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The Top Five Pre-Finals Playoff Games of 2008

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So far as 'ways to pass the time while waiting for more basketball' are concerned, list-making has long been a favorite of mine.  With so much still left for Celtics fans (and fans of basketball in general) to look forward to over to in the next two weeks, it likely couldn't hurt to take a few minutes to look back at some of the more dramatic events in what has been a very enjoyable postseason -- particularly for the green faithful.

These playoffs have already set a rather dubious and anti-climactic record with a whopping 30 games having been decided by margins of 15 points or greater.  But that certainly doesn't mean that there weren't a few tight ones packed into another roller coaster post-season.  With honorable mentions to Game 3 of the Orlando-Detroit second round series and the Celtics' clincher over Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals, let's get going with our top five.  As always, we welcome you to submit your own lists -- or just rant about mine, if you so choose -- in the comments section below.

5.   Game 4, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Cleveland Cavaliers 100 at Washington Wizards 97 -- This one may have special significance to Celtics fans as it was a former green point guard who played the hero: Delonte West.  West's trey with 5.4 seconds left won it for the Cavs and capped the best game of what may have been the chippiest series of the first round.  The goofy guard shot an excellent 7-for-12 (5-for-8 from deep) for the game and calmly stepped up when his team needed it most.  In the process, he wiped out an acrobatic baby banker from Gil Arenas that had tied the score for Washington in the final half-minute, and he helped prevent a 34-point, 12-rebound, 7-assist effort from LeBron James going for naught.  Speaking of LBJ, he further reinforced his reputation as the athlete in who seems to be able to say absolutely anything he wants without any sort of interrogation.  This time around, it was in his on-floor post-game interview that he gave us the gem that "It means more to him than it does to us" regarding West's clutch trey.  Seemed a little odd, given that the trey had just won the game for the Cavs' and given them a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.  Either way, competitive all the way through, some early chippiness (DeShawn Stevenson committed a flagrant foul against LeBron) and some huge shots at the end.  Very solid contest.

(Courtesy of YouTube user 'NBA')

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4.  Game 6, Western Conference Semifinals: Los Angeles Lakers 108 at Utah Jazz 105 -- It's truly rare that you'll see the "good effort even though it wasn't enough" card broken out in this space in describing a playoff game, but that is above all what set this game apart from so many others this post-season.  While it is likely of little consolation to the Jazz fans who saw their team get eliminated in this game, the Utah run at the end of this contest was simply amazing.  The Jazz trailed by nine points at the 1:13 mark of the fourth quarter in this game and managed to get themselves a possession with a legitimate shot to tie the game before all was said and done.  A Memo Okur trey was followed by an Andrei Kirilenko blocked shot, and then AK47 managed to trade the Lakers three points for two not once but twice.  One beautifully drawn-up play later, the Jazz got a dunk from Paul Millsap off of a perfect feed from Kyle Korver, and Derek Fisher missed one of his two ensuing free throws, thus giving the Jazz the ball with nine seconds to play, only trailing by three.  Utah got two looks at the basket on the final possession and sadly missed both  They may have fallen when all was said and done, but they epitomized the meaning of 'going down fighting' late in this game.  Throw in an inordinately difficult continuation and a 34-8-6 game for Kobe to go along with Deron Williams going for 21 points and 14 dimes, and we've got ourselves another wonder of a game.

YouTube user 'NBA')

3.  Game 1, Western Conference Finals: at Los Angeles Lakers 89, San Antonio Spurs 85 -- I know, I know.  There is only so much Laker-crediting that can be tolerated here on CelticsBlog, and that's fair enough.  But the team came back from a 20-point deficit against the vaunted Spurs, and Kobe Bryant was completely in control down the stretch.  This game set the tone for the entire series: It always seemed that the Spurs were waiting for the other shoe to drop no matter how well they played at any point thereafter.  Can't omit this one for those reasons.

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(Courtesy of YouTube user 1EDmanLV)

2.  Game 7, Eastern Conference Semifinals: at Boston Celtics 97, Cleveland Cavaliers 92 -- We Celtics fans spent plenty of time fretting over the possibility of letting it come down to one winner-take-all game with the Cavs because we never knew when LeBron James would finally have that certifiable "I'm LeBron James!" game.  The irony now, of course, is that he did exactly that in Game 7: 45 points (14-of-29 shooting), 5 rebounds, 6 assists.  The great part was that some Celts fans (read: yours truly) didn't even wholly realize this had happened until after the fact, because unlike last year in Detroit, it wasn't enough for the Cavs.  This was partly because the captain aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the Truth come up with a gargantuan game of his own, and it came partly thanks to the job the Celtics did at limiiting easy looks for the rest of the Cavs.  It was a true team effort in the biggest win of the season at that point.  Paul Pierce was the hero with his 41 points (13-of-23 shooting, 11-of-12 from the foul line), but Kevin Garnett was big in his own right, too.  P.J. Brown, Eddie House and James Posey gave the team big efforts off the bench.  Doc Rivers had the rocks to sit slumping Ray Allen for much of the fourth quarter.  Oh, have I mentioned that Pierce was amazing?  The Celts staved off Bron to move to the conference finals for the first time since 2002.  And they did it in style.

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(Courtesy of YouTube user 1EDmanLV)

1.  Game 1, Western Conference Quarterfinals: at San Antonio Spurs 117, Phoenix Suns 115 (2OT) -- Indeed, for all we've seen over the course of this playoffs, so far as pure competition is concerned, the best came on the very first day of the postseason.  The teams combined to hit four monumentally huge shots in this game: Michael Finley's three to tie it in regulation, Tim Duncan's improbable three to tie it in overtime, Steve Nash's off-balance trey to tie it in double-overtime and Manu Ginobili's drive to the rim to win it for the black and silver.  Duncan put up a criminally good 40-point, 15-rebound effort, and the Spurs came back from a 16-point deficit to win and send the Suns reeling.  The standard of competition throughout the afternoon was simply incredible.  These two teams both truly wanted to go home winners in this one, and sometimes, that's the most important ingredient in a good playoff game.

This one wasn't merely good.  It was truly great.  Just like the Finals look to be! 

{youtube}trdsKp94Io0&feature=related"> YouTube user 'NBA')

3.  Game 1, Western Conference Finals: at Los Angeles Lakers 89, San Antonio Spurs 85 -- I know, I know.  There is only so much Laker-crediting that can be tolerated here on CelticsBlog, and that's fair enough.  But the team came back from a 20-point deficit against the vaunted Spurs, and Kobe Bryant was completely in control down the stretch.  This game set the tone for the entire series: It always seemed that the Spurs were waiting for the other shoe to drop no matter how well they played at any point thereafter.  Can't omit this one for those reasons.

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(Courtesy of YouTube user 1EDmanLV)

2.  Game 7, Eastern Conference Semifinals: at Boston Celtics 97, Cleveland Cavaliers 92 -- We Celtics fans spent plenty of time fretting over the possibility of letting it come down to one winner-take-all game with the Cavs because we never knew when LeBron James would finally have that certifiable "I'm LeBron James!" game.  The irony now, of course, is that he did exactly that in Game 7: 45 points (14-of-29 shooting), 5 rebounds, 6 assists.  The great part was that some Celts fans (read: yours truly) didn't even wholly realize this had happened until after the fact, because unlike last year in Detroit, it wasn't enough for the Cavs.  This was partly because the captain aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the Truth come up with a gargantuan game of his own, and it came partly thanks to the job the Celtics did at limiiting easy looks for the rest of the Cavs.  It was a true team effort in the biggest win of the season at that point.  Paul Pierce was the hero with his 41 points (13-of-23 shooting, 11-of-12 from the foul line), but Kevin Garnett was big in his own right, too.  P.J. Brown, Eddie House and James Posey gave the team big efforts off the bench.  Doc Rivers had the rocks to sit slumping Ray Allen for much of the fourth quarter.  Oh, have I mentioned that Pierce was amazing?  The Celts staved off Bron to move to the conference finals for the first time since 2002.  And they did it in style.

{youtube}k-WvWgEZEC8&feature=related{/youtube}

(Courtesy of YouTube user 1EDmanLV)

1.  Game 1, Western Conference Quarterfinals: at San Antonio Spurs 117, Phoenix Suns 115 (2OT) -- Indeed, for all we've seen over the course of this playoffs, so far as pure competition is concerned, the best came on the very first day of the postseason.  The teams combined to hit four monumentally huge shots in this game: Michael Finley's three to tie it in regulation, Tim Duncan's improbable three to tie it in overtime, Steve Nash's off-balance trey to tie it in double-overtime and Manu Ginobili's drive to the rim to win it for the black and silver.  Duncan put up a criminally good 40-point, 15-rebound effort, and the Spurs came back from a 16-point deficit to win and send the Suns reeling.  The standard of competition throughout the afternoon was simply incredible.  These two teams both truly wanted to go home winners in this one, and sometimes, that's the most important ingredient in a good playoff game.

This one wasn't merely good.  It was truly great.  Just like the Finals look to be! 

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(Courtesy of YouTube user BourneCubed)

Back talk: Are you hoping the next two weeks provide us with a few more classics to add to the collection?  Or are easy green victories your optimal way to go?