The Top 10 NBA Plays Of The Season’s First Half

This year’s shortened NBA schedule came with a label from the beginning: highly concentrated. It’s what happens when 66 games are shoehorned into a season that begins on Christmas Day.

So while the fears from the end of the lockout about how such a packed schedule would fatigue players are still there, it also means the best plays come at a rapid-fire pace. Take, for example, the last weekend of January. On Saturday, Andre Iguodala ripped off a huge slam. A day later, LeBron James jumped over John Lucas to spawn a discussion about its place in dunk history. Two days later, Blake Griffin ripped up that same conversation like a bad first draft with his full-frontal dunk on Kendrick Perkins.

It’s all to say the top 10 plays of the NBA’s first half have seemingly come one on top of another, with barely any time for fans to catch up. A day before the schedule resumes before a stretch run to the NBA Finals, here’s the best from the first half.

*** *** ***

10. Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and two of Luke Ridnour‘s broken ankles. Russell Westbrook made sure of it on Dec. 26.

9. Ricky Rubio‘s first season in the NBA has given us numerous passing highlights, but his dime to Nikola Pekovic on Feb. 19 may very well be the best. Rubio’s nonchalance about the whole thing almost undermines how great it was. It also makes us want to know what he’s got up his sleeve for the second half of the year.

8. With four Detroit defenders acting more like obstacles to dribble around than actual defenders, Philly’s Andre Iguodala cut out the middleman and threw himself an alley-oop on Jan. 28. After getting caught in the air, he caught the Pistons all off guard in the air a second time.

7. Rudy Fernandez and rookie Kenneth Faried didn’t wait long to show off their bag of tricks to the Denver crowd on Jan. 4.

6. Derrick Rose gave the season’s first day its biggest moment when he floated a game-winner over the Lakers’ frontline on Christmas Day.

5. Kevin Love, the recent All-Star Weekend three-point champion, gave a premonition to that title back on Jan. 20. On the Timberwolves’ final out-of-bounds play, he lost himself from the Clippers’ defense to step back and drill a dagger.

4. Kevin Durant takes a couple steps back behind the arc to beat the Mavericks on Dec. 29.

3. The Jeremy Lin story had hit hysteria when he scored 38 points on the Lakers at MSG on Feb. 10. Going to sleepy Toronto wasn’t going to change that, right? Guess again — Linsanity hit DEFCON 5 with his game-winner against the Raptors on Valentine’s Day. The shot took all the collective nuttiness of his unprecedented start and gave it a singular hook to remember it by.

2. The first half’s second-best highlight, was, like LeBron, an exhibit of stealth excellence. That may sound absurd given his status as one of the planet’s most popular humans, but his eye-popping 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game are almost second fiddle to his latest statement or the Heat’s latest sign of discord. Likewise, it took a second to realize, on this play from Jan. 29, just what he’d done to Chicago.

1. While Griffin’s dunk on Perkins from Jan. 30 stands on its own merit, the timing of coming just days after the previous top-five dunk by LeBron brings this to No. 1, too. Almost a Mozgov? It’s better than a Mozgov, as one announcer says — and better than any other so far this season.

What play would you have added to this list?

Follow Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewGreif.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.