Buzzer-beaters and overtime thrillers are most prevalent in the game of basketball, and especially the NBA. Spectacular finishes give the league some extra spice and make it appeal to the average sports fan—even one that claims to not like basketball.
In the NBA, the playoffs are on the horizon and the Finals are a not-too-distant dream. Players around the league are trying to establish themselves as go-to-guys at the end of games.
It seems like every night at least one player gets a look at the basket with the game on the line. Whether or not he cashes in on the opportunity can make or break a team's playoff chances.
The Miami Heat have struggled late in games, leading some to believe that they'll be nervous under the pressure in the postseason. The San Antonio Spurs worked their way into the spotlight with a plethora of close wins earlier in the season.
Although the Spurs have been sliding down the stretch, they have proved their ability to win games in the waning moments of games. The Heat still have to prove that they're battle-tested to get respect in April.
Last-second shots have been aplenty this season. When each team plays 82 games, it's pretty fair to assume some games are going to come down to the wire.
Here are the 25 most exciting finishes of the NBA season as of Wednesday, April 6.
A goaltending call on the defensive end looked as if it might doom the New Jersey Nets, but Deron Williams had the answer.
Williams used a step-back jump shot to end the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Smart players like Williams make sure they get a good shot off in late-game situations. He's trying to set a new standard in New Jersey, a winning one.
Williams and Lopez will attempt to become one of the most feared inside-outside duos in the league during the coming years.
You can tell this game was in Toronto by the crowd's stunned silence after the ball dropped through the net.
Al Jefferson barely got a hand on a Devin Harris miss, and the ball seemed to float in the air for eternity before falling through the rim. Jefferson and the Utah Jazz aren't playoff bound this season, but two lottery picks in June are soon to come.
Look for the Jazz to come out strong in 2011-12—if there's a season.
Stephen Jackson looked like he tried to pull an isolation on the side of the court. He didn't have the pressure of being behind. The worst thing that could come of this was overtime.
Instead, Jackson took a couple dribbles and then faded away from the hoop, hitting the shot as time expired. Two hands in his face weren't enough to deny Jackson and the Charlotte Bobcats the win.
It only took one pump fake for Channing Frye to get Brandon Rush off his feet. Once he saw Rush in the air, Frye confidently launched a deep two to beat the buzzer.
The Phoenix Suns needed wins like this to stay in the playoff race for as long as they did. Frye has started to shoot more threes in Phoenix, as most players do when they team up with Steve Nash.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of team Phoenix is next season with so many questions entering the offseason.
Mo Williams knew he was going to shoot. So did the Cleveland crowd. And so did Brandon Jennings. Once Williams signaled for his teammates to clear a path, it was obvious who was going to take the last shot for the Cavaliers.
Once again, the step-back prevailed, as Williams nailed a shot over the outstretched arm of Jennings. By pulling back, Williams made it so no Milwaukee Bucks defender could help on him.
This was the Cavaliers' sixth win, and it moved their record to 6-8. Very few could have anticipated the 2-37 run that would follow.
Two underdogs in the Western Conference battled it out in early November. Back then, they were just known as solid teams in the conference. Now, they are regarded as possible dark horses in the West, as both the Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have shown vulnerabilities.
The Thunder showed tremendous resiliency in this contest, continually coming from behind. Russell Westbrook's rebound to seal the game proved how much the Thunder want to win each game—even in November.
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Millsap dropped 46 points on the Miami Heat to upset the heavy favorites. Miami and their crowd thought they had sealed the deal before Millsap drained two threes late in the game. To top it off, Millsap crashed the boards and got a put-back to send the game to overtime.
No one can deny Wade's desire to win this game, but sometimes the other team's just too good. On this night, one player was too good.
The scrappy play of the Houston Rockets on the steal and layup was unbelievable. Talk about wanting to win a game.
The Rockets are barely alive in the playoff hunt. Without this win, they would be mathematically eliminated. Manu Ginobili almost ended the Rockets' season, but was split seconds too late. Ginobili will appear on this list again with some on-time deliveries.
Tony Parker's chance to end the game rattled out and the Rockets escaped with a home win. Maybe they won't make the playoffs, but the Rockets are giving it their all.
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Antonio McDyess may not be in the prime of his career, but he can still make plays like this. The opportune forward saw the shot come in his direction and simply tapped it in the basket for the victory.
At the time, the Spurs beating the Lakers wasn't too significant. The Lakers went on to make a huge surge for the No. 1 spot in the West, but this win kept the Spurs comfortably ahead.
The Spurs have now clinched the West after three straight Laker losses.
With his Denver Nuggets down one with four seconds left, Carmelo Anthony didn't want to lose again. The Nuggets lost by two to the Chicago Bulls just over two weeks earlier and Carmelo didn't want a repeat performance.
He received the inbound, faked toward the hoop, and netted a jump shot that trickled through the net just before time expired. The Nuggets picked up a huge win over the soon-to-be No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Carmelo has some positive experiences to look back on if the New York Knicks see the Bulls in the playoffs.
Kevin Durant's emotion after he hit this buzzer-beater to beat the Knicks was incredible. He perfectly blended a calm attitude with inner thrill.
The Thunder may have only needed one point to win, but Durant saw his shot and he took it. Danilo Gallinari wasn't able to get enough of a challenge up because he thought Durant was going to take it in further.
Durant may need a few more of these if he wants his team to advance out of the West.
Nicolas Batum had the San Antonio Spurs' defense confused as he streaked to the basket for the alley-oop with 0.9 seconds left.
Andre Miller had a daring steal late in the quarter to keep the Portland Trailblazers alive. Two Batum layups tied the game up with less than a second remaining. A sloppy turnover by the Spurs gave the Blazers the chance to win the game.
On March 25, the Blazers looked like the veteran squad.
Manu Ginobili isn't the least bit afraid of the big moments. Even if he is, he doesn't show it.
He has made a name for himself by hitting big shots like this on a regular basis. Many San Antonio fans have grown accustomed to seeing the Argentinian win close games for the Spurs. He's the most reliable player in San Antonio to take the big shot in any atmosphere.
Ginobili has made a career of it, but if he fails to come up big this postseason, Spurs fans may hang their heads. The fans know their window of opportunity with this group is quickly closing.
Ginobili hit a game-tying basket, and was mere inches away from hitting the game-winner versus the Rockets. When these two teams play each other, it's pretty common for the game to be insanely close.
In overtime, the two teams battled back and forth before Ginobili forced the Rockets into a turnover. If the Rockets are able to overcome a nearly insurmountable deficit and make the playoffs, they will face none other than the Spurs.
Facing either the Rockets, Blazers or Memphis Grizzlies in the first round isn't much of a reward for the season the Spurs have had.
With 0.4 seconds left on the clock, the Suns drew up the perfect play for Jason Richardson. Grant Hill found Richardson next to the rim for the tip to tie the game with the Grizzlies.
The Suns went on to win the game in the second overtime. The crowd's reaction shows how unreal the play was. The Phoenix fans flung out of their seats as Richardson connected on the game-tying basket.
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Nothing is better than two Los Angeles teams going back and forth for almost the entire fourth quarter. Shots were falling left and right as the in-city rivals refused to lose to one another.
On this night, there wouldn't be a loser, just a big winner. The Lakers were lucky enough to have the last shot in regulation and Derek Fisher got to the rim and finished off the Clippers. Although I'll admit it does look like there's a lag in the clock, the shot was well done.
Fisher has been making shots like this for years. It's April, meaning it's time for Fisher to become more clutch.
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John Wall couldn't have been any more impressive in his home debut on Nov. 2. The rookie out of Kentucky played the game of his life, but it was Cartier Martin that hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 106 with less than a second left.
Like many games on this list, overtime was a battle that ended with the Wizards on top by one. Tough shots were made during the extra time, but Andre Iguodala was unable to convert on the last look of the game.
Exactly three weeks later, the two teams met again in another instant classic. The 76ers held a nine-point lead with under four minutes left. The Wizards stormed back with a flurry of baskets and some missed free throws by Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick behind Wall in the draft.
With the Wizards down by three, Wall draws a three-shot foul and hits all three free throws to send the Sixers back to overtime. Once again, the Wizards come out on top.
This time, Washington won by two points, doubling their triumph of three weeks previous.
November was definitely a good month to be a fan of the NBA.
Last-second shots blanketed the month, and Rudy Gay is the latest one to get in on the action. Gay took the ball all the way to the wing before falling back an extreme amount to arc a shot over LeBron.
The Grizzlies will qualify for the playoffs if they win one more game. Unluckily for them, they don't have Gay to hit another shot like this because he's out with a season-ending shoulder injury.
The Grizzlies will have to look elsewhere for their big shots.
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The Nuggets would not go away, no matter how many shots the Spurs made. The fourth quarter of this game was a shooting clinic, as both teams rarely missed when it mattered the most.
J.R. Smith came up with a sensational steal under his own basket that went right to Carmelo, who dunked for a one-point lead with seven seconds left. Ginobili got the ball at the other end of the floor and instantly nailed a runner in the lane. This was the next day after his game-winner against the Bucks.
Carmelo got the ball and beat his defender, getting to the hoop and making the basket as time ran out. However, Ginobili drew the charge, and earned the win on both sides of the floor.
Those were playoff-like performances from Ginobili on back-to-back nights.
Most players would have just watched their star player try and hit a jump shot to win the game.
Mike Dunleavy decided to sprint in from the perimeter and give Danny Granger's miss just enough momentum to tickle the twine. Dunleavy even left his feet a little early, but was able to hang in the air just long enough to get the win.
This play is so high because of overall crowd reaction and its dramatic pause. The ball sat on the rim with no sure direction before falling in favor of the Pacers for the victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
The Sacramento Kings fueled a furious comeback from eight points down with 35 seconds remaining to force the Wizards into overtime. A barrage of and-ones from the Kings kept them alive in this game, but it was ultimately poor defense by Wall that caused the overtime.
In extra time, Nick Young continued to pour it on. He finished with 43 points in the 136-133 win. The Wizards have proven that they can win close games at home, but still lack tenacity on the road.
They are currently 3-36 on the road this season, the worst in the NBA.
The Lakers thought they had this game won on multiple occasions. A bunch of sloppy possessions by the Lakers allowed the Suns back in the game. Grant Hill hit the game-tying, corner three with 31 seconds left. After yet another bad possession by the Lakers, Vince Carter had a look to end it in regulation, but missed wide left.
With Los Angeles up by three, Lamar Odom tried to foul a stationary Channing Frye, but Frye let a shot loose to earn three shots—all of which he made.
In double overtime, amazing passes by both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant kept their respective teams alive. A Ron Artest steal and break set the tone for the third overtime, where the Lakers sealed the deal 139-137.
Many people would have been satisfied with Raymond Felton's running bank shot he buried a few steps after he crossed half-court. That was the halftime buzzer-beater.
Amar'e Stoudemire used the paint as his playground in this matchup, scoring 41 points in all. Almost every possession in the final three minutes had some kind of scoring output. The offensive output concluded with Paul Pierce's game-clinching jump shot over Stoudemire with 0.4 seconds left.
The Knicks fed Amar'e the ball just outside the three-point arc with the lead at two and he cashed a shot from distance to ignite the Madison Square Garden. Knicks fans watched the replay in dismay, as it was obvious that Amar'e didn't get the shot off in time.
The atmosphere of the arena as Stoudemire's shot fell in was truly remarkable.
Just watch. An ending like this happens once a decade if you're lucky. Ask Gordon Hayward.
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