The most memorable moments of the NBA 2007 postseasonPosted: Updated:
With the NBA's postseason coming to a close, we thought it was time to take a look back at some of the moments that will most stand out in our minds as the years go by. So, without further adieu, we present the eight most memorable moments of the 2007 postseason.
Mavs go down
Marcio Jose Sanchez/APThe first round exit of Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs will go down as one of the biggest playoff upsets in NBA history.Coming off a 2006 NBA Finals appearance and a remarkable 67-win regular season, the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks entered the 2007 postseason with their eyes on an NBA title and expectations of a deep playoff run. Unfortunately for them, the upstart Golden State Warriors had other ideas.
Despite the Mavs' regular season dominance, Don Nelson's Warriors had their number, sweeping the teams' regular season series. After sneaking into the postseason on the final day of the regular season, the Warriors used their run-and-gun style to keep the NBA's regular season kings off balance and make Dirk Nowitzki look like anything but an MVP. Golden State stole Game 1 in Dallas and sent the Mavs into a panic. Five games later, Baron Davis and the Warriors joined the 1994 Denver Nuggets and 1999 New York Knicks as just the third No. 8 seed ever to knock off a No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs.
It was a trying season for the defending NBA champions, with Shaquille O'Neal missing time in the first half, coach Pat Riley taking an extended leave of absence and a dislocated shoulder knocking Dwyane Wade out for most of the second half. However, everyone was back for the playoffs, creating hope that Miami could again make a deep playoff run.
That hope didn't last long. With Wade still looking tentative and everyone else looking suddenly slow, Luol Deng led the Bulls in making quick work of the defending champs, sweeping them out of the postseason. The Bulls' sweep of the Heat, combined with the Warriors' victory over the Mavs, marked the first time since 1957, when the Philadelphia Warriors and Fort Wayne Pistons suffered early exits, that both Finals teams from the previous season were knocked out of the playoffs the following season.
Jessica, Woody and the magic of the 'O'-rena
Marcio Jose Sanchez/APWe won't soon forget the thrill of watching Baron Davis feed off the energy of the yellow sea in the 'O'-rena.Stars like Jessica Alba and Woody Harrelson, playoff fixtures at the 'O'-rena haven't often been seen courtside in Oakland in recent years. But their presence wasn't what made the 2007 playoffs so special in Golden State. The Warriors magical playoff run was about more than just a team peaking at the right time or taking advantage of a favorable matchup. It was about inspiration, specifically from the ravenous, passionate, yellow sea of fans inside Golden State's Oracle Arena. After enduring an arduous 13-year wait between postseason appearances, Bay Area basketball fans let it all hang out this time around, giving the Warriors the greatest homecourt advantage of any postseason squad.
Leaving the bench
Of all the memories we'll take away from this postseason, the image of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw jumping away from the Suns' bench after Robert Horry's Game 4 forearm shiver on Steve Nash, then quickly scurrying back, while likely stand out in the minds of NBA fans the longest, particularly those in Arizona. Knicks fans still look back painfully at their 1997 second round playoff loss to the Heat, wondering what could have been had Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Allan Houston, John Starks and others not left the bench during the Game 5 brawl in Miami. Suns fans too will likely look back wistfully at the one-game suspensions of Stoudemire and Diaw. The Western Conference semifinal between the Suns and Spurs was widely looked at as the true determinant of the NBA champion. Would having Stoudemire and Diaw available for a critical Game 5 in San Antonio changed things? We'll never really know.
Jazz get a new tune
Since John Stockton and Karl Malone decided to hang 'em up, basketball had not quite been the same in Salt Lake City. That all changed this postseason. We all knew that the Jazz had assembled a great deal of promising talent, but it became apparent in their run to the Western Conference final just how high their ceiling is. Carlos Boozer transformed from a quality rebounder and post scorer to an unstoppable force in the paint. Deron Williams evolved from a solid, young point guard into a game changing, playmaking force on both the perimeter and inside drives. Down 2-0, then 3-2 to the Rockets in the first round, the Jazz came dangerously close to never getting that opportunity to grow. Instead, their resiliency breathed new life into music's most timeless genre. Jazz will always be classic, but these Jazz have an exciting new sound.
The night the King ascended to his throne
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe vaunted Pistons defense was rendered helpless in its attempt to stop LeBron James.No individual performance stands out more from these playoffs than LeBron James' 48-point effort in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. With the Cavs at a critical juncture of the series, needing a victory in Detroit to avoid a 3-2 hole, King James put the team on his royal shoulders, turning the Palace at Auburn Hills into his own personal court. James scored the Cavs' final 25 points of the game, and 29 of their final 30 in a 109-107 double overtime victory that effectively took the life out of the top-seeded Pistons. It was the type of performance LeBron's fans and critics alike have been waiting for. He launched unstoppable penetrating drive after penetrating drive, balanced by incredible marksmanship from the perimeter. Years from now, we'll still look back at this game as LeBron's first official coming out party, and possibly the moment that led to...
The Pistons came into the postseason as the East's top seed, eyeing another trip to the NBA Finals. They came away with all kinds of questions about their future. With their previously impenetrable defensive schemes coming up empty against James and the Cavs, and the Bulls quickly rising through the ranks, the balance of power appears to have shifted in the East. Detroit looked helpless by the end of the Eastern Conference final, unable to dial their game up a notch the way they did in years past. Ben Wallace is in Chicago. Chauncey Billups is set to hit the open market. Flip Saunders' grip on his job, despite the claims of Joe Dumars, has to be considered tenuous at best. With the sorry state of most of the Eastern Conference, the Pistons won't sink far, but their days of being a legitimate title contender are likely in the past. Should the Pistons' reign atop the East in fact be at the end, it was one impressive ride.
Spurs still got it
Throughout the regular season, the San Antonio Spurs were overshadowed both by the Mavericks' league-high 67 victories and the entertaining running style of the Suns. Somehow, we all forgot that despite their rising age, the Spurs' fundamental, defensive-minded approach is fool proof. It wasn't until they dispatched the Suns in the Western Conference semifinals that we began to recall just how dominant the Spurs were. The Finals started with hype around LeBron reaching the league's grandest stage. They ended with a reminder of just who the NBA's most dominant team has been for the past decade, and that we may have a modern day dynasty sitting right under our noses.
E-mail Rich Zuckerman at Richard.Zuckerman@nbcuni.com
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