It’s a shame No. 1 isn’t going to be what we hoped. Final seconds ticking off the clock as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook hugged at midcourt and confetti fell in The Peake. That would’ve been a good No. 1.
Still, the 2012 playoff provided some serious moments, some stuff we’ll remember for a long time. There were plays that you know you’ll sit around and talk about with someone 20 years from now. You’ll remember that time KD exploded in the fourth, or that big shot James Harden hit.
You live for the moments, those seconds of unfiltered jubilation you get watching your team. I know you’ve probably got your own, but here are my top 20 plays from this postseason run.
20. Serge Ibaka chases down the Jet
Of all the Thunder’s playoff games, Game 3 in Dallas might’ve been the most satisfying. Games 1 and 2 were painfully, brutally close, but in Game 3, the Thunder established some serious dominance. And nothing set the tone quite like Ibaka’s volleyball spike of Jason Terry’s fastbreak attempt.
19. Thabo rips Wade, goes reverse
Not gonna lie, all the plays from The Finals are a little bittersweet. Knowing the Thunder lost the series makes a lot of these plays a little less enjoyable, but Thabo’s rip of Wade and reverse finish was truly spectacular. Not to mention he was fouled and it should’ve been a bigger play than it was. Alas, the Thunder lost the game but Thabo gave a little hope for a second.
18. KD dunkin’ Duncan
Boom. That’s the word I thought of. BOOM.
17. Westbrook sends a warning shot
When Russell Westbrook rose high to cram on the Spurs early in Game 6, I figured that was going to be the play that sparked a big 20-4 run or something. Instead the Thunder suffered through a miserable first half before finally waking up in the second. Still, the dunk was rad.
16. Dr. Nasty becomes Mr. Perfect
Eleven-for-eleven. They could’ve all been dunks, and that would be incredibly impressive. I’m not sure we all appreciated this performance from Ibaka enough.
15. KD hammers in Game 5
Anyone notice what a good finisher KD has become? If he gets a step on someone and targets the rim, he can use his length and hops to dunk basically with two steps from the 3-point line.
14. Thunder Alley
For a couple nights, it was just about the coolest thing Thunder fans had done in a long line of very cool things.
13. Not this time, LeBron
An unstoppable force meets an immovable object at the rim. I’m surprised this didn’t cause some kind of massive explosion, like an atom was split or something.
12. Too small
I don’t know why, but I got such a crazy kick out of Durant hitting this turnaround, then taking his mouthpiece out to tell Dwyane Wade, “Too small.” Subtle trash talk is the best.
11. Harden for four
This shot should’ve been the dagger to finish the Spurs in Game 5, but alas, the Thunder did some lead blowin’.
10. The 16
How do you want it, Spurs? Because KD was showing the whole package in Game 4. The Thunder ran the same play 10 straight times at the Spurs, and they still had no idea how to stop it, even though Durant was basically telling them what was coming.
I said it after the game, but Westbrook’s Game 4 effort was one of the most incredible, impressive performances I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was watching a sports movie where you get inspired to be a better person or something when the credits roll. The passion Westbrook was playing with made me want to go lift weights or do a good deed for a stranger. I’ll never forget watching Westbrook compete like that and give every last drop of what he had.
8. Doodle Jumping the Lakers
My favorite play of the 9-0 run to top the Lakers in Game 2 was Durant’s go-go-gadget steal of Kobe’s lazy pass (one that Kobe called a “gamble” as if Durant did something wild and crazy to grab that), but the Doodle Jump shot to take a 2-0 series lead was the second game-winner for KD in six games.
7. The Beard pulls out the dagger
It all was breaking down, all falling apart. The Thunder were crumbling in San Antonio and looking at giving away the most deflating game in their history. The Thunder needed a play, and James Harden provided it. Bonus points for the crazy amount of swag he dropped in flashes those three fingers.
6. Westbrook, flying
I don’t know what my favorite part about this play was. Was it a) how Westbrook seemed to pause in midair while he caught the ball b) the force he threw the ball into the rim with c) the primal scream he unleashed or d) the spastic celebration? I’ll go with e) ALL OF IT.
5. Kid Clutch
The Thunder were in a hole for essentially all of Game 4 and were facing a tied series and rejuvenated Lakers. OKC couldn’t seem to close in on L.A. but a fourth quarter run somehow got the game tied. Durant picked off a bad Pau Gasol pass and once he got the ball isolated on Metta World Peace, every Thunder fan saw it coming. KD was going to drop that 3 and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Cold-blooded is the correct word for this shot. Just cold-blooded.
4. There goes Harden driving to the rim OH HOLY BEARD
James Harden erupted in Game 4 to help the Thunder sweep the Mavs scoring 29 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter. While people were griping about Harden’s performance in The Finals and trying to figure out if he wasn’t as good as originally thought, I continued to point to this game. Harden is a great, great player. He owned Game 4 in Dallas and this dunk was so out of character for him that I remember letting out one of those reactionary “OH S%&#!” that you do when caught completely off guard by an awesome play.
3. The Bounce from God
Just think if that shot doesn’t go down. The Thunder start the playoffs 0-1, lose homecourt to the Mavericks, have their confidence completely shaken and things might’ve been much different. Who knows.
2. On a Westbrook and a prayer
“Good steal, Russ. Oh, maybe a breakaway here… ah darn it, good fou— WHAT AHHHHH IT COUNTS YES!!!!!”
1. Perk brings The Finals to Oklahoma City
So the Thunder didn’t win a championship this season, but I’ll forever have this moment. I’ll never, ever forget sitting there and having a tidal wave of emotion drill me in the face when Perk finished that dunk. I’ve never been somewhere so loud and so electric as that. Not only were the Thunder going to the NBA Finals, but they had come back from a seemingly impossible 0-2 hole and toppled the mighty Spurs. KD embracing his family, Oklahoma City exploding. The Thunder didn’t raise a banner, but this moment was incredibly special regardless.