 53 percent shooting while dishing 9.5 assists. He kept the Grizzlies off balance as a scoring threat and simultaneously kept his comrades involved.

    San Antonio's veteran Big Three has smoothly incorporated its younger pieces the last couple years. The reward is another appearance in the NBA Finals.

    *Defining moment subject to change.

Sacramento Kings: NBA's Board Votes to Keep Kings in Sacramento (May 15)

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    In a struggle that began midseason, the city of Sacramento battled the Maloof brothers and a Seattle-based group to prevent the relocation of the Kings to Seattle.

    After weeks and months of negotiations, presentations and rallies, mayor Kevin Johnson and the Sacramento group presented a suitable offer to keep the franchise in California's capitol with a new arena.

    This 30-second television advertisement illustrates Sacramento's determination to retain the team.

    The NBA's relocation committee voted down Seattle's relocation requests on April 29, and on May 15, the NBA's Board of Governors voted 22-8 to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

    For an interactive look at the Seattle-Sacramento saga, check out Bleacher Report NBA Lead Writer Josh Martin's complete timeline of events.

Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard Wins Rookie of the Year (May 1)

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    Terry Stott's Portland Trail Blazers failed to reach the postseason in 2012-13, but they found the cornerstone of the future in Damian Lillard.

    With veteran-like poise and a versatile offensive repertoire, Lillard generated offense for the Blazers throughout the entire season.

    His 19.0 points and 6.5 assists per game earned him Rookie of the Year honors. The award was a confirmation of his stardom, and Portland's validation for taking him sixth overall in the 2012 NBA draft.

    Lillard, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge are all signed through at least 2015, so the core is in place and the future is bright in Rip City.

Phoenix Suns: Alvin Gentry Exits (January 18)

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    Whether it was his fault or not, Alvin Gentry's Phoenix Suns staggered through the first half of the season, going 13-28 until he mutually agreed to leave the squad.

    A home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on January 17 was the final straw, and the next day Gentry was on his way out. On January 20, Phoenix named Lindsey Hunter the interim head coach.

    Gentry had coached the club since the spring of 2009, compiling a 158-144 record. His departure marks a new phase of the post-Steve Nash era, and the team recently chose Jeff Hornacek to take the reins of the team moving forward.

Philadelphia 76ers: Team Realizes Bynum Won't Ever Suit Up (March 19)

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    Andrew Bynum experienced several health issues while with the Los Angeles Lakers, but nothing as frustrating as his year with the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Just weeks after being traded in the Dwight Howard deal, Bynum underwent precautionary knee surgery in Germany. He was still expected to make a midseason return to the court.

    Unfortunately, he suffered a setback after an ill-advised bowling session. That's when things started to get demoralizing. The failed Bynum experiment reached its defining moment when the Associated Press reported he would have arthroscopic surgery on both knees and miss the entire season.

    He still might re-sign with Philly, but his future is much cloudier this summer than it has ever been.

Orlando Magic: Trading J.J. Redick (Feb. 21)

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    In a move made to re-adjust the franchise's future, the Orlando Magic traded J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith to the Milwaukee Bucks on February 21 in exchange for Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb.

    General manager Rob Hennigan explained the rebuilding deal to reporters (via ESPN):

    At the end of the day, we liked the Milwaukee deal because we felt we were able to get back some players that addressed some needs for us. We got some players we feel fit the timeline we're trying to put together to create a competitive window.

    Magic fans hope the move works out in the long term, because Orlando went 5-23 after Redick's departure.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook's Torn Meniscus (April 26)

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    Something happened to Russell Westbrook's knee when he collided with Patrick Beverley in the Oklahoma City Thunder's Game 2 showdown with the Houston Rockets.

    At the time, no one knew how detrimental it was.

    Two days later, the NBA playoff landscape shifted when it was revealed that Westbrook would require meniscus surgery and was out indefinitely.

    The Thunder went on to win the series, but they were quickly dismissed by the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round. A season-long quest for the NBA crown was extinguished by Westbrook's departure.

New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony Blocked by Roy Hibbert (May 18)

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    You could use several incidents or moments to represent the New York Knicks' season, but none of them make the statement Roy Hibbert's block did.

    During the fourth quarter of Game 6 in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers, Carmelo Anthony drove baseline and attempted a dunk.

    Hibbert's ensuing rejection summed New York's season up: 'Melo's MVP-caliber efforts weren't enough.

    Anthony scored 39 in the game, but his redirected slam attempt marked the end of the Knicks' run.

New Orleans Hornets: Youngsters Win 3 Straight Over Playoff Teams (March 20-25)

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    A 27-55 record doesn't accurately reflect the direction the New Orleans Pelicans are headed.

    During their last season as the Hornets, Anthony Davis and Co. struggled for the first few months while Eric Gordon rehabbed, but eventually put together some impressive strings of wins.

    In late March, the Hornets took down the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets all in a row. It proved that they're capable of hanging with playoff-caliber competition. The last part of the trifecta included an 18-assist outing from Brian Roberts that ended the Nuggets' 15-game winning streak.

    If Davis and Eric Gordon can stay healthy, the Pelicans will soon be flying up the standings.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love Re-Breaks Hand (Jan. 3)

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    Injuries shattered the 2012-13 season for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    First, Brandon Roy's knees short-circuited his NBA comeback attempt in November. Then Kevin Love returned from his initial hand fracture. A month later, Ricky Rubio's ACL rehab was complete.

    On January 3, the T-Wolves' battle against the injury bug took its biggest hit.

    Love re-broke his hand against the Denver Nuggets. He would miss the rest of the season. So much for everyone getting healthy at the same time.

Milwaukee Bucks: Sloppy Play Leads to Back-to-Back Losses vs. Nets (Feb. 20)

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    The Milwaukee Bucks lived and died by the adventurous spirit of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings in 2012-13. Home-and-home losses to the Brooklyn Nets offered a painful demonstration.

    First, the Bucks lost at Barclays Center at the hands of Joe Johnson, who hit a game-tying shot at the end of regulation and a game-winner at the horn in overtime. 

    At that point, you tip your cap and keep your chin up. Nothing to be ashamed of.

    But the following night at home, Ellis shot 5-of-15, had six turnovers and missed critical free throws at the end to seal Brooklyn's fourth-quarter conquest. He and Jennings combined for 10 giveaways in the contest.

Miami Heat: Third Straight Trip to NBA Finals* (June 3)

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    A 27-game winning streak means nothing to the Miami Heat if they don't win the NBA title.

    That championship goal was in jeopardy as Erik Spoelstra's crew entered Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

    Roy Hibbert and Paul George had given the Heat as much as they could handle. They were 48 minutes away from de-throning King James.

    But Miami answered resoundingly, with a 99-76 win that sent the team to its third straight NBA Finals.

    *Defining moment subject to change.

Memphis Grizzlies: Reach First Conference Finals in Franchise History (May 27)

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    As the No. 5 seed, the Memphis Grizzlies were expected to make a bit of noise in the playoffs, and maybe even use their defense to upend the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Well, they did that, and then some.

    Memphis didn't just beat the Clippers. It destroyed them with four straight wins after dropping the first two at Staples Center.

    The Grizzlies then toppled Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games, holding them to 89.6 points per outing and earning the first conference finals bid in franchise history.

Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe's Achilles Tear Caps Season of Setbacks (April 12)

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    Two nights after he scored 47 points during the Los Angeles Lakers' pursuit of the playoffs, Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles and killed any chance for the club to be competitive in the postseason.

    The team worked past injuries to Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, along with the Mike D'Antoni coaching change and Dwight Howard drama. LA had won six of its last seven, and there was some evidence that it could make a little noise in the playoffs. 

    That momentum disappeared when Kobe hit the deck.

    It was the final stumbling block in a campaign littered with frustrating moments.

Los Angeles Clippers: 4-Game Skid Ends Record-Breaking Season (May 3)

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    If the Los Angeles Clippers had made a respectable playoff run, they could have pointed to the 17-game win streak in December as their defining stretch.

    However, their abrupt collapse in the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies defined their offensive inconsistency and defensive incompetence.

    The series exposed Los Angeles' poor post defense and inability to generate dynamic offense on the interior. Vinny Del Negro was out-coached (and subsequently canned), and the opening-round elimination left a bad taste in Lob City's mouth.

Indiana Pacers: Paul George's Statement Dunk (May 24)

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    The Indiana Pacers succumbed to the Miami Heat in seven games, but Paul George's Game 2 dunk over Chris "Birdman" Andersen spoke volumes.

    George and his Pacers are for real.

    When he drove past LeBron James and crammed the ball over Birdman, it was more than just a game-changing dunk. It was a season-defining play that showed Indiana can compete with anyone in the league.

Houston Rockets: Season-Opening Barrage from Harden (Oct. 31 & Nov. 2)

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    Acquiring James Harden was a superb move for the Houston Rockets, and they found that out immediately.

    Less than a week after he was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden terrorized opposing defenses for back-to-back wins to kick-start the regular season. It was readily apparent that Houston was infinitely more dangerous with him in the lineup.

    He dropped 37 points and 12 assists in the season-opening win over the Detroit Pistons, and then he scored 45 on 14-of-19 shooting to beat the Atlanta Hawks.

    It ignited a successful push to the postseason for a club previously mired in mediocrity.

Golden State Warriors: Curry Puts Dubs in Control of Nuggets (April 23-28)

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    In their playoff opener, the Golden State Warriors lost David Lee to a torn hip flexor and also lost the game.

    Stephen Curry turned things around and put his team in position to advance, as he hit shots from every angle and whistled passes all over the place. He delivered a trio of masterpieces.

    April 23: A 30-point, 13-assist effort to fuel a 131-117 win (series tied 1-1)

    April 26: A 29-point, 11-assist outing on a bum ankle to take the series lead (2-1 Dubs)

    April 28: A 31-point, seven-assist night to give Golden State command (3-1 Dubs)

Detroit Pistons: Knight Gets Posterized in Middle of Losing Streak (March 10)

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    Sorry Brandon Knight. You tried.

    The Detroit Pistons were squarely in the middle of a 10-game losing streak, and Knight was squarely in the way of DeAndre Jordan's alley-oop ferocity.

    There were plenty of bright spots in the Piston's campaign, including the maturation of Greg Monroe and the emergence of Andre Drummond.

    But the alley-oop defense, much like the entire season, was an effort that fell short.

Denver Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari's Torn ACL Hurts Team's Playoff Hopes (April 4)

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    When Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL against the Dallas Mavericks on April 4, the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference got a whole lot weaker.

    Fans and media began to debate whether the loss of the 6'10" shooter would doom the Denver Nuggets and whether they could replace his 16 points per game.

    Unfortunately, his absence severely damaged their offensive firepower, forcing Ty Lawson to carry more than his fair share. Denver wasn't able to keep pace with the Golden State Warriors, so the season ended with a first-round downfall.

Dallas Mavericks: Team Makes Beard Pact, Then Fulfills It (April 14)

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    In late January, the Dallas Mavericks were well below .500 and needed to turn things around.

    So they made an oath to grow beards until they reached .500 again, and what transpired was a tremendous display of fortitude.

    A month later, they were still seven games below the mark and nowhere closer to clipping the facial hair. But then they scratched and clawed their way back to respectability, culminating in an April 14 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans to earn a 40-40 record.

    Dirk Nowitzki is past his prime, and Dallas lacked championship-level pieces this season, but the team still has title-worthy perseverance and determination.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Gritty Road Win Demonstrates Backcourt Potential (Nov. 5)

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    Although the Cleveland Cavaliers' season was hampered by injuries to all three of their biggest stars, it was a season that showcased the potential of their backcourt.

    On the road against a superior opponent, the Cavs' young duo of Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving held off a Los Angeles Clippers comeback and showed how powerful the two can be.

    The two 20-year-olds combined for 52 points. Waiters drilled seven triples and scored 28, while Kyrie Irving dealt 10 assists and scored 24 of his own.

    Add a No. 1 draft pick to the mix, and there's something simmering in Cleveland.

Chicago Bulls Shock Miami Without Rose, Hinrich and Deng (May 6)

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    Two days after finishing a grueling seven-game series against the Brooklyn Nets, the Chicago Bulls faced the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in South Beach.

    No Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich or Luol Deng? No worries, said Nate Robinson, who scored 27 and dished nine assists in the victory. Jimmy Butler chipped in 14 rebounds and solid defense on LeBron James.

    Miami had a full week to rest and prepare, but the Bulls didn't care and walked out of American Airlines Arena with a win.

    It ended up being their last win of the season, and it was their best one. The squad overcame distractions about Rose's return and untimely injuries to dramatically overachieve in 2012-13.

Charlotte Bobcats: Winning Record Turns into 18-Game Losing Streak (Nov. 26)

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    Through the first dozen games of the 2012-13 campaign, the Charlotte Bobcats held a 7-5 record and looked far better than the disastrous bunch they were last year.

    The wheels fell off in a hurry, as a November 26 blowout loss (114-69) to the Oklahoma City Thunder paved the way for a month-long losing streak and put them right back in the cellar of the NBA.

    Sure, the 2012-13 Bobcats were an upgrade over the 2011-12 version, but this early-season slide proved that they're still in the infant stages of rebuilding.

Brooklyn Nets: Game 7 Loss vs. Bulls Ends Season and Carlesimo's Tenure (May 4)

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    For the most part, the Nets' first season in Brooklyn was a success. The team went 49-33, earned the No. 4 seed in the East and reached the postseason for the first time since 2007.

    However, the club struggled throughout the year against playoff-caliber opponents, and this difficulty manifested itself in a first-round loss against the shorthanded Chicago Bulls.

    Without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, the Bulls marched into Barclays Center and shellacked the $83 million Nets in Game 7. Joe Johnson finished with six points, and the game was a microcosm of his underachievement in 2012-13.

    Chicago deserves all the credit in the world for winning, but the game was also a symbol of the highly-priced Nets falling short.

Boston Celtics: ACL Injury Bounces Rondo (Jan. 27)

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    Even though the Boston Celtics reeled off seven straight wins after Rajon Rondo's exit, the club wasn't the same and missed his talent in the playoffs.

    Although he injured his knee during a January 25 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics didn't find out that he tore his ACL until after their January 27 win over the Miami Heat.

    Doc Rivers rallied his squad to a seventh-place finish in the East, but Boston sorely missed him in the postseason. The Celtics finished last among playoff squads in points per game (82.3) and floundered with just 16.8 assists per night.

Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith Stays Put at Trade Deadline (Feb. 21)

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    The first two-thirds of the Atlanta Hawks' season revolved around whether Josh Smith would get dealt or not.

    Would the front office work a deal to get something in exchange for his expiring contract, or would the Hawks hang onto him and let him walk in free agency?

    After several trade proposals, including a potential three-team deal with the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta didn't find an optimal scenario.

    As a result, Smith remained with the Hawks until their first-round playoff exit, and Atlanta will see what it can do with the extra cap space.