The NBA Playoffs begin Sunday for the Miami Heat against the Charlotte Bobcats, and lord knows it's not their first time at the dance. It will be the team's 18th appearance in their relatively young 26-year history. That of course has led to a lot of dramatic playoff moments. Here are our picks for the most dramatic.
Tim Hardaway's Late Three Seals the Heat's First Playoff Series Victory (First Round 1997)
The Heat has previously been to the playoffs three times before this series (pretty healthy for a still young expansions team), but had been eliminated in the first round each time. This series against instate rivals the Orlando Magic went to a decisive game five but was sealed by a dramatic game winning three-pointer by Tim Hardaway, thus ensuring the Heats' first playoff series victory.
P.J. Brown Goes all "Wrestlemania" on the Knicks' Charlie Ward (Semifinals 1997)
After beating the Magic, the Heat would then advance to face the Knicks in an even more heated series in the Semis. Late in Game 5 P.J. Brown got in an altercation with the Knicks' Charlie Ward in which he literally body slammed him into the front row. The fight resulted in multiple suspensions on both sides, but the Heat prevailed and went on to their first conference championships only to loose to the Chicago Bulls (a familiar ending to the Heat's playoff hopes during the Jordan era).
Alonzo Mourning vs Larry Johnson (First Round 1998)
The Heat and Knicks would meet once again the next year, this time in the first round. Once again the match-up would see some brawling. Alonzo Mourning and the Knicks' Larry Johnson got started a bench clearing brawl that memorably lead to Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy latching on to Mourning's legs. The fight lead to Mourning's suspension, and the Knicks would go on to beat the Heat in a deciding Game 5. The woes would continue next year as the eighth-seed Knicks knocked the first-seed Heat out in the first round.
The Knicks Eliminate The Heat Again, By One Point (Semifinals 2000)
We promise we'll get back to stories that end well for the Heat eventually, but we really need to put a cap on the tale of the Heat and Knicks epic playoff battles during the Mourning/Hardaway era. The teams would once again meet the Knicks in the Conference Semifinals. The series would slog all the way on to the final seconds of Game 7. Patrick Ewing put up a dunk that put the Knicks up by one with seven seconds to go and the Knicks would again upset the Heat.
Dwyane Wade's Injury (Conference Finals 2005)
With rising star Dwyane Wade united with legend Shaquille O'Neal, the Miami Heat entered the 2005 as prohibitive finals favorites ... but then misfortune struck in the Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons. Wade was injured in game five and had to sit out game six. He returned for the deciding game seven, but didn't return to full form despite scoring 20 points. The Heat let the game slip away missing their shot once again at the finals.
Dwyane Wade Takes Over in Game Three (2006 Finals)
The Heat made their first NBA Finals in 2006 against the Dallas Mavericks. The Texas team would take the first two games but then something amazing happened in Game Three. Dwyane Wade became the legend that he is. He led a legacy making comeback against the Mavs in game three and never let up for the rest of the series. The Heat went on to win their first NBA Championship 4-2.
LeBron Finally Beats the Celtics in the Playoffs (2011 Semifinals)
During the 2010 finals the Heat would get eliminated in the first round for the the third year in a row, that time by the Boston Celtics. Dwyane Wade would go on to promise it would be his last first round exit for a while. LeBron James of course signed with the team the next year and brought even more Celtics baggage with him. The Boston team had eliminated his Cavaliers in 2008 and 2010. So when Wade and LeBron teamed up this year to finally beat the Celtics it was a cathartic moment for both of them.
Winning Their First Finals With LeBron (2012 Finals)
The Heat would fail to win the championship in their first year with newly signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but would return in 2012 to defeat the Thunder in six games. Game 6 wasn't actually very dramatic save for the rest of the world realizing the Pat Riley's master plan had come to fruition and LeBron had won his first ring. More of a slow burn drama played out through out the last quarter really.
The Entire Series Against the Pacers (2013 Conference Finals)
As defending champs it almost seemed certain that the Heat would repeat. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the finals. The Pacers put up a fight, and the teams traded wins in a hard fought series all the way until game seven. Only one game, the first, was actually close at the end, but the entire series sent spooks waves through Heat fans if only because at times we weren't sure if we were gonna get to another Finals let alone another ring. The Heat prevailed in the end, but its very likely we'll see a repeat this year as the Pacers clinched the first seed in the Eastern Conference.
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Ray Allen's Finals Saving Three Pointer (2013 Finals)
Does it get much better than this? Game 6. The Spurs are up 3-2. They have a chance to close, and it looks at times as if they will. Then, with five seconds left Ray Allen sinks a three pointer to send the game into overtime. The Heat went on to win this game and Game 7 to ensure back-to-back rings.