This evening featured a couple of fantastic finishes in a pair of unexpectedly exciting series in the first round of the NBA's Western Conference Playoffs.Typically a boring game in early series, the Game 5's played Wednesday night turned out to be as entertaining as any sports fan could have hoped.
First up was most surprising series of these young Playoffs, as the 8-seed Grizzlies came within a half-a-second of closing out the top seeded Spurs. With the home team down 3, Manu Ginobili hit a falling out of bounds prayer from the corner that was one of the most big-time shots in modern hoops memory. Upon further review, it turned out his foot was on the line, making it only a 2-point FG. After a quick foul and a couple of key free-throws from Zach Randolph - who was as clutch as possible coming down the stretch for the Grizz - the future of the Spurs franchise rested on the final 1.7 seconds. Luckily for the fans in San Antonio that was just enough time for Gary Neal to take one dribble and do his best Robert Horry impression knocking down the game-tying shot as time expired. The Spurs turned it into overdrive in the OT period and ended up extending the series which now moves to a game 6 where Memphis will have another chance to close them out - this time at home.
Almost as soon as the Spurs victory was in the books, the Nuggets - Thunder game heated up. Denver, down 3-1 in the series and playing at home - clung to a lead for the latter half of the 4th quarter until it became clear that Kevin Durant wasn't interested in playing a game 6. KD, who should now be considered a superstar in the NBA, put OKC on his narrow shoulders - draining a clutch three and pair of runners in the lane, while also coming up with a key block - all in the final two minutes. Arron Afflalo got a pretty rough look at a three at the buzzer that came amazingly close to falling to extend the Nuggets to an OT - but it was not meant to be and the Thunder have moved on to the second round.
With the struggles of the Lakers and Spurs, the once boring Western Conference has opened up and now appears to be headed for a shoot-out over the next two rounds as we ramp up to the Finals.