Ranking the Top 10 Plays from the First Round of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs

Thomas DuffyFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 Plays from the First Round of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Well, that was fun.

    Five different series that went the full seven-game distance, tons of clutch plays and nail-biters every night—the first round of the 2013-14 NBA playoffs was nothing short of awesome.

    While there are more gems to come as the postseason continues to unfold, the first round needs to be celebrated.

    On the following slides are the top 10 plays from the opening round. Rankings are based on the effect on the game at hand, series impact and overall "wow" factor.

    Here's hoping for an equally memorable second round. But for now, let's go back and enjoy what turned out to be a legendary three weeks of basketball.

     

    As a refresher, click here for the results of each series. All stats and information are accurate as of May 5 courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

Honorable Mention: Clippers Return to the Court Post-Sterling Ban

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    This wasn’t a rim-rocking dunk, dazzling pass or game-winning jumper. But when the Los Angeles Clippers took the court hours after commissioner Adam Silver banned LAC owner Donald Sterling for life, it was a memorable highlight.

    Despite all the talk about boycotting—both in regard to players and fans—the Staples Center crowd gave an emphatic standing ovation to the hometown team before Game 5 tipped off.

    It was great to see the Clippers players, coaches and fans get back to basketball and overcome a truly ugly situation.

10. LeBron Stares Down MJ While Dunking

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    Earth-shattering dunk, huh? Not really—we’ve seen far more spectacular things from LeBron James before.

    But the reason this slam makes the cut is the glare. As he glides to the rim, King James seemingly stares down the greatest player of all time, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.

    ESPN’s Jon Barry, who was calling the game, sensed that LBJ was letting Jordan know that the series is over.

    I had a different take on it. LeBron’s message to Jordan was simple: I’m coming for you.

    "There's no reason I can't be number one,” LBJ told Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver on February 14 in the midst of the Mount Rushmore debate.

    Whether or not LeBron will ever surpass Jordan as the greatest of all time is another debate altogether. But the King is coming for MJ's crown.

9. Westbrook's Timely Swipe

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    It’s either really painful or extremely captivating to watch Russell Westbrook.

    Heaving up 31 shots and missing 21 of them, as he did in Game 5? Terrible.

    Picking Mike Conley’s pocket—and carrying the Oklahoma City Thunder into overtime—with less than 10 seconds to go in that same game, however, is a different story.

    Westbrook plays with heart every night and is a vital piece to the Thunder’s prospective title run. But launching a few less contested elbow jumpers wouldn’t hurt anybody.

8. Troy Daniels Saves the Day

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    Prior to March 3, Troy Daniels was just some guy lighting up the NBA Developmental League. But on April 25, he hit what proved to be a game-winning three-pointer in his first NBA playoff appearance.

    With a tick under 12 seconds left on the clock, the Houston Rockets were on the verge of falling down 3-0 to the Portland Trail Blazers. James Harden dribbled himself into what should’ve been a turnover—no surprise there—but Jeremy Lin corralled the ball and heaved it to the rookie as the shot clock wound down.

    Daniels stepped in and drilled it.

    Although the Rockets ultimately lost the series, it’s only a matter of time before Daniels is starring in commercials for the D-League.

7. Mike Scott Throws Down on Ian Mahinmi

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    A guy with iPhone emojis inked on his arm throwing down on one of the hundreds of NBA big men suddenly better than Roy Hibbert.

    That’s what the playoffs are all about.

    Seriously though, the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series was extremely weird.

    While the Pacers managed to stagger away from the seven-game carnage victorious, they were exposed by a team whose general manager hinted to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt that they’d be better off tanking building for the future rather than getting the No. 8 seed.

    No matter how strange that series was, Mike Scott’s Game 6 jam over Ian Mahinmi was pretty sweet.

6. LAC Goes Coast to Coast with Perfection

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    The Golden State Warriors would not go down easily.

    But when DeAndre Jordan smashed Stephen Curry’s go-ahead layup attempt off the glass with two minutes left in Game 7, it was the beginning of the end for the Warriors.

    Two passes and three dribbles later, Blake Griffin was swinging on the rim as the Staples Center exploded into a roar. The Clippers were on their way to the second round.

    It’s plays like that which have made LAC a frequent member of NBA highlight reels all season.

5. Kevin Durant's Ridiculous Four-Point Bomb

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    Mr. Unreliable? More like Mr. Off-Balance-Game-Tying-Four-Point Play.

    Mr. Almost-Lose-In-The-First-Round works too, though.

    With the Thunder down five and 13 seconds left on the clock, the man better known as Kevin Durant sunk an absolutely insane rainbow jumper from the corner in Game 2.

    KD took to a bump from Marc Gasol and made good on the ensuing free throw—without hounding defense from fiery referee Joey Crawford—cutting the Memphis lead to a point.

    Oklahoma City went on to lose that game in overtime but won the series in seven.

4. The Return of Vinsanity

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    Down a bucket with less than two seconds remaining in Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs, Vince Carter turned back the clock—and turned the series upside down.

    A slight pump fake allowed the 37-year-old to elude a flying Manu Ginobili, and Carter buried the triple from the corner as time expired.

    Per the Associated Press (relayed by ESPN), Carter's game-winner rectified a shot that's haunted him for years:

    "May 20th, Game 7," said Carter, referring to an 88-87 loss to Philadelphia in the 2001 Eastern Conference finals when he was he was the dunking sensation known as "Vinsanity" with Toronto. Carter had graduated from North Carolina earlier that day before flying on a private plane to Philadelphia.

    "I don't mind taking the game-winning shot," said Carter, who otherwise had a rough day before finishing with 11 points. "I don't mind missing them, and dealing with it. So I think having that mentality helps me."

    That shot gave the Mavericks a 2-1 series lead, but Dallas ultimately fell to the top-seeded Spurs in seven games, despite giving the reigning Western Conference champs all they could handle.

3. Blake's Insane Finish Late in Game 7

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    Blake Griffin: flopper actor, acrobat and tremendous basketball player.

    With the Clippers clinging to a three-point lead late in Game 7 against the Warriors, Griffin converted a completely wild three-point play—and then pulled off one of the smoothest back rolls that you’ll ever see from a 6’10”, 251-pound man.

    It was one of a seemingly endless supply of highlights from the Clippers-Warriors series, but Griffin’s may have proved to be the most important.

2. The Truth's Season-Saving Rejection

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    Paul Pierce didn’t come to Brooklyn to score just 10 points in the biggest game of the season.

    But he did come to win—and that’s what he ultimately did in Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors, despite his stat sheet deficiencies.

    This was not the first game of the series that Pierce essentially won. A pair of clutch jumpers down the stretch in the opening contest gave Brooklyn a 1-0 series lead.

    Kyle Lowry somehow slipped through the Nets’ perimeter defense with about two seconds left as BKN clung to a one-point lead. Lowry, who had tormented the Nets all series, had a clean look at a floater that would've won the game.

    But Pierce had other plans.

    The Truth sent Lowry’s shot back, sent Toronto packing and sent the Nets to a heavyweight matchup against the Miami Heat in the second round.

    After the game, the Truth noted Brooklyn's emphasis on the defensive end, per ESPN:

    We said we were going to win this with our defense. Lowry, we knew he was going to try to get to the hole. It was a scramble for the ball, I saw him go up. I went up for the block. Clean block at the end. Great playoff series. These guys, they're going to be tough to beat in the near future.

    But Brooklyn doesn't have to worry about Toronto anymore—not now, at least. Because at the moment, the only thing on the Nets' mind is the reigning champs.

1. Lillard's Cold-Blooded Game-Winner

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    The last thing Damian Lillard wants to be is one of the guys who never won a ring. (Karl, come back!)

    But if he keeps hitting shots like the series-winning dagger against the Rockets in Game 6, he won’t be short of jewelry.

    Lillard’s iconic buzzer-beater pushed Portland to its first playoff-series win in 14 years. And it also served as the perfect embodiment of the NBA’s first postseason round.

    Even with buzzer-beaters and upsets galore, Lillard’s ice-cold three-pointer stands in a class of its own.