2022 NBA Playoffs: Looking at top highlights from first three rounds

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2022 NBA Playoffs: Looking at top highlights from first three rounds originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The highlights have been nonstop in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.

With one round in the books, there have already been a handful of iconic plays. Between game-winners, poster dunks and sideline celebrations, every night of the first round has provided a highlight that will be played back for years to come.

Lucky for basketball fans, the action is just getting started. Here’s a running list of the best highlight from each night of the 2022 NBA Playoffs so far:

May 20: Steph Curry puts the Mavericks to sleep

Luka Doncic was a star in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, but Steph Curry made sure to let everyone know who runs the show at Chase Center.

The Warriors guard helped lead a second-half charge after the Mavericks took a 14-point lead into halftime. Golden State erupted for 43 points in the fourth quarter, headlined by Curry’s dagger 3-pointer and ensuing celebration.

May 19: Marcus Smart drops Max Strus in return victory

The Miami Heat outscored the Boston Celtics 39-14 in the third quarter of their Game 1 win while an injured Marcus Smart watched from the bench. In Game 2, Smart made sure there wasn’t a repeat collapse.

Punctuated by his deadly crossover and jumper over Max Strus, Smart turned in a masterful performance – 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals. Most importantly, Smart and the Celtics now return to Boston with the series even at one apiece.

May 18: Steph Curry dances on the Mavericks

The Warriors opened up a nine-point lead over the Mavericks at halftime of Game 1, but one thing was off: Steph Curry. That all changed in the third quarter, when the Warriors broke the game open and Curry found his rhythm.

Curry finished off the 112-87 victory with a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds. While he shot an uncharacteristic 3-for-9 from deep and 4-for-7 from the foul line, Curry’s impact was obvious.

May 17: Jimmy Butler rises up to block Jayson Tatum

Two things were the biggest factors in the Heat’s Game 1 win over the Celtics to start the Eastern Conference finals: defense and Jimmy Butler.

Both of them were on display throughout the second half, highlighted by a spectacular block in the corner against Jayson Tatum. In all, Butler tallied three blocks and four steals to go along with his game-high 41 points.

May 15: Grant Williams? Grant Williams!

Sunday was supposed to be the best day of the postseason, with two Game 7s. Well, the Celtics beat the Bucks by 28 and the Mavericks beat the Suns by 33. Even though the games weren’t close, there were still a number of thrilling highlights.

The star of the day was Celtics forward Grant Williams, who scored a career-high 27 points in 39 minutes. He made 7-of-18 3-pointers, which tied the record for most 3s made in a Game 7 and set the record for most 3s attempted in a Game 7.

May 13: Game 6 Klay

No other words are needed. The Warriors needed one more win to eliminate the Grizzlies to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2019. It didn’t look pretty through two-and-a-half quarters, but Golden State closed out the game in style.

Who was the man responsible? Klay Thompson. Thompson turned back the clock with a vintage Game 6 Klay performance, dropping 32 points on 11-for-22 shooting, including an 8-for-14 clip from 3-point range. It was his best outing in the series, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

May 12: Luka Doncic splits Suns’ defense for and-1 jam

Luka Doncic and elimination games – name a better pairing. The Mavericks were facing elimination against the Suns in Game 6, but Doncic has come up big in elimination games before – it was no different this time around.

Dallas won 113-86 as Doncic posted 33 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals to force a Game 7. In this play, he split every single Phoenix defender for a two-handed jam plus the foul. May the best team win the series.

May 11: Jrue Holiday blocks Marcus Smart in clutch time, throws ball off him to win possession

The Celtics looked to have the edge to win Game 5 at home. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford kept TD Garden roaring after several momentum-building plays, but champions don’t quit. Jrue Holiday, who was not having a good game, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis made some big plays on both ends of the floor to take a late 108-107 lead. 

Boston had a chance to retake the advantage with less than 10 seconds remaining. Marcus Smart attacked Pat Connaughton on the inbounds pass and created enough space for a layup – until Holiday swooped in for the block. To make matters worse for Boston, Holiday retained possession after throwing the ball off Smart while almost stepping out of bounds. Holiday also sealed the game with a last-second steal on Smart. Milwaukee is now one game away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

May 10: Mikal Bridges logs fourth steal, throws lob to Cam Johnson

Game 5 between the Suns and Mavericks stayed close after one half, but Phoenix opened the floodgates in the third quarter en route to a 110-80 final score. Defense played a huge part in that as the Suns got easy points off smart defensive plays. Mikal Bridges, in particular, stood out tonight.

Bridges accumulated four steals to mark a playoff career-high, including jumping this pass to the wing which resulted in a fastbreak lob to fellow forward Cam Johnson. The crowd at Footprint Center got on their feet after that dunk.

May 9: Draymond Green’s dagger block seals Game 4

The Warriors trailed for the entirety of Game 4 against the Grizzlies in an offensive slugfest. But Golden State stayed within striking distance and made clutch plays to come back and snag the lead with less than a minute remaining.

Golden State led by three with 15 seconds to go. Memphis big man Jaren Jackson Jr. had the chance to tie the game with a 3, but Draymond Green read the play and blocked his attempt to seal the game. The shot was far from a good decision by Jackson as the Grizzlies now face elimination in Game 5 with Ja Morant’s status still up in the air. He did not play in Game 4.

May 8: James Harden turns back the clock in Game 4

James Harden is not scoring the same amount of points he used to back when he was with the Houston Rockets, but he needed to in Game 4 against the Miami Heat on Sunday. The 76ers tied the series at 2-2 with a 116-108 win, and Harden made his mark with 31 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. 

Down the stretch, he hit some big shots over Miami’s outstretched contests that were very reminiscent of the daggers he used to hit in Houston. This is the Harden the Sixers need if they hope to win the title this year.

May 7: Klay Thompson hits one-legged 3 in rout vs. Memphis

The Warriors demonstrated their championship pedigree with a massive rout in Game 3 at home against Memphis. In a game where the Warriors shot over 60% from the field in a 142-112 blowout, there were bound to be some crazy offensive plays to choose from.

Let’s go with Klay Thompson’s one-legged 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down. That bucket pushed the lead to 19 and essentially symbolized this was Golden State’s night and there was nothing the Grizzlies could do to stop the scoring avalanche.

May 6: Tyrese Maxey’s save leads to Joel Embiid’s and-1

A hero wearing a mask came through when the Sixers needed him most.

Joel Embiid returned to the floor for Game 3 of the Sixers-Heat series as the Sixers picked up a crucial victory. One of his biggest plays of the night came after Tyrese Maxey made a remarkable defensive play, keeping the ball in play and tossing it over his head to James Harden. On the other end, Embiid hit an and-1 over Bam Adebayo to send the Wells Fargo Center faithful into a frenzy.

May 4: Chris Paul finds Mikal Bridges for the alley-oop

Chris Paul showed why he is the Point God in the fourth quarter of the Suns’ Game 2 matchup against the Mavericks. 

The Phoenix point guard scooped up a loose ball, took it the length of the floor and lofted a lob to Mikal Bridges, who extended and punched it in. The dunk gave Phoenix an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, one that the Suns would stretch to 27 en route to a convincing win.

May 3: Ja Morant hits a floater to seal Game 2 vs. Warriors

The Grizzlies gave up a late lead in Game 2 against the Warriors, but Ja Morant was determined not to go down 0-2 in the series. Morant propelled the comeback and hit the dagger on a floater to give Memphis a 3-point lead with 30.7 seconds remaining. 

The young star finished the game with 47 points in a game that further cemented his status as a budding superstar in the NBA. Memphis had lost Dillon Brooks earlier in the game due to a Flagrant 2 foul, but Morant effortlessly picked up Brooks’ responsibilities on the big stage. 

May 2: JaVale McGee strips Luka Doncic, slams transition dunk

JaVale McGee developed a reputation early in his career for not making the smartest basketball plays. But he’s flipped the switch over the last couple of seasons as he’s transformed into an efficient reserve big for championship-caliber teams. That was on display again as the Phoenix Suns got off to a 1-0 series lead in the second round against the Dallas Mavericks.

McGee stripped Mavericks star Luka Doncic and showed off his ball-handling skills as he steamrolled down the court in transition. Jalen Brunson stood no chance in defending McGee’s one-handed dunk.

May 1: Gary Payton II rises up against Desmond Bane

It didn’t take long for Gary Payton II to remind people that Ja Morant wasn’t the only highflier in the Warriors-Grizzlies series.

The Golden State guard detonated on Memphis’ Desmond Bane in the first quarter of Game 1, helping set the tone for an electric contest. Payton chipped in eight points and six rebounds for the afternoon as the Warriors earned a 117-116 Game 1 victory on the road.

April 29: Tyus Jones drills late dagger to close out Minnesota

The Timberwolves had yet another double-digit lead in the second half against the Grizzlies in their first-round series matchup. But for the third time in six games, Minnesota could not hold on and were eliminated. Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane got his team the lead with a corner 3 with under three minutes remaining, and Tyus Jones drilled the dagger with the shot clock winding down.

Memphis now advances to the second round where it will meet Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors with Game 1 on Sunday.

April 28: Chris Paul hits 14th consecutive shot to make NBA playoff history

One win away from advancing to the second round, Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul made sure to put away the New Orleans Pelicans in historic fashion. Paul scored 33 points on a flawless 14-of-14 shooting night, which made NBA postseason history for consecutive makes without a miss.

Paul and the Suns now look to defend their No. 1 seed by going up against Luka Doncic and the No. 4-seeded Dallas Mavericks in what should be an enticing matchup.

April 27: Chef Curry in the clutch sends Warriors to second round

The Warriors trailed for most of the second half against the Denver Nuggets – until Stephen Curry started cooking. Curry capped off a 30-point night with some clutch buckets down the stretch in the Warriors’ comeback effort, including two layups at the rim.

Denver knew the ball would be in Curry’s hands for the crucial plays and did everything defensively to try to stop it – blitzing, guarding Curry with length, trapping. Curry still got his way and sent the Nuggets back to Denver as the Warriors now await the winner of the Grizzlies-Timberwolves series.

April 26: Ja Morant detonates on Malik Beasley in Game 5

Morant hit the game-winning layup to give the Grizzlies a Game 5 win over the Timberwolves, but the play that started Memphis’ comeback was his massive poster dunk in the final seconds of the third quarter. Minnesota guard Malik Beasley tried to draw the charge, but he ended up being on the wrong side of the poster.

The Timberwolves had a 13-point lead at that point, their largest of the game, but failed to hold onto it. It marked the second time in just two games that Minnesota could not finish off Memphis despite having a double-digit lead. Now Morant and the Grizzlies need one more win to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.

April 25: Al Horford seals the game, Celtics sweep Nets

Down 3-0 in the series, the Nets were down to their last chance on Monday. Brooklyn entered the fourth quarter down by 12, but they made a run as Jayson Tatum fouled out in the final minutes. With 22 seconds to play and the lead down to three, Kevin Durant stepped to the line. He buried the first, but missed the second. Instead of taking it slow, the Celtics raced up the court and Al Horford sealed the game with a put-back layup with 13.7 seconds left.

The teams added a few more points in the final seconds, but Horford’s bucket essentially ended it. Boston’s 116-112 victory was the culmination of a 4-0 series sweep over former Celtic Kyrie Irving. The Celtics will get a few days of rest as the Bucks and Bulls finish their series.

April 24: Herb Jones puts on a defensive clinic vs. Suns

The Pelicans tied up the first round series against the Suns, and a 2021 second-round rookie was behind the momentum shift. Herbert Jones put on a defensive highlight reel all throughout Game 4, especially with some ridiculous blocks from the 3-point line in the second half. This was one of Jones’ three blocks on the night as the Pelicans grabbed a dominant 118-103 win.

The series now heads back to Phoenix for Game 5, but the Suns are not expected to have star guard Devin Booker available, putting more pressure on Chris Paul and company to step up and prove why they’re the No. 1 seed. But Jones, along with undrafted rookie Jose Alvarado, are bringing the heat and intensity on every single play and aren’t going down without a fight.

April 23: Donovan Mitchell alley-oop to Rudy Gobert for the win

All hope seemed lost for the Utah Jazz in Game 4 of their first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks. Down by four in the final minute and staring at a 3-1 series deficit, Utah’s season was essentially on the brink. Then, the Jazz closed the game on a 5-0 run to even the series at two.

First it was a Donovan Mitchell three-point play with 31.2 seconds remaining to cut the Dallas lead to one. After the Mavericks’ Dwight Powell missed two free throws, Mitchell found Rudy Gobert for an alley-oop slam with 11 seconds to go to take a 100-99 lead. The Jazz sealed the deal with one more stop, and now they are heading back to Dallas with a new lease on life.

April 22: Thanasis Antetokounmpo puts the Bulls to bed

The Milwaukee Bucks had no problem dispatching the Chicago Bulls on the road in Game 3. With a well-rounded offensive effort and stifling defense, the Bucks left United Center with an easy 111-81 victory over the Bulls.

The game was well in hand throughout the fourth quarter, and the Bucks’ bench got extended minutes to close the contest. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, older brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo, put an exclamation point on the victory with a huge poster slam in the final minutes.

April 21: Spencer Dinwiddie drops the hammer on Rudy Gobert

Spencer Dinwiddie saw an open lane to the basket with one obstacle in his way: a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. And it didn’t matter.

The Mavericks guard threw down an emphatic slam on the Jazz center in Game 3 of the Dallas-Utah series. Even without Luka Doncic, Dallas built a 2-1 series lead behind 20 points from Dinwiddie and 31 from Jalen Brunson.

April 20: Joel Embiid gets some revenge on the Raptors

Aiming at the same rim where Kawhi Leonard’s unforgettable Game 7 shot bounced and dropped in to send the Raptors past the Sixers in the 2019 playoffs, Joel Embiid needed nothing but net to deliver a game-winner of his own on Wednesday.

With the Sixers and Raptors tied at 101 with 2.6 seconds remaining in overtime and 0.9 seconds on the shot clock, the MVP finalist hit a turnaround 3-pointer to silence the Scotiabank Arena crowd. The play came after a disjointed end to regulation and an even more confounding possession in OT, one that head coach Doc Rivers was able to salvage with a timeout.

Embiid’s dagger gave him 33 points for the Game 3 victory and put Philadelphia on the brink of a first-round sweep.

April 19: Devin Booker fist bumps a baby

Some playoff moments are ones that we’ll never forget. In Game 2 between the Suns and Pelicans, a baby had one that they will probably never remember.

Devin Booker torched the Pelicans for 16 points in the first quarter and capped it off with a fadeaway, baseline jumper in the final second. From the sideline floor, Booker turned to his left and fist bumped a baby to celebrate the insane shot.

April 18: Maxi Kleber lights up the Jazz

With no Luka Doncic and the potential to go down 2-0 at home, Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber saved the day for the Mavericks in Game 2 against the Jazz.

Brunson scored a career-high 41 points to carry the scoring load, while Kleber was on fire from outside the arc. The German forward hit 8 3-pointers off the bench, including back-to-back triples that gave the Mavs a late lead that they would not relinquish.

April 17: Celtics win thanks to Jayson Tatum’s spin

In an afternoon filled with boos, flipped birds and plenty of buckets, Jayson Tatum provided the most iconic moment from a Game 1 instant classic between the Nets and Celtics.

Down one point in the final minute, Boston got its biggest stop of the game by stymying Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Instead of calling a timeout, the Celtics moved the ball up the floor. Jaylen Brown passed to Marcus Smart, who up-faked and found a cutting Tatum dashing towards the basket. The 24-year-old forward corralled the pass, spun around Irving and hit a layup at the buzzer to give the Celtics a 1-0 series advantage.

April 16: Karl-Anthony Towns dunks all over Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jaren Jackson Jr. will likely end up on a 2021-22 NBA All-Defensive Team, but he may also end up on some posters in the Twin Cities.

Karl-Anthony Towns detonated on Jackson in the third quarter of Game 1 between the Timberwolves and Grizzlies. As an added bonus for Towns and Minnesota, Jackson picked up a technical foul for shoving Jaden McDaniels after the play.

Minnesota pulled away in the fourth quarter, winning 130-117 and earning a 1-0 lead in the series.