The 2016-17 NBA season entertained us with many memorable moments and thrilling highlights. We’ve seen record-breaking individual performances, career-best years, and stunning finishes. Now that we’ve reached the end, let’s look back at ten captivating storylines that made this year so special.
10. Isaiah Thomas's fourth-quarter heroics
Isaiah Thomas’s clutch performances were many this season. With a wave of come-from-behind victories, he led the Celtics to a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference. At 5’9”, Thomas is the shortest player in the league. The undersized point guard defies expectation, using his quick playmaking ability to prove himself in a big man’s sport. In a game against the Miami Heat, Thomas scored 29 out of the Celtics’ 35 fourth quarter points. That set a franchise record for most points in a quarter, and drew chants of “MVP” from the crowd. Thomas earned the nickname “King of the Fourth.”
9. Klay Thompson reaches 60 points in the fewest minutes.
Early in December, Klay Thompson exploded for a career-high 60 points. Shockingly, Thompson touched the ball for less than ninety seconds and only took 11 dribbles throughout the entire game. Instead, he capitalized on catch-and-shoot opportunities throughout the night. Thompson put on a clinic, shooting 21–33 from the field, including 8–14 from three-point range. Because the Warriors were cruising to a 142–106 blowout win over the Pacers, Thompson only played 29 minutes in the game. He left to a standing ovation from Oracle Arena. Fans were left wondering what could have been, as he was on pace to score 80 points!
8. Joel Embiid’s incredible rookie run
After being sidelined with an injury for two seasons, Joel Embiid was finally ready to play. Embiid is an athletic beast, who stands seven feet tall and can dominate on both ends of the court. His standout performances gave hope to Philadelphia, who lost a league-worst 72 games the previous season. Embiid was the driving force behind an 11-2 run at the beginning of the calendar year. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Embiid’s impressive season puts his name right in the mix for Rookie of the Year, until he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Philadelphia fans can look forward to Joel Embiid’s bright future.
7. Anthony Davis has an All-Star Game performance to remember
At the 2017 All-Star Game, Anthony Davis gave his hometown fans in New Orleans a night to remember. On the day he was named a starter, Davis said that he wanted to win the MVP award for his city. Not only did he do that, he did it by scoring a record 52 points in the game, making two-thirds of his attempted shots. Aided by the generous passing of his teammates throughout the game, Davis cashed in on many dunks, and put on a show in the paint. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. With Davis leading the way, the West had enough firepower to win the game 192-182.
6. James Harden has a career year with the Houston Rockets
This season James Harden elevated his game and cemented his status as one of the league’s premier players. As the Rockets’ leading scorer, he’s taken charge of one of the 10 most productive offenses in NBA history. Harden averaged career highs of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game. He has a great ability to draw a double team and find the open man for the easy basket. And he’s always been able to score. You never know if he’s going to hit a step-back jumper, drive in for the slam, or unselfishly give the ball up to a teammate. James Harden makes a compelling case to be this season’s MVP.
5. Phenom Devin Booker scores 70 points in a game
At just 20 years old, Devin Booker made his mark by tallying 70 points on March 24 against the Celtics for the greatest single-game performance by any individual this year. It was the highest-scoring game in over a decade and set a new franchise record for the Phoenix Suns. Only five players in NBA history have scored more. After recording "just" 19 points in the first half, Booker heated up. With the entire crowd urging him on, he put up 28 points in a fourth-quarter scoring flurry. Booker now has the distinction of being the only active player with a 70-point game.
4. Kevin Durant signs with the Warriors to create a super team
Last season the Warriors won a record 73 games during the regular season. Incredibly, they were still looking to improve. In the offseason they added four-time scoring champion and former MVP Kevin Durant to their roster. Durant, still in pursuit of his first NBA title, liked his chances with Golden State. He joined fellow All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Golden State’s big acquisition soon turned into a controversy. Many fans wanted the commissioner to block what they considered an unfair move. Once the dust settled, Durant proved his worth, averaging 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks on the season.
3. The MVP race comes down to the wire and is one of the closest ever
This year’s MVP race is the most exciting in years. The four players who stand out as the leading candidates are James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. All of them have played at the highest level and shown drastic improvement this season. But Harden and Westbrook are especially worthy of MVP honors. Harden led the league in assists and Westbrook led the league in points. Both players have had nearly identical numbers and have been extremely productive. Unlike last year, when Stephen Curry was the first unanimous MVP winner, this year’s race is much more competitive.
2. The Warriors and Cavaliers face off for the third straight NBA Finals
The Warriors and Cavaliers meet again in the NBA Finals for the third straight year. The back-to-back-to-back finals matchup is an NBA first. The Warriors won in 2015 on the strength of overall team play and sharp shooting from the perimeter. In 2016, the Cavaliers rebounded from a 3-1 series deficit to give Cleveland its first major sports championship in over fifty years. Now they’ll meet again, with the game's biggest superstars competing on the biggest stage. The two teams have a combined three MVPs, seven All-Stars, and a 24-1 record in these playoffs. With these two super teams battling it out for the ultimate prize, we can anticipate another epic showdown.
1. Russell Westbrook averages a triple double over the entire season
This season, Russell Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only NBA player in history to average a triple double for the whole season. Game after game, he dominated in three statistical categories: scoring, assists, and rebounds. As a point guard, grabbing rebounds was bound to be the biggest challenge. But with gritty and tenacious play, Westbrook consistently dominated the glass. Westbrook led his team to many victories with a season average of 31.6 points, 10.4 assists, and 10.7 rebounds. Most notably, on April 9, he earned his 42nd triple double of the year. In that game, Westbrook scored 50 points and hit a deep buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Oklahoma City a thrilling 106–105 victory. Remarkably, he passed Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record for most triple doubles in a season. It was the grand finale to Russell Westbrook’s historic year.
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