Welcome to Goran Dragic Day on Bright Side of the Sun. As I'm in charge of historical perspective around here Seth
demanded nicely asked if I'd put something together on where Dragic's fourth quarter explosion ranks among some of the other recent fourth quarter performances in NBA Playoff history. Yet since it's Saturday afternoon and we live in a 24 hour news cycle I've decided just to list some of the best performances I can recall and let you debate amongst yourselves. If you've got other suggestions I'm excited to read about them. I've added some clips of each of the games I came up with so even if you disagree with everything you should at least derive the pleasure that can be had from sitting through great performances from some of the greatest NBA players of the last several years.
So you don't get thrown off by any red herrings here are the rules of the list:
(1) In the last 25 years;
(2) In the fourth quarter;
(3) In the NBA Playoffs
Feel free to come up with your own list or your own rankings but you'll find this listed in chronological order as you don't need my ranking opinion. (If you're nice enough and ask for it, I'll probably give it to you).
Sleepy Floyd, Golden State Warriors: Game 4 1987 Western Conference Semifinals v. Los Angeles Lakers
- Probably the most obscure non-Dragic performance on this list. Golden State was on the brink of being swept out of the playoffs by LAL - down 3-0 in the series and trailing by 12 at the end of the third quarter. That's when Eric "Sleepy" Floyd took over. The Warriors guard hit 12 field goals and scored 29 points in the fourth (both still NBA playoff records) to lead Golden State to an upset win. Sleepy hit for 51 points in the game.
- Significance - Golden State lost Game 5 and the series while the Lakers went on to win the NBA championship.
Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers: Game 5 - 1994 Eastern Conference Finals @ New York Knicks
- Not sure if you've ever heard about it but there was a time when Reggie Miller and Knicks super fan Spike Lee used to get into it a little bit. New York led the game 70-58 going into the fourth when Reggie v. Spike began. While carrying on a very animated discussion with the film director - including offering some choking motions Lee's way - Miller scored 25 points in the fourth quarter, including 5 three pointers, to lead the Pacers storming back for a win in what had been a tied series.
- Significance - The win gave Indiana a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals but the Knicks battled back to win the next two and advance to play in the Finals.
Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls: Game 5 - 1997 NBA Finals @ Utah Jazz
- It's the Flu Game. Now MJ "only" had 15 points in the fourth quarter of this one you have to balance the extreme degree of difficulty and championship importance of what he did. Chicago had taken the first two games of this series but the Jazz were not deterred and evened the series with a pair of home wins of their own. Due to the NBA Finals 2-3-2 format, Game 5 was also in Salt Lake. As you've heard many times, Jordan woke up the day before Game 5 barely able to sit up in bed and was told by Bulls trainers he'd be unable to play. Yet the G.O.A.T. somehow played in the game and scored 38 - including those 15 in the fourth - to lead Chicago to the win.
- Significance - The win gave Chicago a 3-2 lead in the series with 2 chances to close the series out at home. They only needed the one as they won their fifth NBA Championship in seven seasons.
Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers: Game 2 - 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals v. Toronto Raptors
- Philly had lost Game 1 of the series at home, so drawing even with the Raptors was vital. In his MVP season it was clear that Allen Iverson got the message. A.I. put up 54 points for the game - where Philly won 97-92 - but it was the way he finished that pushed the Sixers over the top. Iverson scored 19 of the final 20 Sixer points on an array of impressive shots to overcome 28 from Raptors star Vince Carter.
- Significance - The series with Toronto went 7 games before the Sixers finally put them away. Philadelphia then went the distance with the Bucks before claiming the Eastern Conference crown. They lost in the NBA Finals to the Lakers in 5 games.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics: Game 3 - 2002 Eastern Conference Finals v. New Jersey Nets
- In one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Playoff (and probably normal) history, the Celtics rallied from a 21 point deficit to stun the Nets. Paul Pierce led Boston, scoring 19 points in the Celtics 41 point fourth quarter performance. Pierce had been just 2/14 from the field in the first three quarters but on a team with Antonie Walker, himself and not much else, he didn't stop shooting. With Boston still down 5 with 1:37 to go, Pierce scored 6 straight to give the Celts their first lead since 1-0. They didn't look back. Worth noting that Richard Jefferson was also on the other end of this performance.
- Significance -The win gave Boston a 2-1 lead on the Eastern Conference top seed. Unfortunately for them that was as good as it got as the Nets won the next 3 games and advanced to their first NBA Finals.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: Game 5 - 2006 Western Conference Finals v. Phoenix Suns
- Dirk scored 50 in this game but it took his obscene fourth to put the Suns away. Dallas had opened a 13 point first quarter lead but by the time the final stanza began the lead had dropped to just one. The fourth quarter was also tight as Dallas outscored Phoenix 22-20 to win the game. Oh wait. No that was just the score of Dirk Nowitzki v. the Suns. Yes that is correct, Dirk personally outscored the Suns in the final period and Dallas won going away (117-101). At one point in the quarter Dirk scored 15 straight.
- Significance -Dallas used the win to catapult themselves to a 3-2 series lead and they would finish off the Suns back in Phoenix in Game 6. The Mavs advanced to the NBA Finals where they won the first two games before falling 4 consecutive times to lose the series to Miami.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: Game 5 - 2007 Eastern Conference Finals @ Detroit Pistons
- Another game with a nickname - this was is just called the 48 Special. LeBron James scored Cleveland's final 25 points and 29 of their final 30 in a ridiculously incredible one man show. Although it was a great game this one definitely loses some points since 18 of that final 29 came in the two overtimes required in the game. I included it as the OT's can be seen as an extension of the final quarter - but the fact that it wasn't technically the fourth should be taken into consideration. Regardless of how you view it - amazing performance.
- Significance -The victory gave the Cavs a 3-2 series lead and gave them an opportunity to make their first NBA Finals with a win at home. They didn't disappoint as they finished Detroit in Game 6 and advanced to play the Spurs - where they were swept.
Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns: Game 3 - 2010 Western Conference Semifinals @ San Antonio Spurs
- The second year Suns guard had been struggling a bit in this series prior to Game 3 - shooting just 2/12 against the Spurs in the first two games. Yet with some prodding from Suns coach Alvin Gentry, Dragic started getting aggressive...and the results were nothing short of remarkable. Goran hit a three pointer late in the third quarter for his first points of the game but his exhibition of threes and basket attacks began in the fourth when the Suns trailed by one. He played the entire 12 minutes in the quarter and hit for 23 points on 4 three pointers while hitting 9 of his 11 field goal attempts (he actually missed two free throws somehow). According to Elias Sports Bureau (I'm ripping this from 36_Chambers in the comments of the links piece) - Dragic's 26 points in 17 minutes is the most scored by a player who played fewer than 20 minutes in a postseason game in the shot clock era.
- Significance -Well this just happened but it gave the Suns a 3-0 lead in their second round series against the hated Spurs. The rest of the story has yet to be written.
Note: My first thought was that Isiah Thomas' game on a bum ankle in the 1988 NBA Finals would be on the list but his major quarter was the third where he posted 25.
So what do you think? What was the best? What did I miss? How awesome was Goran Dragic last night? Should his 23 point fourth quarter last night warrant a nickname (for the game)? No matter what way you slice it, Goran just put himself in some pretty awesome company. Debate away my friends.