3 votes – Paul Pierce. Now you know why I said Pierce is “still my number #2 go-to man for a last-second shot (behind Kobe)”. Three people pulled me up on that during the last week, perplexed at how could I dismiss Carmelo/Dirk/Lebron. Those guys are great, but Pierce trumps them in my book. While watching that last play unfold there were two thoughts that popped into my head, in order:

1) Pierce is going to fuck around at the top of the key, then take one dribble right (or left) and go for a 20-foot jump shot with no time left
2) Miami are doing absolutely nothing to stop this from happening

If you watch the clip, the scene is set perfectly for Pierce. The floor is spaced, he has single coverage from Dorell Wright, and he never even has to think about passing it. Haslem comes over to step in for barely a second, but never leaves his man – did he really think that Pierce would pass to KG who was practically standing at the three-point line? Haslem should have charged at Pierce earlier which would at least caused him to make a decision. But in the end it was a relatively straight-forward 20-footer, and the Business Man isn’t going to miss those with the game on the line.

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2 votes – Deron Williams. This guy is averaging 28-12 over his first three games, against one of the better, defensively-minded point guards of the last decade. Paul Millsap may have blazed trails in the first half today, but DW’s efforts in the third quarter set up a 19-point lead that the Jazz would never look back from. He has been phenomenal, and is the main reason the Jazz will probably go on to win the series. If the Lakers weren’t already sweating about Westbrook, you can bet they won’t look forward to facing Deron in the second round (if they even make it).

1 vote – Manu Ginobili. There were so many amazing performances in the Mavs-Spurs game today. Duncan was a reliable scoring option all game, Parker stepped up and hit the game-sealing shots in the last minute, and George Hill was super impressive and made a couple of jaw-dropping plays. But it was Manu that left the biggest imprint on this game. After copping an elbow from Dirk that broke his nose (a “nasal fracture” to be precise) in the third quarter, he returned in the fourth to score 11 of the more inspirational points you will see. That included several hard drives to the bucket scoring over the likes of Dampier and Haywood – not somewhere you generally want to go when your nose is busted. What’s even more amazing is that he had both his nostrils stuffed to stop the bleeding – how the hell was this guy breathing let alone dominating an NBA game? It was one of the gutsiest game-turning performance I’ve seen in recent years.

Honorable Mention – Dirk. As I said, lots of amazing performances in this game, and Dirk’s would have been #1 if the Mavs got up. He took a physical pounding in this game – the Spurs  clawed, whacked and knocked him to the ground as often as they could. Maybe they were testing the old theory that Dirk is soft? All I know is that this is definitely an old theory because Dirk bounced back every time and looked even more dangerous. His third quarter was sublime. The Spurs defense on him was excellent and he still scored 35 points. The rest of the Mavs starters combined for 16 points – THAT IS NOT A MISPRINT – yet Dirk still managed to almost single-handedly upstage the Duncan/Ginobili/Parker trio. He was that good.


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