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All-Time Big Shots
August 19, 2014
With 1.0 to play in regulation and the Cavs trailing the Magic, 95-93, in Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron took the in-bounds pass from Mo Williams and, as Hedo Turkoglu close in, rattled home the game-winning three-pointer – sending a sold-out Quicken Loans Arena into a frenzy and evening the series at one game apiece.
With the score tied at 85, Dick Snyder took the in-bounds pass from Jim Cleamons, drove left on Wes Unseld and hit the right-handed runner to give the Cavaliers a two-point edge with four seconds to play – and eventually the first playoff series in team history. (And as great as today’s crowds at The Q can be, check out the absolute madhouse at Richfield Coliseum following “The Miracle at Richfield.)
Danny Ferry had some nice moments in his 10-year career with the Cavaliers – including his game-winning bucket over the Pacers at Market Square Arena in 1992. The Cavs trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, but Ferry capped Cleveland’s comeback, scoring the squad’s last four points, including the leaning baseline jumper for the 104-102 win.
With the Cavaliers looking to make a late-season run at the playoffs – and coming off two straight dramatic victories – Dion Waiters, starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving, took the in-bounds pass from Luol Deng, dribbled once, stutter-stepped Rodney Stuckey, jabbed left and splashed home the 20-footer at the buzzer to stun the Pistons (who came into the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead) in Detroit. The Auburn Hills crowd stood stunned as the Cavaliers bench – and even a couple PR staffers – charged the floor to mob the mercurial shooting guard from Syracuse. (Deng raised his arms victoriously while the shot was still in the air and, almost comically, barely moved an inch during the ensuing melee.)
The Cavaliers hadn’t made the postseason in eight seasons when they took on the Wizards to start the 2006 NBA Playoffs. And after five contentious contests, Damon Jones caught a Larry Hughes’ pass in the corner and canned the jumper in overtime to give Cleveland the 114-113 overtime win. The dramatic road victory also gave the Wine and Gold their first postseason series win in 13 years.
They say that winners write the history books and that’s certainly the case of “The Shot.” But before Michael Jordan broke the Cavs collective hearts with his Game 5 dagger, Craig Ehlo got the ball back after throwing the in-bounds pass to Larry Nance and scored on a driving layup with three seconds to play to put Cleveland up, 100-99. We all know what happened next …
With under two minutes to play and the Cavs up seven in Game 4 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals, LeBron sidestepped Boston’s Paul Pierce and (new Cavs assistant coach) James Posey to crush one in Kevin Garnett’s face – blowing the game open and evening the series at two games apiece – while immortalizing Kevin Harlan’s “No regard for human life!” play-call.
After dropping Game 1 of the 1976 Eastern Conference Semis against the Bullets, the Cavs trailed by a single point with two seconds remaining in Game 2. But Bobby “Bingo” Smith had one more bullet of his own – and he swished home his patented rainbow jumper from 27 feet to give the Cavaliers their first playoff win in franchise history.
Not known for his long-distance marksmanship, Zydrunas Ilgauskas – who hit only 31 threes in his fantastic career – drained a bomb with 3.6 seconds remaining in 2004 to send the Cavaliers to overtime against the Phoenix Suns. The Cavs would go on to win the game in OT – 114-110. In the victory, LeBron James led Cleveland with 38 points; Shawn Marion led the Suns with 22.
Take your pick of any of the five three-pointers that Boobie Gibson drilled to sink Detroit and send the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals, but it was his final trey – a back-breaker with 6:52 to play that put the Wine and Gold up 15 points and send the Pistons packing. Gibson was one of only three Cavs in double-figures in the Game 6 victory, but it also happened to be a career-high 31 points.
Although the hoops world had heard about high school phenom, LeBron James, no one was exactly sure if he would actually live up to the herculean hype. But the young King quickly put that to rest – hitting his first three jumpers as a pro in the Cavaliers season opener in Sacramento. The third of those three shots was an off-balance baseline jumper that had him almost fall back into his team’s bench. When he canned that third three, fans everywhere knew they were beginning to witness history.
They don’t call the Cavaliers point guard “Mr. Fourth Quarter” for nothing, and on January 26, 2013 against Toronto, he illustrated his nickname to two countries. With the Wine and Gold down two, 98-96, with 12.6 to play, Irving walked the ball up against Alan Anderson, pulled up about 26 feet from the rim and splashed home the game-winning trey with .07 to play.
Mo’s breakaway dunk isn’t famous for its impact on the game or the 2010 Playoff series against Boston – (although it was a big third-quarter bucket) – but more for then-Coach Mike Brown’s priceless reaction to the question of whether or not he knew Mo Williams could actually dunk.
In Game 1 of the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Boston at the Richfield Coliseum, reserve guard Steve Kerr closed out the third quarter with a halfcourt heave that gave the Cavaliers a 15-point edge – their biggest of the game. The Celtics got no closer than eight points the rest of the game as Cleveland took the first game of the series, 101-76.
Because of a late start due to TV playoff coverage, the clock had already struck midnight when LeBron James went to work in overtime. After being trapped in the corner by the Wizards, LeBron – in his first career playoff appearance – drove past Antawn Jamison and knifed through Washington’s Michael Ruffin, Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood to score on the right-handed layup with 0.9 seconds remaining in the extra session.
Once again, this is a shot that’s more renowned for the play-call that brought it home. Two days before Christmas in 1991, Craig Ehlo sent Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Jazz packing when he canned a three-pointer at the buzzer. The shot and victory were immortalized by Joe Tait's legendary call as the Cavaliers left the floor: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! And he comes from Lubbock, Texas!"
LeBron James got a nice birthday present against the Hawks when Anderson Varejao took a desperation pass from Mo Williams and, with the shot-clock dwindling down, canned a rare three-pointer to give the Wine and Gold a 104-101 win over Atlanta. Over the course of his 10-year career, the Wild Thing has attempted 39 three-pointers. That game-winner remains the only one he’s ever made.
It was a game early in the 2006-07 season and the contest itself was early in the first quarter when LeBron crushed home a right-handed dunk in Tim Duncan’s grill. Among the lexicon of LeBron’s dunks, it wasn’t one of the all-time greats, but the King himself must have really enjoyed it – the image of that play hung in James’ locker at Quicken Loans Arena from that time until his departure in 2010.
The late, great Mike Mitchell hit some big shots for the Wine and Gold in his brief-but-brilliant four-year career in Cleveland, but it might have been a pair of free throws that were his biggest shots in a Cavaliers uniform. On January 29, 1980, the Cavaliers and (eventual World Champion) Lakers went toe-to-toe for four quarters and four overtime periods. The Lakers led 153-152 in the fourth extra session when Mitchell was fouled by L.A.’s Jim Chones. Mitchell sank both tosses to seal the marathon win for Cleveland.
After starting the 1984-85 campaign with a 2-19 record, the Cavs made an improbable late season push and clinched a playoff berth with a 36-46 record. Johnny Davis hit a clutch three-pointer against the New Jersey Nets in the fourth-to-last game of the season to solidify a spot in postseason play.