15 Great 2014 NBA Playoff Performances You've Totally Forgotten

Jim Cavan@@JPCavanContributor IJune 16, 2014

15 Great 2014 NBA Playoff Performances You've Totally Forgotten

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Another year, another NBA playoffs that flew by faster than a downhill freight train.

    In the end, it was the San Antonio Spurs who exacted righteous revenge over the Miami Heat, dismantling the defending champs in five games. With five banners in 16 seasons, the Spurs solidified their place as a bona fide dynasty while endearing themselves to millions of fans with their poetically potent brand of basketball.

    San Antonio may walk away with the lion’s share of accolades—and deservedly so.

    But before the hype of this year’s draft has us mainlining mock drafts, before the swagger of summer league finds us stealing company time, let’s take a few minutes to recall the handful of brilliant performances that made the 2014 playoffs so memorable.

    Because sometimes even first-round road kill (sorry, Charlotte Bobcats) can leave a nice piece of meat for a passing buzzard. I believe Confucius said that.

LeBron James, Game 4 vs. Brooklyn Nets

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    The Damage: 49 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals.

    The Dish: Any time LeBron breaks out of collaborative character long enough to author a Michael Jordan-esque performance like this, it’s worth celebrating.

    With Miami nursing a 2-1 series lead and Brooklyn looking to even the score at home, King James reminded everyone why he alone wears the crown. He eviscerated the Nets defense, hitting on 16 of his 24 shot attempts and 14 of his 19 free throws in the Heat’s decisive Game 4 win.

    Miami would go on to close out the series at home in Game 5.

Mike Dunleavy, Game 3 vs. Washington Wizards

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    The Damage: 35 points, five rebounds, three assists

    The Dish: …Wait, what?

    That’s right, kids: Mike Dunleavy, the 33-year-old small forward with a gorgeous stroke and a turtle’s vertical, tallied 35 whopping points in the Chicago’s 100-97 Game 3 win over the Washington Wizards in Round 1.

    Dunleavy hit eight of his 10 three-point attempts, one shy of the NBA playoff record.

    Sadly, the Bulls would bow out in five, mostly lopsided games to the upstart Wizards. But not before Machine Gun Mike (a nickname I just made up) put everyone in the Verizon Center on notice that…Mike Dunleavy was basically, like, the third offensive option on a horrible offensive team.  

LaMarcus Aldridge, Games 1 and 2 vs. Houston Rockets

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    The Damage: 89 points, 26 rebounds, five blocks

    The Dish: So you got that we’re talking about two combined games, right? We wouldn’t want you to think you missed an 89-point game or anything.

    The Houston Rockets had absolutely no answer for Aldridge, who made his foes pay by leading the Blazers to a shocking 2-0 series lead on the road.

    Writing at Bleacher Report, Dan Favale helped contextualize Aldridge's bonkers back-to-back outbursts:

    Only 15 active players can say they've scored 40-plus points more than once in a playoff game. Aldridge is one of them and has barreled into the conversation using two consecutive, otherworldly performances.

    He also joins James, Tim Duncan and Amar'e Stoudemire as the only active players with at least 40 points, eight boards and two blocks in two or more playoff games.

    To top it all off, Aldridge and Shaquille O'Neal are now the only two players to notch at least 40 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in consecutive playoff games since 1995, when Hakeem Olajuwon did the same.

    Portland would prevail in six. Which doesn’t nearly do this series justice: Only one game was decided by 10 points or more, while three of them wound up going to overtime.

    For diehard NBA fans, the first-round slugfest between these two high-octane teams served early, intense notice of just how far superior his year’s Western Conference really was.

Russell Westbrook, Game 4 vs. San Antonio Spurs

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    The Damage: 40 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, five steals

    The Dish: Yeah, this is not the first time you’ll be reading this man’s name.

    With his Oklahoma City Thunder looking to even the series at home, Westbrook took matters into his own hands with an incendiary showing. The sneaky-crazy highlight: Russ nailed all 14 of his free-throw attempts.

    How rarefied was the air Westbrook touched that night? Per ESPN, only one other player in NBA playoff history has tallied 40 points, 10 rebounds, five points and five assists in a single game: Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

    Sadly, the Thunder couldn’t keep Tony Parker and company from having their way offensively, and the Spurs would wind up with a hard-fought six-game series win and a second straight trip to the Finals.

    Still, for those who subscribe to the #LetWestbrookBeWestbrook mantra, this was indeed a critic-silencing affair.

Chris Paul, Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Damage: 32 points, 10 assists, 8-of-9 three-point shooting.

    The Dish: Admit it. After watching this game, you thought the L.A. Clippers were going to run roughshod over the Thunder. So did I.

    Paul was flat-out brilliant in this West semifinal opening salvo, hitting on 12 of his 14 attempts from the floor and rendering the whole “Well, if we’re going to live with anything, we might as well live with CP3 shooting jumpers” philosophy mercilessly moot.

    But it was a whole different ballgame after OKC stole Game 2 in the Staples Center. The Thunder would prevail in six, in the process exposing L.A.’s lack of consistent perimeter defense. For one game, though, Chris Paul reminded everyone why he’s the best point guard in the known galaxy.

Marcin Gortat, Game 5 vs. Indiana Pacers

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    The Damage: 31 points, 16 rebounds

    The Dish: To call this a career outing from the man they call “The Polish Hammer” would be an understatement; Gortat’s gigantic stat line breathed new life into a Washington team that had lost three straight to the suddenly resurgent Indiana Pacers.

    In doing so, Gortat exposed Pacers center Roy Hibbert, giving every team that followed a blueprint for how to pressure Indiana’s 7’2” paint-prober.

    “Every team” meaning the Miami Heat, who actually don’t employ centers. It’s against their religion.

    Anyway, Gortat was phenomenal in this one. Too bad everyone else was watching Ken Burns’ The National Parks, which is legitimately more exciting than any of the seven Eastern Conference series NBA fans suffered through this spring.

DeAndre Jordan, Game 3 vs. Golden State Warriors

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    The Damage: 14 points, 22 rebounds, five blocks

    The Dish: With Chris Paul struggling from the floor and his team desperate to regain home-court advantage, DeAndre Jordan turned in one of the sneaky-best stat lines in recent memory en route to a 98-96 Clippers victory.

    Remember that time Doc Rivers compared his center to Bill Russell? Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale does. Well, say what you will about the bat-crap crazy comparison, Jordan sure played the part tonight.

    As Favale points out, Russell’s career averages ended up at 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds.

    Call it an outlier—which you should, because it was—Jordan’s beastly box score certainly left many in Clipper-land wondering whether this might be a sign of things to come for their still-developing center.

LeBron James, Game 4 vs. Indiana Pacers

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    The Damage: 32 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals

    The Dish: With a win in Miami in Game 4, the Pacers would’ve regained home-court advantage and shifted considerably whatever momentum the Heat had early in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    LeBron would have none of that.

    It wasn’t James’ best performance of the playoffs. It arguably wasn’t even his third-best. But the fact that we can even say that goes to show just how much we sometimes take LeBron for granted.

Paul George, Game 4 vs. Washington Wizards

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    The Damage: 39 points, 12 rebounds

    The Dish: After receiving something of a scare in their Round 1 matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, the Pacers once again found themselves on pins and needles in their conference semifinals showdown with the Wizards.

    Up 2-1 and desperate to not allow Washington to even the count, Paul George delivered what was, at the time (hint, hint), his signature playoff statement, bludgeoning the Wizards from every conceivable spot on the floor. Except half court. He didn’t hit a shot there.

Kawhi Leonard, Game 3 vs. Miami Heat

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    The Damage: 29 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks

    The Dish: Yes, we know this happened less than a week ago. But admit it: You kinda, sorta forgot about Kawhi Leonard’s Game 3 coming-out party.

    Leonard was everywhere in this one—canning three-pointers, driving to the rim unabated, giving LeBron all manner of hell on defense. After tallying just nine points in each of his first two Finals outings, Leonard showed everyone why he remains the heir apparent for San Antonio’s hardwood dynasty.

    Surprisingly, Leonard didn't make an appearance at the postgame presser. But that didn't stop head coach Gregg Popovich from summing up his youngster's night thusly, via the NBA's Twitter account: "He was just himself. That's how he's played all year long. He's got that kind of talent."

Kevin Durant, Game 6 vs. Clippers

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    The Damage: 39 points, 16 rebounds, 10-of-10 free throws

    The Dish: Great players know when the moment calls for a kill, and KD’s Game 6 blitzkrieg of the helpless Clippers was one of these playoffs’ principal examples.

    On a night when Russ was struggling from the field, Durant stepped up to deal L.A. a punishing final blow, making up for his mediocre clip from the field by burying 5-of-8 from distance and canning all 10 of his tries from the stripe.

    There have been better performances from Durant. And there have been more important performances. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a performance this good and this important. Sad though the ultimate ending may have been.

Russell Westbrook, Game 7 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Damage: 27 points, 10 rebounds, 16 assists

    The Dish: To put this in perspective: Only one other time in his five-year NBA career has Westbrook registered more than 16 dimes in a single game—way back in 2010. He and Durant were both magnificent in OKC’s closeout win over the Grizzlies, combining for 60 points, 18 rebounds and 18 assists.

    Westbrook would finish the 2013-14 postseason with a playoff-high three triple-doubles.

Bradley Beal, Game 1 vs. Indiana Pacers

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    The Damage: 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, five steals

    The Dish: We’d been hearing a lot during the regular season about how Bradley Beal was poised to launch into the upper echelon of NBA shooting guards. Well, we got that confirmation in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, when the 20-year-old (think about that for a second) laid the smack down on the Pacers en route to a Washington upset.

    The upstart Wizards would eventually succumb to their veteran-laden foes, but not before Beal and John Wall served serious notice that Washington could be poised to house the NBA’s best backcourt sooner than later.

Paul George, Game 5 vs. Heat

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    The Damage: 37 points (21 in the fourth quarter), six rebounds, six steals

    The Dish: By Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the winner was all but a foregone conclusion. But boy did Paul George do his darnedest to ignite something resembling a spark in his teammates.

    George went absolutely ballistic in the final frame, pouring in 21 points—including a slew of backbreaking threes down the stretch—and generally terrorizing the Heat at both ends of the floor. Indiana’s playoff run may have ended in disappointment, but if George’s will was any kind of bellwether, the franchise is in trusted hands going forward.

LeBron James, Game 2 vs. San Antonio Spurs

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    The Damage: 35 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals

    The Dish: Okay, so the Finals didn’t quite work out the way LeBron and company had envisioned. That shouldn’t take away from this vintage King James performance, which saw the four-time MVP take matters into his own hands en route to a clutch Game 2 win.

    Unfortunately, Miami’s momentum would die a quick death in Game 3, as the Spurs used a pair of epic performances in Games 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 series lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The 2014 Finals will be remembered as San Antonio’s righteous revenge. But LeBron certainly put his signature on the series, outcome notwithstanding.