Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Greatest. First round. Ever.
Seriously folks, is there any doubt? Two game-winning three-pointers, five game sevens, eight overtime games (four from the same series ... in consecutive games) ... and still three rounds to go? Are you kidding me?
Grizzlies/Thunder wasn't just a basketball series. It was a life experience. And you want to talk about close? The Raptors and Nets finished their seven game series with the same exact number of points (1,070).
If I could watch it all over again I would ... twice. But until that happens (unfortunately I didn't have enough space on my DVR to record all 56 first round games), we're just gonna' have to settle for another one of my top-ten lists. Could be worse, right?
Without further adieu, I give you the ten best games of the first round ... and maybe one extra if you're lucky.
10. Game 3: Bulls 100, Wizards 97
This will forever be known as "The Mike Dunleavy Game" and for good reason. The man was lights out, connecting on 8-of-10 three-pointers for 35 points. Somehow, this was the only game Chicago won despite being heavy favorites to win the series. Can you believe Michael Jordan played for both of these franchises? And what I really mean by that is, can you believe Michael Jordan played for the Wizards? Let's all pause for a moment of silence.
Dunleavy: 35 points (12-19)
Bradley Beal: 25 points (8-18)
9. Game 1: Spurs 90, Mavericks 85
You don't know fear until you've seen that look on Gregg Popovich's face. That cold, ruthless stare that comes when you're down by ten to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. That look of death that makes you fear not only for your own life but for the lives of all your friends and immediate family.
And then you remember, after going on a 15-0 run to take back the lead and energize the 18,000 fans in attendance, "Oh wait. Pop always has that look, even when we're winning."
The Spurs are weird, man. But boy are they good.
Tim Duncan: 27 points (nine in fourth quarter)
Tony Parker: 21 points, six assists (9-16)
8. Game 1: Trail Blazers 122, Rockets 120 (OT)
There's no need to sugarcoat it. LaMarcus Aldridge was garbage in the second half of the season (42.9 percent shooting in 16 games). Which is why it was such a surprise when he went all Wilt Chamberlain on everyone in Game 1 (46 points, 18 rebounds). And that Damian Lillard fella? Yeah, he's pretty good too (31 points, nine assists). Rip City's back, baby.
Aldridge: 46 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks (17-31)
Dwight Howard: 27 points, 15 rebounds (9-17 FT)
7. Game 4: Warriors 118, Clippers 97
This was the most lopsided game of the series but also the most interesting. The Warriors won in blowout fashion thanks to a jaw-dropping effort from Stephen Curry. I'm convinced that if Curry's final three-point attempt of the first quarter had gone in (he had been 5-for-5), the solar system would have instantly exploded and brought on another ice age. So for the sake of humanity, I'm glad he missed.
But even Curry's electric first quarter couldn't compare to the goosebumps I got when the Clippers took the court with their warmups inside out to protest Donald Sterling. All we needed was Blake Griffin soaking another fan with water and this game would have been perfect.
Curry: 33 points, seven rebounds, seven assists
Andre Iguodala: 22 points, nine rebounds (6-8)
6. Game 5: Grizzlies 100, Thunder 99 (OT)
With 27 seconds left in OT, Kevin Durant was at the line about to shoot his second free throw. So of course Joey Crawford, the referee who once tried to pick a fight with Tim Duncan, stepped in and took the ball from him just as he was about to shoot. And of course Durant, the seventh-most accurate free-throw shooter in the NBA during the regular season, bricked it on his next attempt. Thunder fans would probably still be fuming about this if the league hadn't suspended Zach Randolph for Game 7, essentially handing Oklahoma City the series.
Russell Westbrook: 30 points, 13 assists, ten rebounds
Randolph: 20 points, ten rebounds (8-15)
5. Game 5: Raptors 115, Nets 113
First off, Drake's the worst. If you need to be reminded why, go YouTube "Started From The Bottom."
But back to basketball for a minute. The ending of this game was INSANE. With Brooklyn trailing by two and only four seconds remaining, Andray Blatche missed the free throw, got his own rebound and swung a wild pass over the head of Deron Williams.
The referees got it right by waiving off Williams' shot and calling a back court violation. But if they hadn't (and it was actually a pretty close play), the Nets almost certainly would have won because Jonas Valanciunas had his hand in the cylinder. Can you imagine the backlash Valanciunas would have gotten if that had been goal-tending? Drake probably would have gone after somebody with his lint roller.
Kyle Lowry: 36 points (6-9 3PT)
Joe Johnson: 32 points (14-24)
4. Game 2: Grizzlies 111, Thunder 105 (OT)
Ever seen a guy make a three-pointer while getting pushed out of bounds? Trust me, it's even cooler than it sounds. Durant's four-point play against Memphis was easily the most YouTube-worthy moment of the first round ... until Damian Lillard happened.
Still, this game was pretty darn wild. You know things are going off the rails when Kendrick Perkins makes a shot to send the game into overtime. KENDRICK PERKINS, EVERYBODY! Man, that was a crazy series.
Was this not the most Paul Pierce ending of all-time? Let me walk you through it. First Pierce completely botches the inbound pass, giving Toronto the ball down one with six seconds left. And then Pierce, scoundrel that he is, comes out of nowhere to block Kyle Lowry's shot at the buzzer. All of this was followed by 30-to-45 seconds of Pierce pounding his chest and annoying the entire province of Ontario.
Next, Brooklyn plays Miami. Remember them? This might be the first basketball column I've ever written without mentioning LeBr - aw too late.
Lowry: 28 points, seven rebounds (12-14 FT)
Joe Johnson: 26 points (11-25)
2. Game 3: Mavericks 109, Spurs 108
This is a safe place, right? I can be honest with you guys and say that I still keep a Toronto Raptors Vince Carter bobble head on my desk at home. And you won't judge me when I say that when I was 12 years old I would put the hoop in my driveway down to seven feet and practice Vince's whole routine from the 2000 Dunk Contest (with varying degrees of success). Power Rangers and Pokemon cards weren't my childhood. Vince Carter was.
So when Vince stroked a three-pointer right in Manu Ginobili's face to win Game 3, well it made me feel like a kid again. Long live Vinsanity.
Monta Ellis: 29 points (12-22)
Tiago Splitter: 14 points, 13 rebounds (6-8)
1. Game 6: Trail Blazers 99, Rockets 98
I'll level with you guys. For most of this game, I was drifting in and out of consciousness. And why wouldn't I? The game started at 11 p.m. ET. It's insane to expect me to be awake for that. But when Chandler Parsons made a shot to put Houston ahead with one second left, Mike Tirico was yelling so loudly I had to wake up.
And thank God I did. As soon as Lillard shot it, I knew it was money.
James Harden: 34 points, (9-15, 12-12 FT)
Aldridge: 30 points, 13 rebounds (10-10 FT)
BONUS: Game 5: Hawks 107, Pacers 97
Sometimes train wrecks can be pretty fun to watch. And this was one of those instances. The Pacers, the dominant team in the NBA for most of the season, were in complete self-destruct mode. And the Hawks, a sub .500 team playing without their best player (Al Horford), looked dominant. Mike Scott, a character on an NBC sitcom, was even hitting shots for them. The Larry Bird struggle face made it all worth it.
Paul George: 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, six steals
Scott: 17 points (5-6 3PT)
The only thing that could have made this first round any better? Boogie Cousins. Make it happen, Sacramento.