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Thursday, June 8, 2017

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Eyes On NBA: Ameen's Favorite Performances Of The 2017 NBA Playoffs

By @AmeenKnows

You know as I've watched these NBA Playoffs this year, everyone has been saying its the worst its been in a while. I, on the other hand, believe it to be the best in the last 2-3 years. People complain there's too many blowouts as if that isn't normal the past few seasons so I picked out my favorite individual performances. I've left off some notable stars, for example Russell Westbrook's 51 Point triple-double and some impressive performances by Steph Curry, but I really feel like I've put together a solid list. These are also in no particular order because this would be a completely different list if it was.

*Chris Paul 
(1st Round, Game 3 at Utah)

Chris Paul's status as a Super Star is often debated because of his inability to reach the Western Conference but me? I don't care about that at all. CP3 had to throw the team on his back after Blake Griffin injured his big toe in the second quarter. What followed was a masterful performance put on by CP3 in the second half when he put up 24 of his 34 points and led a 15-0 run in the 4th to take a 2-1 lead over Utah after Game 3.

*Kawhi Leonard 
(Western Conference Finals, Game 1 at Golden State)

-Kawhi Leonard has had many great games this postseason including a game that will also appear on this list later on, but the one I want to focus on here is his Game 1 performance against Golden State. The Spurs led by as many as 25 led by Leonard who held Kevin Durant in check while also adding 26-8-3 in just 23 minutes before being lost to an ankle injury for the rest of the series.

*LeBron James
(Round 1, Game 3 at Indiana)

-There's a reason they call him a king. LeBron James once again proved his otherworldly status by bringing back the Cavaliers from down 26 to win 119-114. With the Cavs struggling to get stops, Tyronn Lue opted to go with a better defensive unit and took Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love out of the game in the 3rd. What would follow seemed straight out of the NBA Jam video game as LeBron instantly caught heat, leading the Cavaliers to a 35 point quarter. He would finish the game with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists on 51% shooting while also shooting 50% from 3. And if you need one more impressive stat, LeBron scored or assisted on 73 points!

*Kevin Durant
(NBA Finals, Game 3 at Cleveland)

-This performance is still fresh in our minds and it actually snuck up on me. Kevin Durant had waited until the 4th quarter to get his first bucket of the second half. I even tweeted we needed to fill out a missing person's report for the guy who in the first 2 games had scored 71 points alone. Kevin Durant has been my favorite player since he was at Texas and I had seen him make some epic clutch shots, but none were bigger than this one. With less than a minute left, Durant took the ball and came up court for a pull up 3 over LeBron James that gave the Warriors a 1 point lead over the defending champions. While this shot will turn out to be a career defining moment, KD also put up 31 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists to bring the Warriors back and take a 3-0 advantage in the NBA Finals.

*John Wall vs Isaiah Thomas
(Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 2, Boston vs Washington)

-I think John Wall has had better performances in these playoffs, but the reason I picked this game was because it was an epic point guard duel with Isaiah Thomas putting up a career performance in the game. John Wall had the edge on IT all night, coming down and attacking the heart of the Celtics to finish with 40 points. However, IT would not be denied as he outscored Wall 29-5 in the fourth quarter and overtime period. Thomas was brilliant in the fourth, scoring 11 points in the first 5 minutes of the period. Wall started the game off hot, scoring 19 points in the first half, accounting for 33 of the Wizards' 42 points. He also added 13 assists to his final stat line. IT finished with a Celtics playoffs franchise record of 53 points.

*Mike Conley vs Kawhi Leonard 
(Round 1, Game 4, Memphis vs San Antonio)

-Mike Conley has long been recognized as one of the league's most underrated players. The Grizzlies gave him the richest deal in NBA History this past offseason and people went nuts. Regardless of your feelings on the deal, Conley showed his worth that night as he put up 35 points on 56% shooting to go with 9 rebounds and 8 assists all while trading buckets with Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 43 and kept the Spurs in the game. Marc Gasol's tip in game winner also over shadowed Conley's big performance for many who had not watched the entire game, but Conley went off to help keep the Grizzlies in the series.

*Kevin Durant
(Western Conference Semifinals, Game 3 at Utah)

-The atmosphere in this game was electric. The Jazz started this game off slow but went into halftime with a 50-49 lead. Stephen Curry was pretty much held in check, only scoring 23 points on 6/20 shooting. The Jazz took a brief 75-74 lead with the crowd going bat shit insane and then Kevin Durant demanded the ball. Durant had already put up an impressive 22 in the first half, but he was far from finished. Durant and Curry hit back to back 3's to give the Dubs the lead they never let go of. The Jazz, who put up their best game of the series, were simply not enough to stop an aggressive, attacking Durant who finished the game with 38 points and 13 rebounds. This game further proved why the Warriors were simply unfair with Durant as the Splash Bros combined to go 7/29 from the field.

*Kyrie Irving
(Eastern Conference Finals, Game 4 vs Boston)

-Oddly, the Celtics were playing much better without star point guard Isaiah Thomas and were even able to steal Game 3 on the Cavaliers home court. In Game 4, it seemed like the Celtics were on their way to stealing another one, holding a 10 point lead at the half. But that bad, bad man affectionately known as Uncle Drew, would not allow it. Playing on a tender ankle with LeBron James on the bench in foul trouble sounds like a recipe for disaster right? Wrong. Irving caught instant fire, scoring 21 points in the third quarter. This included a 19 point stretch in less than 5 minutes and 33 in 19 minutes. He made 6 straight lay ups, two 3's and a free throw in a span of 4:48 then came down and hit another 3 pointer in the closing second of the quarter. Overall he finished with 42 points on 68% shooting.



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