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Ranking the Greatest NBA Finals Performances Since 2000 | Bleacher Report

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    There is no better time for a player to put together a hot streak than the NBA Finals.

    During the past two decades, the best individual performances in the championship round have featured several of the sport’s biggest names. Most recently, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo have enjoyed those prolific runs.

    How do they compare, though, to the previous generation’s top performers, like Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal?

    That’s our objective here, ranking the most outstanding Finals showings since the 2000-01 playoffs. While the Finals runner-up has often had a standout player, our choices are limited to the winning team. Total production in a series is the main factor, though perceived impact on the result is also considered.

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    One year earlier, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant made sure the Orlando Magic wouldn’t do the same in 2009.

    The “Black Mamba” opened the series with a 40-point night, adding eight rebounds and eight assists in the blowout win. He buried a clutch, game-tying shot to help force overtime in Game 2, ending that contest with 29 points and eight assists.

    Although the Lakers lost Game 3, he still recorded 31 points and eight assists. Bryant registered 32 points and eight assists in the following tiltanother OT victory for the Lakersbefore closing the series with 30 points, five assists and four blocks in Game 5.

    Within our timeframe, Kobe’s 32.4 points per game is the sixth-highest scoring clip for an NBA champion in the Finals.

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    Together with Kyrie Irving, LeBron James helped the Cleveland Cavaliers pull off a legendary comeback in the 2016 Finals.

    Cleveland faced a 3-1 deficit opposite the Golden State Warriors, who notched an NBA-record 73 wins during the regular season. But the series changed in Game 5 as Cleveland took advantage of Draymond Green’s suspension, and LeBron racked up 41 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists in the victory.

    LeBron followed up that performance with 41 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Then, in Game 7, he posted a triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists), capping the victory with his iconic chasedown block of Andre Iguodala.

    For the series, LeBron averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks.

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    Chris Elise/Getty Images

    Kevin Durant signed with Golden State in the summer of 2016, and he immediately left an enduring impact.

    While the Warriors cruised to a championshipthey posted a 16-1 record in the playoffsKD became only the sixth player to score 30-plus points in each game of the NBA Finals.

    As usual, he did so with remarkable efficiency.

    Durant averaged 35.2 points per game, notching a 47.4 three-point percentage on 7.6 attempts per contest while making 55.6 percent of his shots overall. Durant also converted 92.7 percent of his free throws for a scorching 69.8 true shooting percentage in the series.

    For good measure, he chipped in 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.6 blocks per night.

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    They’re in good company, but the New Jersey Nets had no answers for Shaquille O’Neal in 2002.

    Shaq opened the series with a 36-point day, including 14 in the fourth quarter of the tight win. He exploded for 40 points, eight assists and four blocks in Game 2, then guided the Lakers to a sweep with 35 and 34 points in Games 3 and 4, respectively.

    En route to his third straight NBA Finals MVP, he registered 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.8 blocks per game.

    The most comical part, though, is 2002 was Shaq’s “worst” performance of the three honors.

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    The best word to describe Tim Duncan’s production against the Nets in the 2003 Finals? Preposterous.

    Duncan had video-game-like averages of 24.2 points, 17.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 5.3 blocks in the six-game series. The longtime San Antonio Spurs star overwhelmed the Nets, also assembling two of the most absurd box scores in NBA Finals history.

    In Game 1, he collected 32 points, 20 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists. Nobody else in league history has posted a 30-20-5-5 in a Finals game. Even more impressively, Duncan capped the series with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks—just two swats shy of a quadruple-double.

    Two decades later, Duncan still owns the NBA record for most blocks (32) in a single Finals.

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    Greg Nelson/Getty Images

    Dwyane Wade single-handedly changed the 2006 Finals.

    Led by Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks jumped out to a 2-0 edge on Wade and the Miami Heat. Then a third-year player, Wadewho had still managed 25.5 points per game in those two lossesresponded with a brilliant four-game stretch.

    The young star netted 42, 36, 43 and 36 points in the ensuing games, providing many clutch moments along the way.

    Wade scored 15 fourth-quarter points to lead an 11-point comeback in Game 3. Then, he scored 17 last-quarter points, drained a game-tying shot in the final seconds of regulation and buried the go-ahead and winning free throws late in overtime of Game 5. He iced the championship with 11 fourth-quarter points in Game 6. All three of those matchups were decided by three points or fewer.

    Wade registered 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game in the memorable series.

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    The numbers are ridiculous enough. Given that Giannis Antetokounmpo had endured a severe hyperextension of his knee in the Eastern Conference Finals, this performance was otherworldly.

    Similar to Wade’s story in 2006, Antetokounmpo dragged his Milwaukee Bucks out of a 2-0 hole opposite the Phoenix Suns.

    He tallied 41 points in Game 3, flirted with a triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists) in Game 4 and netted 32 points in Game 5. The “Greek Freak” saved the best for last, dropping 50 points in Game 6 to tie the record for most points in a Finals-clinching win.

    Antetokounmpo averaged 35.2 points on 61.8 percent shooting, adding 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 blocks per game as Milwaukee won its first championship in 50 years.

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    STAN HONDA/Getty Images

    One year after an overpowering NBA Finals run, the “Big Diesel” showed the Philadelphia 76ers how the Indiana Pacers felt.

    Quick aside: If you expected “since 2000” to include the playoffs of the 1999-2000 season, that’s fine. Feel free to mentally insert Shaq’s 38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game ahead of his performance in the 2001 Finals.

    But there’s hardly a question he tops the list anyway.

    O’Neal gathered 44 points and 20 rebounds in a Game 1 overtime loss. He finished one assist and two blocks shy of a quadruple-double in Game 2, notching 28 points and 20 rebounds in the win. Shaq posted 30 points and 12 rebounds in Game 3 followed by 34/14 and 29/13 during the Lakers’ final two victories.

    Overall, he routed the Sixers for 33.0 points with a 57.3 percent clip, 15.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.4 blocks per game.

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