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Top 5 Postseason Heroes (So Far)
Posted By Joel Brigham On May 7, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
We knew this was going to be an interesting postseason. With the rollercoaster of a regular season we just experienced, and with the title looking as wide-open as it has in years, there was just no way this May and June wouldn’t be insane. Four games into the first round, things have been just as good as advertised and already we’ve witnessed some of the most memorable games in recent playoff history. Memorable games breed heroes, and today’s top five is a list of the biggest heroes we’ve seen in the 2012 postseason so far.
So here they are, in descending order, the Top 5 Heroes of the Playoffs (So Far):
#5 – Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies – Going against Gay is the fact that he’s missed two game-winners in three games. If he had made those two shots, the Grizzlies would be up 3-0 for the series and we’d be talking about this guy as the most heroic player of the first round. But he did miss those shots, and that hurts him, even if he has hit some other huge fourth quarter shots that put his team in a position to have a shot in the first place. Some of those threes he hit late in Game 3, for example, were downright unbelievable. That game shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but Gay kept Memphis in it. He did everything he could to staunch the bleeding in Game 1 too, and really has done some incredible work this series to help lead his team. Well, everything except hit those two game-winners.
#4 – LeBron James, Miami HEAT – We might have to stop giving James a hard time for blowing it in the fourth quarter because he’s been pretty good in the final quarters of Miami’s first-round series with the New York Knicks. Fourth quarter heroics weren’t necessary in Game 1, obviously, but in Game 3, he outscored the entire Knicks team 17-14 in the final period to fuel the HEAT to a win, and even though Miami lost Game 4, James actually hit some big shots in the fourth then, too. He’s been an absolutely dominating presence in the first round, and surprisingly heroic when it counts. If he keeps this up in later rounds, the HEAT may win themselves a championship, and that could completely change the way James is viewed.
#3 – Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics – Without Ray Allen in Game 1 or Game 2, and no Rajon Rondo in the latter, a lot of the burden fell on Paul Pierce to hold down the fort when it mattered most. His 36 points and 14 rebounds in that Game 2 was a huge reason the Celtics pulled even in the series, and several of those 36 were big-time buckets. Pierce hit plenty more big shots in Game 3, both in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and now with the Celtics up 3-1 in the series it looks like Boston is on the fast track to Round 2. Pierce is perhaps the main reason for that.
#2 – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder – That ugly, off-balance game-winner in Game 1 was the perfect exclamation point to one of the weirdest first couple of days for a postseason in playoff history. But let’s face it—that shot was great, and despite the fact that Oklahoma City recently rounded out a sweep of the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, most of those four games were pretty hotly contested. It seemed like every time the Thunder started to pull away, Durant was right in the middle of it, meaning he not only was the hero of Game 1, but he played a heroic role in Games 2 through 4 as well. Russell Westbrook and James Harden deserve a certain measure of credit, too, but Durant and his 26.5 points per game in the first round get the majority of the praise here.
#1 – Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers – We could just look at Game 1 of that Grizzlies/Clippers series and hand Chris Paul the crown for biggest postseason hero, no questions asked. Nobody would say a word about it, especially if they watched that comeback, with the Clippers down 24 with just nine minutes to go in the game. Paul did everything—hit big shots, found the open man, played great defense—and that victory is a direct result of his having been on the team. Without him, this is a non-story. Memphis walks away with Game 1, easy-peasy.
The fact that he did the exact same things in a close Game 3 puts the nail in it. This guy has saved the Clippers in two games simply because he imposed his will in the fourth quarter. That, folks, is a hero, and Paul is the biggest one of this postseason so far. He’ll get even more credit if he ushers LAC to their first playoff series win since 2006, and if he gets them out of the second round, it’ll be for only the fourth time in franchise history, and the first time since 1976. If that’s not heroic, nothing is.
Nick Young, L.A. Clippers – The kid hit some huge shots in the fourth quarter of that historic Game 1. That gets him mentioned on the list, even if that was his best game of the series by far.
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers – Nothing out of the ordinary from Kobe Bryant—just a ton of points. Nothing in the clutch, necessarily, but he is leading the playoffs in scoring, and his Lakers have looked as good as they have all year. Bryant and teammate Andrew Bynum have everything to do with that.
Jason Richardson, Orlando Magic – Nobody gave Orlando much of a shot in the series with Indiana, and truth be told they’re probably cooked. But J-Rich hit a couple of huge threes in Game 1 that fueled the Magic to a surprising upset road victory. Without him and those huge shots, this series might have been a sweep.
George Hill, Indiana Pacers – Two big free-throws in overtime in Game 4 made Hill the hero of that particular game, and he’s had some big moments in earlier games, as well. Danny Granger and David West have had big moments for the Pacers, too, but Hill is the one who hit the biggest shots with the most pressure, and that’s why he’s the Indy player mentioned here.
The really amazing thing here? We’ve got this many candidates for a list of heroes just four games into the postseason. Who will add themselves to this list next? The fact that we have no idea how to answer that question just punctuates how nuts the playoffs can be. And that, folks, is a truly beautiful thing.
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