Best NBA Playoff Performances
In only the first round of the NBA Playoffs in 2011, there have been many incredible individual performances. In the time of year when winning is all that matters, most of the memorable performances come when the player leads his team to victory. However, there are some performances where an individual gave every possible ounce of what he could give, only for teammates to come up short and his team comes away on the losing end. Both are represented here.
The common denominator is the fact that these performances are what make the NBA Playoffs incredible.
Kevin Durant – Game Five – 41 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists in 42 minutes.
For the first time in Oklahoma City and the Kevin Durant era, the Thunder advance in the Playoffs. Of course, they advanced numerous times in Seattle as the Supersonics, but this is a new era. In a very entertaining five game series with the still new-look Denver Nuggets, the Thunder prevail after Durant takes matters into his own hands to finish the series as soon as possible.
The Nuggets knew Durant was the focus, but couldn’t stop him, as he shot 14 of 27 from the field and hit 11 of 12 free throws. To show how dominant Durant was in this game, Russell Westbrook was the second-leading scorer for the Thunder with 14 points. Even more impressive, in his 42 minutes, Durant did not register a single turnover.
Derrick Rose – Game Two – 36 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists in 39 minutes.
The Indiana Pacers put up a fight, surprising the Chicago Bulls some, but in this game Derrick Rose was able to turn on the magic and lead his team to a victory. Honestly, the Bulls had no business winning this game with 22 turnovers and only shooting 39% from the field, but Rose was too much for the Pacers to handle.
With six turnovers of his own in this game, Rose was a part of the problem for Chicago early, but with how much he handles the ball and the responsibility on his shoulders, it is somewhat understandable. However, when it was time to make the big plays during crunch time, Rose was able to deliver time and time again. This really was an MVP-type performance and, soon enough, will be considered as such when the award is officially his to hoist.
Dwight Howard – Game One – 46 points, 19 rebounds in 45 minutes.
One man can only do so much, right? Dwight Howard really was Superman in Game One, doing everything he could to help his team get a victory. However, 46 points and 19 rebounds weren’t enough, as the Magic lost the game and home court advantage by losing by 10 points to the Atlanta Hawks.
While it hasn’t always been the case, Howard’s Game One performance is a testament to the fact that he doesn’t have the supporting cast to compete with the big three teams in the East, namely the Miami HEAT, the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. Many thought Orlando was next on the list after those three, but a first-round elimination proves otherwise and the Howard rumors heat up even more.
Rajon Rondo – Game Three – 15 points, 20 assists.
After the Boston Celtics took a 2-0 lead in their first-round matchup against the New York Knicks, they didn’t relax. After all, all they had done is hold serve and with the series shifting to Madison Square Garden, the Knicks would have two games at home to tie the series up. Yet, common knowledge shows the Celtics incredibly rarely relax.
Rajon Rondo, the team’s point guard and floor general, led the charge in New York, racking up an astounding 20 assists to go along with his 15 points. It’s somewhat of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario in Boston, isn’t it? Do the veteran leaders of the team—such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen—make Rondo a better point guard or does Rondo’s incredible point guard play make the older players remain youthful? In this game, Pierce had 38 points while Allen had 32, mostly due to Rondo’s floor leadership.
Zach Randolph/Marc Gasol – Game One – 49 points, 23 rebounds 6 assists. 40 minutes each.
As the eighth seed in the Western Conference, not many expected the Grizzlies to put up much of a fight against the number one seed San Antonio Spurs. After all, the Spurs finished the regular season with the best record in the league and, when healthy, were rolling. Then came Game One of the Playoffs.
In San Antonio’s house, the Memphis Grizzlies won their first-ever Playoff game in stunning fashion, led by their own twin towers of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. While the Spurs played without Manu Ginobili, the Grizzlies pounded the ball inside to these two players, earning them a win on the road in the Playoffs, their first postseason win and a spot on this list together.
Be sure to follow Stephen Litel on Twitter @stephenlitel.