Eight clutchest shots in NBA playoff history

MJ vs the Cavs
Michael Jordan was the author of many of the NBA's biggest shots. Photo from NYT.

The biggest NBA shots happen in the playoffs. In an intense and wild atmosphere as the playoffs, it’s huge if a certain player delivers in the final moment. Hitting a clutch shot is what separates good players from great players. Whether it’s a role player or a superstar, the biggest playoff moments come from those who aren’t afraid of the spotlight.

Biggest NBA Playoff shots

In the postseason, there is an overabundance of clutch NBA shots ranging from game-winning to series-ending. Let’s take a look at the eight clutchest NBA shots ever.

Derek Fisher vs Spurs, 2004 WCF

The Spurs and Lakers were both powerhouses in the West in the early 00s. Both teams met at the 2004 Western Conference Finals.

Outside of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton, there was an unsung hero for the Lakers in Game 5 of the series.

In the final seconds of the game, Tim Duncan hit an awkward-looking fadeaway with 0.4 seconds left that seemed like the dagger for the Lakers.

It’s really hard to get a quality shot off in time with 0.4 seconds remaining. Albeit hard, it can be done through an alley-oop or a super quick release jumper.

In the next possession, Payton threw an inbound pass to Derek Fisher for the win, and he scored! Wow! He managed to get the ball off in time. Who could’ve thought?


The celebration was also funny because Fisher ran quickly to the locker room like it’s nothing. The win propelled the Lakers to a 3-2 lead over the Spurs.

Damian Lillard vs Rockets, 2014 First Round

The first-round series between the Blazers and Rockets was a back-and-forth battle. We saw some unreal individual performances from Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and James Harden.

Coming into Game 6, the Blazers led the series 3-2. They only needed one win to advance them to the second round. Keep in mind that they never had a playoff win since 2000.

In the final seconds of Game 6, Chandler Parsons got the offensive rebound which led to an uncontested layup, leaving 0.9 seconds in the game. This left the Rockets with a 2-point lead.

Terry Stotts called a timeout and the rest is history. Nicolas Batum passed it to Damian Lillard and he got the shot off for the game-winning buzzer beater. The shot marks Portland’s first playoff win in 14 years.

The ability of Lillard to make clutch shots was well documented even in the regular season. Up until today, he’s making clutch NBA shots on a regular basis.

Robert Horry vs Kings, 2002 WCF

The Kings vs Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals was one of the greatest playoff matchups in NBA history.

Coming into Game 4, the Kings led the series 2-1 and they were looking to get the lead up to 3-1.

In the first half of Game 4, the Lakers were down by 24 points. The Kings were on fire right from the start. However, the Lakers stormed the second half and made a huge comeback. In the last 10 seconds of the game, Kobe tried to win the game with a floater but missed. Shaq rebounded the ball and also missed.

Vlade Divac spiked the ball towards the other end of the court instead of securing the rebound. With 2 seconds left, the ball arrived at Robert Horry and he shot it as the buzzer sounds. Bang! That shot was one of the wettest buzzer beating three-pointers you can see. The LA crowd went bonkers and you can’t even hear Marv Albert’s voice on TV. 

That’s why he was called “Big Shot Rob” because of his ability to make clutch shots when it mattered the most.

John Stockton vs Rockets, 1997 WCF

Did you know that there was a superteam before the Heat in 2010, Warriors in 2016, and Nets in 2021?

That was the Rockets in 1997 with Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley as their core. They were the favorites to win the NBA Championship—until John Stockton happened.

In Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals, Stockton put the pedal in the metal in clutch time. In the final 2 minutes of the game, he took over and made the last 9 points for the Jazz. He hit a series-ending shot at the buzzer to take the Jazz in the NBA Finals against the Bulls.

Albeit not winning a title, Stockton had a plethora of clutch shots all throughout his career.

Kobe Bryant vs Suns, 2006 First Round

It was fate that Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash met in the first round of the 2006 playoffs. In 2006, Nash won the MVP award over Kobe who averaged a whopping 35 points per game that season.

Coming into Game 4, the series was up 2-1 in favor of the Lakers. We remember Game 4 as one of the best playoff games—the atmosphere, intensity, and players hitting big shots after big shots.

In the final 8 seconds of Game 4, Smush Parker stole the ball and saved it to Kobe. Kobe then did what he does best—hit big shots in clutch time. He tied the game and it went to overtime.

And in overtime, Kobe hit a tough midrange jumper over two defenders at the buzzer! What a game. The celebration of Kobe after was iconic.

In just one game, Kobe hit two clutch shots. Unbelievable.

Damian Lillard vs Thunder, 2019 First Round

The Thunder vs Blazers in 2019 is simply Russell Westbrook vs Damian Lillard. Both jawed at each other and put up crazy individual performances. But Lillard’s performance in Game 5 was unreal.

Game 5 of the series was a thriller—both teams went back and forth. In the last 24 seconds of the game, Westbrook had a chance to take the lead but missed badly.

In the next possession, Lillard cleared everyone out with Paul George guarding him. He then launched a long-range three at the buzzer and it went in! To top it off, he dropped 50 points with 10 threes.

The celebration was even more iconic as Lillard waved goodbye to the whole Thunder squad. Lillard’s game-winner ended the series and it made the Thunder franchise rebuild. Westbrook was traded and George left Oklahoma City.

That shot is one of the biggest shots in NBA playoffs and it cemented Lillard as a top 3 player in clutch time. He was nicknamed “Dame Time” after all.

Michael Jordan vs Cavs, 1989 First Round

Michael Jordan‘s “The Shot” was one of the greatest moments in NBA playoff history.

In Game 5 of the series between the Bulls and Cavs, Craig Ehlo hit a reverse layup to give the Cavs a 1-point lead in clutch time.

We all know where the ball is going in the final possession. With 3 seconds remaining on the clock, Jordan hit a drifting foul-line jumper over Ehlo to win the game. Jordan’s final stats were 44 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Unreal.

“The Shot” ended the Cavs’ playoff run and the Bulls advanced to the second round.

Kawhi Leonard vs 76ers, 2019 Second Round

Kawhi Leonard‘s series-ending shot is one of the biggest playoff moments of all time.

The last 2 minutes of Game 7 between the Raptors and Sixers was a nail-biter. Jimmy Butler hit a fastbreak layup with 4 seconds remaining to tie the score.

With 4 seconds remaining, Kawhi dribbled on the far right of the court and launched a heavily contested jumper at the buzzer. After bouncing a couple of times, it went it! EPIC. It was definitely a dagger for the hearts of Philly fans.

The Raptors crowd went wild and you can see Kawhi’s reaction at the end. He can show his emotions after all.

The win propelled them to advance in the Eastern Conference Finals vs Bucks. Ultimately, the Raptors won the title that year.

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About Jeremy Mallari 72 Articles
Jeremy lives and breathes basketball. He's an avid NBA fan for almost a decade now.

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