As enjoyable as the 2015-16 NBA regular season has been, we’re itching for postseason play. We can’t wait for the stakes to be raised, for the pressure to rise, and for the legitimate contenders to separate themselves from the rest of the herd. And while we understand that certain X-factors may play vital roles in the success or failure of their respective teams, when push comes to shove, this is the point in the year when the stars need to be at their best.
The way we see it, come the NBA playoffs, teams will only go as far as their top players can take them. Granted, we can’t predict how this 2016 postseason will play out. However, if we use past postseason play as an example, this assessment starts to make even more sense. Considering we’re inching closer and closer to the end of the regular season, we’ve decided to use this particular piece to combine two of our favorite things: the NBA playoffs and dunking.
After all, as we’ve seen before, these two have a history of going hand and hand. And in the 1998 playoffs, this point was made during the Western Conference first-round series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers when Shaquille O’Neal brought the thunder down on Kelvin Cato. So sit back, relax, and enjoy another edition of “Throwback Throwdowns.”
Heading into the 1998 playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers were riding a major high. This group was 61-21 on the year, was putting up 105.5 points per game, and came into its first-round clash with the Portland Trail Blazers having won 11 of its last 12 games. And if you thought the bright lights of the postseason would slow down the “Lake Show,” you’d be sorely mistaken.
In fact, it only took one game for the Blazers to realize that Los Angeles was ready to lay down the hammer. More specifically, Shaq was ready to lay down the hammer. On April 24, 1998, Portland traveled to Los Angeles for Game 1 of this much anticipated best-of-five series. Unfortunately for them, it appeared as if the Trail Blazers forgot that O’Neal was a master at running the floor. And that proved to be a major problem — especially for Portland’s Kelvin Cato.
Los Angeles’ Elden Campbell received an entry pass in the post and Portland quickly decided to hit him with a double team. Big mistake. The Blazers completely forgot about the Diesel, who had fallen down on the defensive end of the floor but was now trailing the play and running full steam ahead toward the basket. Campbell hit him with the pass and that was all she wrote.
Shaq caught it, took two steps, and unleashed a thunderous jam on Cato’s face. And one. Pandemonium in Hollywood. Los Angeles went on to win the contest 104-102 and take the series three games to one. The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, learned a valuable lesson: Never lose sight of a trailing Shaquille O’Neal.