Top 10 Video Highlights from First Half of NBA Season

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2012

Top 10 Video Highlights from First Half of NBA Season

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    If you're looking for incredible passes, game-winning shots, rim-rattling slam dunks that leave the whole stadium shaking at its foundation and ridiculous feats of athleticism, you've come to the right place.

    The NBA can produce some pretty crazy highlights, and these are the 10 best of the first half of the 2011-2012 season.

    Make sure you've saved yourself a solid hour or so to look through the next 10 slides because you're going to want to watch each of these videos over and over again.

    Read on and enjoy!

10. Ricky Rubio with the Long Bounce Pass

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    Ricky Rubio has been absolutely sensational during this first half of his rookie season, and it would have been borderline blasphemous to leave him out of the top 10 entirely.

    Truthfully, there are a number of Rubio's plays that I could have put here. I could have focused on one of his number of through-the-legs or behind-the-back passes. I could have chosen his first big highlight as a pro: the alley-oop to Derrick Williams that was finished in a reverse slam.

    But this half-court bounce pass to Kevin Love stands out above the rest to me. The degree of difficulty of this pass is simply off the charts.

    Controlling the ball on the fast break with just one hand, Rubio rockets the one-handed bounce pass through a tiny window in the Charlotte Bobcats defense, and it hits Love in the perfect position for him to finish the play with an easy layup.

    There are really only a handful of players in the NBA who can make that pass—and that may be a generous number.

9. Kevin Love's Game-Winner

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    With just 1.5 seconds remaining in a tie game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Kevin Love popped out to the top of the key after a double screen tied up his defender.

    He calmly received the inbounds pass and launched up the high-arcing thee-pointer. After the buzzer went off and the red light filled the perimeter of the backboard, Love's shot dropped through the net and the Staples Center went into stunned silence, as the Minnesota Timberwolves had pulled off the improbable upset.

    Perhaps even more improbable than the upset is the fact the T-Wolves now have the No. 10 and No. 9 spot in my countdown of the top plays of the young NBA season. Who would have thought that at the beginning of the year?

    What really makes this play so great, though, is Love's reaction to the shot. He doesn't jump up and down and run wildly throughout the court. He just extends his arms out to the rafters with a steely expression on his face and absorbs the moment while his teammates mob him.

8. Kyrie Irving's Game-Winner

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    As great as Kevin Love's game-winner for the Minnesota Timberwolves was, Kyrie Irving's shot for the Cleveland Cavaliers was even better.

    The favorite for Rookie of the Year right now, Irving had to deal with the added pressure of a loss if he missed his shot. If Love's had clanked off the front of the iron, he would have had another chance in overtime. Plus, the degree of difficulty for Irving was significantly higher.

    In an isolation situation, Irving called Anderson Varejao over to screen his defender, spun beautifully to split the gap between the double-team and finished the left-handed tough layup over the outstretched arms of Brandon Bass.

    The only downside of this highlight was that it wasn't a buzzer-beater. But it was a game-winner, as the Boston Celtics would go on to miss the potential shot for victory 2.6 seconds later as the final whistle sounded.

    This was the first huge moment in the growing legend of the Cavs point guard. It won't be the last.

7. LeBron James Tip to Dwyane Wade for the Finish

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    After stealing the ball away from Dirk Nowitzki, Mario Chalmers led one of the more impressive fast breaks that has occurred in the NBA this year.

    Dribbling the ball up the left side of the court at full speed, the point guard spotted LeBron James running up the opposite side and gearing up for the alley-oop. As he's done so many times this year, Chalmers simply lobbed the ball up for LeBron.

    But LeBron decided that scoring would be too difficult in that situation and instead chose to make the perfect play and record another assist. Corralling the ball with only his right hand at the level of the rim, LeBron just tipped the ball right into the awaiting hands of Dwyane Wade, who finished the alley-alley-oop.

    If only Chalmers could have received partial credit for the assist here. At least he did get to have a firsthand view of creativity and athleticism working together in perfect harmony.

6. Jeremy Lin Beats the Raptors

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    I'll be honest here. If it weren't Jeremy Lin that hit this shot to beat the lowly Toronto Raptors, the play wouldn't be nearly as high on these rankings, if it made them at all.

    But who doesn't want to give props to the point guard who has suddenly burst onto the scene and made everyone love the "Linsanity"?

    Capping off a sensational run to get back into the game, Lin found himself in an isolation situation against Jose Calderon at the top of the key. As the seconds ticked off the clock, Lin sized up the opposing point guard and drilled a three-pointer right over the outstretched arms of Calderon.

    It was the perfect storybook ending to a movie that just doesn't seem ready to end yet.

5. Derrick Rose Is a Contortionist

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    I have no idea what makes Derrick Rose work.

    He routinely makes plays that leave my jaw on the ground and my hand scratching at my head as I try to figure out what in the world just happened. His body control and ability to finish around the basket despite the massive defenders trying to stop him is simply sublime.

    A perfect example of this set of skills occurred on Jan. 13 in the fourth quarter of a game against the Boston Celtics.

    Rose drove past Rajon Rondo, a terrific defender in his own right, and then absorbed contact from Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass while spinning and somehow maintaining control of the basketball. While falling backwards and under the rim, the reigning league MVP somehow got enough spin on the ball to kiss it off the glass and into the basket.

    This play was impressive enough in real time. But in slow motion it was simply otherworldly.

4. Kenneth Faried Finishes the No-Look, Over-the-Head Alley-Oop

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    We all know this play wouldn't have been possible without Kenneth Faried's dreadlocked hair.

    The rookie from Morehead State best known for his rebounding prowess showed off a different facet of his game as he picked up the loose ball and initiated the fast break by passing it ahead to Rudy Fernandez.

    Almost without hesitation, Fernandez lobbed the ball back over his head without even looking behind him to make sure he was throwing it in the right place. Faried reacted perfectly, elevating a Mile High into the air and finishing the alley-oop with only his right hand.

    It's a shame this play didn't get more recognition when it happened because it was a truly amazing display of chemistry and athleticism between a rookie forward and a young guard.

3. Kevin Durant Stuns the Dallas Mavericks

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    At the beginning of this clip, you can see Kevin Durant really screwing up by leaving his man in attempt to double-team Dirk Nowitzki and block the big man's inevitable shot attempt. But when Dirk used a masterful pump fake to get Durant into the air, he simply passed the ball backwards to a wide-open Vince Carter, who just happened to be Durant's original man.

    Carter drilled the go-ahead three-pointer to take a 102-101 Dallas Mavericks lead with 1.4 seconds left, and it looked like Durant might be the defensive goat.

    Not so fast, said the two-time reigning NBA scoring champion.

    Coming off an off-ball screen by James Harden, Durant took the ensuing inbounds pass and drilled an impossible fall-away three-pointer of his own as the buzzer sounded and the Oklahoma City Thunder escaped with a 104-102 victory.

    Now you may remember that I wrote a few slides ago about how cool Kevin Love's reaction was to his buzzer-beater. Kevin Durant's was even cooler.

    As the home crowd and the rest of his teammates erupted, Durant kept his cool and simply walked off the court slowly. His teammates mobbed him and everyone wanted to touch him, but Durant never took the stoic expression off his face and never sped up his gait. He's too cool for that.

    If Durant had spoken, he would have said something like, "Yeah guys. That was pretty awesome. But I hit shots like that all the time. It was no big deal."

    But it was. It really was.

2. LeBron James Jumps over John Lucas

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    Yeah, John Lucas isn't Frederic Weis, but LeBron James still jumped over another human being. That is not a typo. James jumped over a human being who just happens to play in the NBA.

    In the first quarter of a big game against the Chicago Bulls, a battle of titans in the Eastern Conference, LeBron came streaking in from the right side of the half-court set. Displaying the chemistry they've come to have, Dwyane Wade had ultimate confidence in his teammate and friend and just lobbed the ball up.

    Unfortunately, James didn't have a clear path to the rim.

    Fortunately, James is one of the best athletes in the history of the Association, so he went up and over Lucas instead of going around him.

    The result was one of the better highlights you'll see in the next decade of watching basketball. And just because he could, James only used one hand to catch the ball and throw it down for two points.

1. Blake Griffin Mozgovs Kendrick Perkins

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    This play set the standard by which all others will be judged for the rest of the NBA season.

    My words can't satisfactorily describe what Blake Griffin did to Kendrick Perkins, a defensive stopper unlike Timofey Mozgov, the subject of last year's domination.

    The only way you can truly enjoy this play is to watch the video over and over and over. I'm pretty sure I've spent a solid hour watching this clip.

    When I set out to complete this article, I had to budget in a little extra time because I knew I'd get caught up in watching the greatness of Griffin for far too long.

    I still didn't budget enough.

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