The playoffs were special. So many memories, so many moments. Things to talk about for years to come, things to lie about how you were totally there to see in person even if you weren’t.
Kevin Durant started making moves toward already becoming a playoff legend. (Seriously, KD had a pretty unreal postseason when you look back on it.) There were dunks, blocks, great passes and just the type of stuff that is almost hard to watch because it’ll make you miss this team a whole lot already.
It didn’t end up the way we all dreamed, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some fantastic plays and moments to relive. Here are my top 10.
10. Eyes in the back of his beard
The punctuation to a great seven-game series victory over the Grizzlies. Game 7 was so terrifying but with a wonderful second half close, the Thunder punched a ticket into the Western Conference Finals. And this no look dime from James Harden to a trailing Kevin Durant was the icing on an already tasty cake.
9. Not today Nene
Serge Ibaka didn’t have the best series against the Mavericks, but don’t forget what an incredible influence he had on the opening round against the Nuggets. He blocked ??? shots in the series, including nine — count ’em, nine — in Game 5. The best one though was his stuff of Nene in the closing minutes that kept the Thunder breathing and opened the door for a legendary moment from KD.
8. Fear the great facial hair
OKC’s lone win in the Western Conference Finals came with some harumphing and media manufactured controversy as Scott Brooks sat Russell Westbrook the entire fourth quarter as the Thunder bench (plus KD) closed out the Mavs. What made this possible was an incredible takeover from Harden who showcased his insane skillset in Games 2 and 5. In Game 2 he scored 23 points and hit a number of tough, contested shots to give OKC a huge win.
7. Russ finishes the half with a flourish
If you were looking for one play to really showcase Russell Westbrook, I’d suggest this one as at least a candidate. Always playing off the cuff, always ready to make a play. And in the Thunder’s Game 1 win over the Nuggets in the opening round, Westbrook punctuated the first half by breaking Denver’s back in the closing seconds with a signature tomahawk.
6. The Backpack
Somehow, this become one of The Stories of the playoffs. Kevin Durant and that dang backpack. He’s worn it all season after road games but you don’t take to a press conference table during the regular season. When he showed up after Game 3 in Denver with it on, immediately it had people talking. Why’s he wearing it? Is that for style? What’s in there? And when James Harden joined him with a backpack on after Game 5’s crushing defeat in Dallas, I just about fell out of my chair laughing.
5. Nick denies Dirk
Really and truly, this wasn’t even close to Nick Collison’s best play of the postseason. And that says it all about Nick. I could really think of only one “highlight” type of play and it’s kind of just a placeholder for his fantastic effort against some really talented players. His work against Zach Randolph was remarkable. His effort against Dirk — who even with Collison playing incredible defense had a historic series — was awesome. It’s never flashy, but it’s always so very important. Honestly, Collison might’ve been OKC’s best player in the postseason. Seriously.
4. KD teaches us English
This was just sick. I don’t know what else to say. Nasty, filthy, dirty, disgusting… sick. That kind of basketball ability is just superhuman.
3. Icing the Grizzlies in triple-overtime
Cross, cross back again between the legs, behind the back, pull-up… pure money. What KD did to Shane Battier in triple-overtime of Game 4 against the Grizzlies was pretty much mean. For a 6-11 guy to show off that kind of handle and then rise into a money jumper. Unfair.
2. The Nine
It was one of KD’s first legendary playoff moments. The type of finish that we’ll be talking about for a long, long time. With his team facing a potential return to Denver and a scary Game 6, KD took over Game 5. It started with Durant setting up Harden for a huge 3. Then KD handled his business, scoring the Thunder’s last nine points to clinch the series. And afterwards, he made sure everyone knew exactly whose team this is.
1. KD hammers over Haywood
Magic Johnson said it was the greatest playoff dunk ever. I’m not sure about that, but considering the circumstances — the Western Conference Finals — and the spark it created for his team, KD’s stuff over Brendan Haywood certainly ranks up there. It’s got to be the best dunk of this postseason and probably the top poster of the entire season.