From the thrilling playoff debut of the New Orleans Pelicans’ “Grand Theft Alvarado” to the defending Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns crashing out early, the 2022 NBA Playoffs have delivered some timeless moments.
As the Miami Heat prepares for tonight’s Game 4 against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) and the Golden State Warriors meet the Dallas Mavericks in the West, we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments from the first half of the NBA postseason.
Phoenix Suns eliminated after losing two straight to the Dallas Mavericks
“Everybody acts tough when they up…” said Mavericks star forward Luka Doncic after his team lost to the Phoenix Suns in Game 5of the Western Conference semi-finals on May 10, 2022.
Phoenix hosted Dallas for a Game 7 in which they were overwhelming favorites to clinch a spot in the West finals. But hopes of a second consecutive appearance in the championship series quickly faded following a 27-point outburst from Doncic in the first half. His total alone matched the Suns’ score for the first 24 minutes. The Mavs held a 30-point lead by halftime, and it only got worse for Phoenix from there.
The defending West champs fell behind by as much as 46, and the misery compounded for Phoenix as they were massively let down by their stars in this game. Forward Cameron Johnson hit 12 points off the bench while all-star guard Devin Booker contributed 11 points on 3 of 14 shooting, and center Deandre Ayton added a pathetic five points in 17 minutes. Ten months removed from an appearance in the NBA Finals, the Suns were simply embarrassed in the closeout game at home.
Doncic and the Mavericks moved on to their first conference finals appearance since 2011, but now find themselves down 3-0 and will look to stave off elimination Tuesday at 9 p.m. (TNT).
Jose Alvarado becomes a cult hero in New Orleans
The Pelicans Jose Alvarado came into this season as an undrafted rookie on a two-way contract and quickly became a fan favorite in New Orleans.
Alvarado became known for his pesky defense, similar to that of Minnesota’s Patrick Beverly, and his unique ability to sneak behind other team’s ball-handlers and poke the ball loose for a steal. This, along with his relentless hustle on both sides of the ball, quickly made Alvarado a favorite of Pelican fans, who dubbed him “Grand Theft Alvarado.”
The former Georgia Tech man became the heartbeat of his team as the eighth-seeded Pelicans lost in six games to the Phoenix Suns. His playoff debut will be remembered for energy on both ends and for making future Hall of Famer Chris Paul look like an average ball-handler.
The undrafted free agent claimed the hearts of Pelicans fans for his first-round performance and secured a four-year deal with New Orleans ensuring that “Grand Theft Alvarado” is in the Big Easy to stay.
Jayson Tatum wins it at the buzzer in Game 1 against Brooklyn
The Boston Celtics made a remarkable turnaround in the 2021-2022 season. At one point they were the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference, and now they are one of four teams remaining in the postseason.
Many Celtics players and coaches credit the team’s historic 180-degree turn to becoming more healthy and gelling as a unit. Boston had many of the same core players on the roster, but a new coaching staff required players to play unfamiliar roles. Rookie head coach Ime Udoka seems to have changed the team’s culture and has been a catalyst for Boston’s defensive success.
Udoka was hired in the offseason after multiple assistant coaching stints around the association. His last stop was with the Brooklyn Nets under Steve Nash. Ironically, the Nets whipped the Celtics’ in the first round of last year’s playoffs, beating the undermanned squad in only five games.
This season Udoka and the Celtics got a rematch. Many thought this series could go either way. Game 1 of the series came down to the final buzzer without a clear idea of who would pull through.
Boston’s late-game execution ultimately got them the win with a clutch defensive possession that included shutting down Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Once Boston’s Al Horford secured a rebound with about 13 seconds left, Udoka allowed his team to play out the final possession without calling a timeout to set up a play. The ball moved around from Derrick White to Jaylen Brown who found Marcus Smart on the wing. Smart penetrated after forcing two defenders to jump at his pump fake and found a cutting Jayson Tatum, who spun around the lone paint defender, Irving, to lay up the ball as the buzzer went off.
Boston went on to win the series in only four games but was taken to seven games against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in the next round. Boston is now facing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Jimmy Butler goes off for 41 points to open East finals
A turbulent end to the Miami Heat’s regular season left All-Star forward Jimmy Butler and company with a lot to prove in the postseason.
Butler has answered with one of the most dominant playoff runs of any player in a Heat jersey.
The six-time All-Star has averaged 28.7 points per game in the playoffs, and he’s given the Heat a pulse on offense, an area many questioned at the end of the regular season. This was on display last Tuesday when Miami took on the Boston to kick off the Eastern Conference Finals.
Butler led the Heat’s second-half surge to beat the Celtics in game one as he shot 12 of 19 and added an additional scoring punch from the free-throw line, shooting 17 of 18 from there en route to his 41-point night.
This was his third 40-point game of this playoff run and the fifth of his playoff career with Miami. That puts him two away from tying Dwyane Wade’s franchise record of seven.
This performance helped the Heat gain a 1-0 in the East finals over the Celtics.
Klay Thompson keeps the legend of “Game 6 Klay” alive in win over Memphis
Klay Thompson has finally returned to the postseason after tearing his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Thompson, who is well known for his otherworldly sharpshooting abilities, made his way back to the court this year after two-plus seasons on the shelf due to a pair of lower leg injuries.
While rehabbing the torn ACL he suffered during Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson tore his Achilles, forcing him to also miss the entire 2020-2021 season and delaying his 2021-2022 season debut until January 9.
Many speculated whether or not Thompson would return to the form he displayed during the Warriors dynasty. While things have not always looked pretty for the returning Splash Brother, we saw glimpses of his greatness shining through in the games he played this season.
The Warriors’ biggest test so far this postseason came against the number two-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the semifinal round. Golden State took control of this series early with a commanding 3-1 lead and had a chance to eliminate Memphis, which was playing without star point guard Ja Morant at FedEx Forum in Game 5. However, the Warriors lost in embarrassing fashion, 134-95, and the NBA world immediately began speculating about how the rest of this series would go.
Luckily for the Dubs, Game 6 would be played on their home floor and would include a playoff fan-favorite, making his long-awaited return – Game 6 Klay.
The legend of Game 6 Klay began in the 2016 Western Conference Finals when Thompson erupted for 41 points, hitting 11 threes in a series that Golden State ultimately ended up winning over the Thunder after being down 3-1.
Since this game, Thompson has performed exceptionally well in Game 6 matchups, averaging 20.7 points in 12 such games. Even in the Game 6 in which he tore his ACL, Thompson had already scored 30 points… and it was only the third quarter.
The 2022 Game 6 Klay finished with a game-high 30 points, hitting 8 of 14 from downtown as the Warriors defeated the Grizzlies to advance to the Western Conference Finals against Doncic and the Mavericks.