Virtuoso Visions: More of the Most Unreal Playoff Numbers Put Up in NBA History
Without further ado here is a second five-pack of some the NBA's most exceptional one-man efforts in the playoffs.
From triple-doubles to scoring records, the following players rose to the highest level and left behind an achievement at which even they had to be amazed, one that future generations would continue to hold in high esteem.
Once again, this list applies to players who did not just fill up the scoring or rebounding columns, but contributed in several statistical or other definable ways.
More importantly, like a type of omnipotence, they showed an uncanny versatility and instinct in all the ways to win a basketball game.
Turn it on, it's the NBA playoffs!
5.) Magic's Lucky Three 13's
After putting the whole league on serious notice only two years earlier in the same series, the same game and versus the same team, 23-year-old Earvin "Magic" Johnson needed an encore.
This night he surely got one.
Playing in front of a raucous L.A. crowd at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Johnson displayed all the wisdom of a 10-year veteran and the exuberance of, well, Magic.
Johnson dove head-first into a fierce, all-or-nothing game that saw physical enforcers like the Sixers' Darryl Dawkins, Mike Bantom and Bobby Jones diving and scrambling for the rock. While more polished defenders like Maurice Cheeks loomed in the passing lanes.
But Magic, with his amazing height for a point guard, could see the whole floor and could dictate where exactly he wanted the ball to go.
A deadly combination of crisp entry passes and no-look fast break feeds that were both right on the money, left the Sixers defensive unit in shambles.
While hopelessly undersized point guard Maurice Cheeks could do nothing but call for a double-team if Johnson wanted to post up, usually resulting in wide-open jumpers.
The 6'9" Johnson also cleaned the boards efficiently, starting the fast break from end-to-end.
Amazingly, with the advantages he could have had, Johnson only took three shots the whole night, but it proved inconsequential as his spirit, leadership and unwavering confidence led the team to a 114-104 series-clinching win.
Magic's lucky number was 13 that night, as in the 13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists he notched on the way to the NBA Finals MVP.
Showing the true colors of one of his idols Oscar Robertson, Johnson convinced many he was the greatest all-around player of his time and, perhaps, of all time.
4.) Rondo's Game-Changing Triple-Double
What is known is that in Game 4 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals in Boston, Rondo put on a show that won't likely be seen again soon.
On that afternoon Rondo drove through the defense at will, passed like he knew every player's movements beforehand and rebounded better than any 6'1" point guard ever.
Cavs guards Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson stood awestruck at one point in the fourth quarter, marveling at the precision in his passes and the deceptive stop-and-go quickness that they just couldn't guard.
When it was all said and done Rondo had 29 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists and two steals—a remarkable triple-double in a decisive 97-87 home victory.
But it can't be overstated that his dominance wasn't just in his statistical production. It was in the diving, hustling, criss-crossing, mis-directing momentum he carried throughout the game—personifying the ultimate leader-by-example.
With no one on the Cavaliers to match Rondo, it became evident after Game 4 that the Celtics had just too many weapons for Cleveland.
James must have known this all too well during before his Game 6 meltdown in which he all but quit out on the court, assuring himself of the trade he desired deep-down.
Still, sometime after Game 4 ended and the modest yet jubilant Rondo walked toward the locker room, he must have been thinking, "Who's the Witness Now!"
3.) Frazier's Garden Variety Game 7
Walt "Clyde" Frazier was already a hero in New York City for his gutsy yet stylish play and his lightning-quick hands on defense.
But prior to the 1970 NBA Finals he had not yet become a legend.
In Game 5 of a star-studded veteran affair, in a series featuring the offense-savvy L.A. Lakers and their stars Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, the Knicks looked to be in control of the series.
Knicks' captain and center Willis Reed tore a hamstring muscle just eight minutes into the contest, and saw his team's hopes for winning in his absence sink.
Unable to play in Game 6, Reed's worst fears came true as a vengeful Chamberlain scored 45 points to lead his team to an easy 136-113 win.
Back in New York for Game 7, everyone wondered whether Willis Reed would suit up. Will Willis play? were the thoughts and chants streaming throughout Madison Square Garden and the city of New York.
Suddenly, just minutes before the game a hobbled but upright Reed walked out onto the court. The Garden exploded in a frenzy.
Reed started the contest, scoring the first two buckets of the game, but he knew someone would have to step up in a huge way for the Knicks to pull this one out.
That someone was Walt Frazier.
Like a human blind-spot, Frazier snuck up unseen by the Lakers' guards and then picked their pockets clean, finishing with a quick layup on the other end.
He cleaned the boards as well as a 6'3" guard could, dutifully making up the paint-vacancy left by Reed, who had to sit out after his career-defining entrance.
But it was in Frazier's passing game—the pure essence of New York basketball at the time—that the game was won.
Leading the team vocally and by example, Frazier called for the extra pass to swing around to forwards Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley and Dick Barnett, who nailed open jumpers like clockwork.
Evocative of the Celtics extra-pass offense, the sight of it must have driven Jerry West crazy.
It didn't matter though as Frazier was on a mission to finish what Reed started.
Then in the closing seconds of a 113-99 title-winning victory he realized he had and cried into Reed's arms.
Frazier's final stats read: 36 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists and, oh, eight or nine steals?
Since steal totals weren't kept at that time, it is up to the Knicks faithful and perhaps a few amateur statisticians to determine how many.
But all that really mattered to Frazier and the Knicks was that ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate prize.
2.) Hakeem's Dream Game
Facing off against third-year sensation Shaquille O'Neal in the 1995 NBA Finals, Hakeem Olajuwon didn't so much as flinch.
At least not like Shaq did.
After a dominant series filled with unbelievable three-point shooting and hard-nosed defense, Olajuwon's Houston Rockets sat in the driver's seat with a 3-0 series lead.
With Game 4 in Houston, the Rockets wanted nothing more than to clinch the repeat title in front of their hometown fans.
And no one wanted it more than the Dream.
Juking this way and that with an absurd assortment of fade-aways, turnarounds and jump hooks, Olajuwon turned the game into his own personal showcase.
He grabbed every loose rebound like it was a last possession and also saw the offense run through him in the pivot.
His agility and quickness of hands and feet, helped by along by a soccer upbringing in his native Nigeria, allowed him to do things not many seven-foot men could do, mainly, play just like a guard.
On the way to a 113-101 series-clinching victory, Olajuwon filled the stat-book like no center before him with 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and three steals on the way to his second NBA Finals MVP.
The only item absent from his dominance was in the shot-blocking department, of which he swatted none.
Although he didn't mean to get the zero in blocks, it should be said that in garnering 216 blocked shots in 57 games in the previous three playoffs, Olajuwon undoubtedly gained respect from his opposition, as well as a more important asset against inside shooters: fear.
After the series was over, Shaquille O'Neal admitted that he had too much respect for Olajuwon to do anything against him in that series, and said that he was, quite simply, the greatest center that ever played.
1.) Walton's Fantastic Fundamental Fill-Up
At No. 1 is the first "Big Fundamental" Bill Walton, who took his carefully honed team-oriented game up against the individual talent of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1977 NBA Finals.
The Sixers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series, but in Game 3 Walton dominated late in the game, getting an alley-oop pass from Blazer guard Bob Gross and then just as the other Blazer guard Dave Twardzik stole the Sixers inbounds pass he lobbed to Walton again for consecutive slams.
This was the real turning point in the series as Portland aimed to win four straight to take the crown.
After a holding off a late but furious rally by Julius Erving, who had 37 points in the contest, and the Sixers, the Blazers took Game 5 110-104 setting the stage for battle in the Rose Garden.
Before the game, Walton received a good luck call from his mentor at UCLA John Wooden, who simply stated, as was his specialty, the simple, obvious things one needed to do to win.
Wooden's phone call proved prophetic as Walton, a fundamental genius, did everything and more for the Blazers in Game 6.
Controlling the boards with a full but graceful effort while boxing out the likes of Sixers forwards George McGinnis, center Caldwell Jones and Bobby Jones, Walton snagged 23 rebounds.
Using jump hooks, soft bank-shots and textbook dunks, Walton dropped in 20 points.
And in controlling the pivot like a stationary point guard, dropping off to cutters and those on a screen and roll, Walton dished out seven assists.
He also swatted away eight shots as the fearful Sixers saw their season slip away, and after George McGinnis missed a game-tying shot with seconds left the 1977 NBA title belonged to Bill Walton and the Trail Blazers.
And somewhere, a young Tim Duncan smiles approvingly though not knowing why.
"Greatness, in the end, is not measured by personal achievements, but by personal sacrifice and an undying willingness to truly love what you do."
This quote hopefully represents the best of the current group of NBA players, as it certainly does to the Laker legends in this picture.
No matter the boundaries of team, city, state and country we can all be fans of the universality of devotion, respect and love.
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