Ranking the Best Series-Ending Shots in the NBA Playoffs Since 2000

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2020

Ranking the Best Series-Ending Shots in the NBA Playoffs Since 2000

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    Kawhi Leonard's heroics eliminated the 76ers in the 2019 playoffs.
    Kawhi Leonard's heroics eliminated the 76ers in the 2019 playoffs.Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Advancing in any NBA playoff series is an accomplishment, but the moment it becomes official isn't always exciting. There are any number anticlimactic ways to end a series, such as a sweep or a blowout, where the final seconds are merely a formality.

    Sometimes, though, the closing minute is packed with drama.

    Over the last 20 years of the NBA playoffs, we've identified the best series-clinching shots. To qualify, the shot must be a go-ahead basket in the final minute of a clinching gamewhich is not necessarily exclusive to a Game 7 showdown. Not eligible for inclusion: game-tying shots or clutch baskets with a lead.

    In addition to the shot's difficulty, the game number within the series, the timing of the series and outcome of the winning team's playoff run factored into the order as well.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett's Jumper Buries the Hawks (2012)

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    Ths isn't exactly a glamorous shot, but it matches the criteria!

    Kevin Garnett racked up 28 points and 14 rebounds in this Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks. His turnaround jumper gave the Celtics an 80-79 edge, and they ultimately held off the Hawks because Al Horford missed a free throw with 2.3 seconds left.

    Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, but LeBron James and the Miami Heat bounced the Celtics in the conference finals.

10. Calvin Booth Silences the Jazz (2001)

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    Propelled by future Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks ended a decade-long postseason drought in 2000-01. Calvin Booth, though, became the hero.

    At the time, the NBA played a best-of-five series in the first round. This was an elimination game between the Mavs and Utah Jazz.

    Utah held an 83-82 lead, but Karl Malone missed a jumper and Nowitzki corralled the rebound. Dallas guard Michael Finley passed out of a double-team and found Calvin Booth, who jumped past Malone and banked in a layup. Booth had scored exactly one point before the game-winning shot.

    Dallas bowed out to the San Antonio Spurs in the next round.

9. Chauncey Billups' OT Dagger (2003)

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    Overtime belonged to Chauncey Billups in Game 6 of the 2003 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

    Billups knocked down a trifecta of three-pointers during the extra session, including a tie-breaking three with 15.2 seconds left to put the Detroit Pistons ahead 92-89. Allen Iverson's missed layup at the other end sealed the Philadelphia 76ers' fate.

    Although the New Jersey Nets swept Detroit in the conference finals, the Billups-led Pistons won the 2004 NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference in 2005.

8. Ray Allen's Triple Knocks Out the Nets (2014)

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    One year after hitting one of the greatest NBA Finals shots ever, Ray Allen knocked down a valuable triple once again.

    During the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Heat enjoyed a 3-1 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets. But as the clock ticked below a minute to play, Brooklyn had a chance to force a Game 6.

    Allen ensured that would not happen.

    LeBron James passed to Mario Chalmers, who elevated for a shot but instead passed to Allen. Joe Johnson couldn't quite reach Allen, whose three-pointer found the net and handed Miami a 93-91 advantage it would protect for the last 32 seconds.

    The Heat ultimately lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals, and then LeBron left Miami and returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

7. Travis Best Bounces the Bucks (2000)

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    If this three-pointer bounces the wrong way, the Indiana Pacers probably don't win the Eastern Conference in 2000.

    "Thank God it went down," Travis Best said years later.

    With the Pacers trailing 94-93 and Reggie Miller at 41 points, Best wasn't the likely hero. He was 2-of-14 from the floor at that point, and he had just missed a jumper mere seconds before this attempt.

    Nevertheless, his corner three fell to put the Pacers ahead.

    Although the Milwaukee Bucks had a few desperation chances, Ray Allen's buzzer-beating three missed the mark. The Pacers eventually lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

6. LeBron Eliminates D-Rose and the Bulls (2011)

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    After losing the opening game of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals to the Chicago Bulls, the Heat ripped off four straight wins.

    LeBron and Dwyane Wade closed the series in style.

    Miami faced a 12-point deficit with 3:14 remaining in Game 5, but James and Wade combined to score 16 straight points for the Heat. LeBron capped that run with a deep jumper, silencing the United Center crowd while pushing Miami to an 81-79 lead.

    Derrick Rose missed a free throw on the next possession that could've evened the score. The Heat moved on the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Mavericks.

5. Chris Paul Shocks the Spurs (2015)

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    The defending-champion Spurs took a 3-2 series lead on the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2015 postseason. But the Clippers fought back, won Game 6 in San Antonio and rode Chris Paul's clutch shots to victory in Game 7.

    At the buzzer in the third quarter, CP3 banked in a go-ahead three-pointer. And as the final seconds of regulation ticked away, he drove past Danny Green and tossed up a one-handed shot.

    Awkward yet effective.

    The shot broke a 109-109 deadlock, and Matt Barnes swatted a desperation alley-oop for Kawhi Leonard to seal the dramatic win.

    Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals but lost to the Rockets in a seven-game series.

4. Lillard Sinks the Rockets (2014)

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    During the 2014 playoffs, five of the eight first-round series required a Game 7. The most dramatic moment, though, happened in a Game 6 between the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets.

    With exactly one second remaining, Rockets forward Chandler Parsons made a layup to give Houston a 98-96 lead. Portland called a timeout to advance the ball and drew up a play for Damian Lillard, then a second-year player and rising star.

    Lillard screamed past Parsons, received the inbounds pass from Nicolas Batum and fired a fading three-pointer at the buzzer.

    Nothing but net.

    Though the Blazers lost to the Spurs in the conference semifinals, Lillard's shot is one of the rare series-ending buzzer-beaters in NBA history. But as you'll see next, he has two.

3. Damian Lillard Sends the Thunder Home (2019)

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    Five years later, Lillard took a bad shot.

    Well, that's what Thunder star Paul George said following the Oklahoma City Thunder's loss to Portland in Game 5 of this 2019 first-round series. It's a completely reasonable opinion, since few players are ever looking for a 37-footer at the buzzer when they had plenty of time to attack the rim.

    Lillard wanted it, though. And he buried it, propelling the Blazers to a 118-115 victory and 4-1 series win.

    Portland toppled the Denver Nuggets in a seven-game series, but the Golden State Warriors swept Lillard and the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.

2. Kawhi's Friendly Bounce (2019)

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    After forcing a trade from San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard landed with the Raptors and immediately turned them into a contender.

    One fortunate shot certainly didn't hurt, either.

    In this Game 7, the 76ers evened the score at 90 apiece with four seconds left. Toronto called a timeout to advance the ball. Marc Gasol tossed a pass to Kawhi, who scurried past Ben Simmons and elevated for a fadeaway in the corner over Joel Embiid.

    Four bounces and a hushed arena later, the ball dropped through the net to give the Raptors a legendary 92-90 win.

    Kawhi then carried Toronto to series wins over the Bucks and Warriors, bringing home the franchise's first-ever NBA title.

1. Kyrie Irving's Winner vs. Golden State (2016)

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    Every day, any number of children around the world are acting out this moment: It's the NBA Finals. Game 7. Championship on the line. Tie game, almost no time left.

    Kyrie Irving had a chance to live it.

    Just a few possessions earlier, LeBron James had chased down Andre Iguodala for the memorable block. After misses from both the Cavs and Warriors, the score remained at 89-89.

    Right as the clock hit a minute, Irving started to put pressure on Stephen Curry. Dribble, dribble, crossover, hesitation, shot andin the words of ESPN's Mike Breenit's good! The Cavs moved ahead 92-89 and ultimately won 93-89.

    Kyrie's shot capped Cleveland's comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, which is the first time it had ever happened in the NBA Finals.


    Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.