I’m going to be real. This list is not the be-all-end-all of NBA clutch playoff moments. This list consists of the top 5 moments that happened in the last ten years. I’m only 23, so while I would love to add the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, KG, and even the early part of Kobe’s career, I just can’t. I either wasn’t born yet, or I can’t remember what it was like to watch them play in those moments.
I am definitely part of the generation that yells “KOBE” when shooting a shot or throwing a paper ball into the trash can. I missed the whole first half of his career as number 8. I was 9 when he switched to 24, and while I was watching basketball back then, its significance went right over my head.
Please know that I am not trying to diss the historical greats of the game, but I can’t speak on something that I don’t really remember. So while this blog is titled “Top 5 NBA clutch playoff moments” know that there is a tiny little asterisk saying “within the last ten years.” Now that I cleared that up, without further ado.
Clutch Moment #5 – Damian Lillard putting OKC in their place (2019)
Game 5 of the Blazers vs. the Thunder in 2019 western conference first-round playoff series, the Blazers were down 115-112 with less than 30 seconds on the clock left. Westbrook had missed his shot to further the lead. Aminu passed the ball out to Lillard, and he ran down the clock to sink a 37-foot-three-pointer. Buckets. The stadium went bananas.
Anyone who watches either team knows that the 2-star point guards, Lillard and Westbrook, have beef. So the Blazers were moving on to the next round. Lillard set a record stat line of 50 points, five rebounds, five assists in the game, and got to go head-to-head with one of his biggest rivals in Westbrook. He also got to do it all at home in front of all of the Blazers’ fans.
The picture of his teammates jumping on him while he deadpanned into the camera like Jim from the Office is probably hanging in everybody’s office in Portland. Truly a clutch moment in the NBA but especially for the city of Portland.
Clutch Moment #4 – Kawhi game 7 buzzer beat against the Sixers (2019)
Everyone knows how incredibly talented Kawhi Leonard is. He has been the driving force to stopping arguably 2 of the greatest teams to be put together in basketball.
He stopped the Miami Heat from threepeating in 2014 when he was still with the Spurs, and he did it again in 2019 against the Warriors. He is an absolute machine on offense and defense, but he didn’t make this list because he is a “Dynasty Killer” or a machine. It’s because he has the only game 7 buzzer beat in NBA history. A shot that silenced a stadium.
Simmons was guarding Kawhi as he drove right and got switched to Embiid. He just kept going right until he launched himself backward at the corner behind the arc. He shot what is basically a fadeaway jumper while a little off balance and guarded by one of the game’s biggest big men.
Game 7 to see who goes on to the Eastern Conference Finals. The ball looked short, and then it bounced off the rim. It danced around and bounced four times before deciding to go in the hoop, but the stadium went quiet on that second bounce.
I think anyone watching the game went quiet. The place erupted because, for only the second time in franchise history, the Raptors were going to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Clutch Moment # 3 – The Chase down (2016)
It seems that most clutch moments in sports are always highlighting offense and very rarely defense, but Lebron James made everyone talk about how he blocked Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of the Finals.
Less than 2 minutes on the clock and the game was close. Curry passed to Iggy thinking it would be an easy layup on a breakaway but Lebron, as the force of nature he is, was there to stop him. He just straight up glassed him. And while this may not have been a buzzer-beater or a play to run out the clock, it did turn the tide of the game.
I mean that whole series was the tide turning but that’s beside the point. But that one defense play really did its job. I’m not one to speak for people but after that block with less than 2 minutes left in the game, the Cavs looked reinvigorated. It was the final nail in the Warriors worst beat down in modern history. Lebron punctuated his victory over the Warriors with the stop of a lifetime.
Clutch Moment #2 – Goosebumps (2013)
On sports Twitter, there is a question that gets asked often.” What sports moment still gives you goosebumps?” Or something along those lines. And without a doubt, this is that moment for me. It is the pinnacle of a feel-good hype sports moment for most of South Florida.
I can still hear the announcers calling the play as it happens. “James catches. Puts up a three. Won’t go. Rebound Bosh. Back out to Allen. His three-pointer…BAAAANG!” Just typing it out gave me goosebumps.
It was game 6 against the Spurs. Tim Duncan owned that night only to get robbed of it by Lebron, but this moment isn’t about Lebron. He missed his three. It wasn’t a horrible shot considering how little time was left, but Ray Allen and Chris Bosh really saved the Heat’s dream that night.
The Heat were down in the series 3-2, so a loss here meant that the Spurs would be the champions. And with 7 seconds left in possibly the last game of the series Ray Allen, with ice in his veins, drained one of the most clutch shots in NBA history. But that’s not new for him.
Ray Allen is a prolific shooter. His name might not carry as much weight as Curry, but he is definitely a top 10 shooting guard of all time.
It was Bosh that was the backbone of this moment. He was part of the Big 3, the reason the rest of the league hated Miami, but he never got as much recognition as Lebron or Wade. Or at least to me, he didn’t. But he was so good at doing the same things for the team, and at this moment, it paid off. That one measly rebound and assist to Allen didn’t win us the game but took us into overtime where Lebron could take over.
Man, I love this moment so much. I know people hated the Heat for “cheating” by creating a superteam, but as a native South Floridan, it was everything to me. I mean, look at this video of 2 Miami heat legends talking about the shot earlier this year.
Clutch Moment #1 – Cleveland’s First Trophy (2016)
It was a sad day when Lebron announced that he was leaving the Heat. He gave us two championships while he was with the Heat, but I understood why he wanted to go back to the Cavaliers. He wanted to win a ring for his city. Who could blame him?
Lebron and the Cavs were down 3-0 in the Finals best of 7. One more loss, and it was over. No one thought that they could do it. I mean, no team in NBA history had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, but that’s what you get when you underestimate Lebron.
But that’s not what I want to talk about; I want to point out the clutch mindset the Cavs needed to have to dig themselves out of their hole. One loss, and it is over against a team that would go on to absolutely dominate the league. Do you know how mentally strong you have to be not to lose hope and give up? I can’t even imagine. But I saw it. We all saw it. We saw how the Cavs banded together, how Lebron went into his killer mode and had the best series of his life for a championship that probably means the most to him.
Yeah, he had already won two others in Miami but being a kid from Akron who worked his butt off and eventually brought a trophy to his own city? That has to be the best feeling in the world.
So, of course, there were clutch moments scattered all over the series, but I think the most clutch thing I have ever seen was the absolute stubborn will of Lebron, Kyrie, and the other Cavs to not lose.
Those are more top 5 clutch NBA moments? Which one do you think should be we add to the list?