There is no sugarcoating it, the 2010s were the worst decade in Los Angeles Lakers history in terms of success.
The Lakers went through their worst stretch in franchise history, setting records for losing and futility and failing to make the NBA playoffs for the last six seasons. However, the beginning of the decade brought standard team success and one of the most satisfying championship wins ever.
There may not have been the largest selection of Lakers games to choose from, but that does not mean there still were not plenty of memorable playoff games this decade.
Here are the top-eight playoff games of the 2010s:
8. New Orleans Hornets | 2011 First Round, Game 5
This was not the most memorable series, but this game is on here for a pair of Kobe Bryant dunks that stamped a win on their way to clinching the series in six tough games.
A left-handed dunk over Carl Landry was outstanding, but it was the absolutely vicious tomahawk slam over Emeka Okafor that is most remembered by fans everywhere and was the lasting image of the game. Los Angeles would win 106-90 thanks to a team effort that saw six players score in double figures, but it was the dunk that sent the message that the Lakers would not be denied in this series.
7. Denver Nuggets | 2012 First Round, Game 7
While most remember the 2009 Western Conference Finals between these teams, the 2012 first round series was just as fierce of a meeting. The Lakers struggled all series to contain Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, something that was exacerbated by the absence of Metta World Peace.
After the suspension, World Peace returned for Game 7 as he and the Lakers role players stepped up in a big way to prevent the Lakers from bowing out in the first round.
World Peace scored 15 points in his first game back, Pau Gasol led them with 23 points and 17 rebounds, and Steve Blake added 19 points including five three-pointers off the bench as the Lakers survived 96-87. Kobe Bryant handed out eight assists to go along with 17 points and the Lakers averted a first round upset thanks to a true team effort.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder | 2012 Second Round, Game 3
Even though the Lakers ultimately lost this series in five games, it was a much closer series than remembered. Games 2-4 were all one-score games that could have gone either way and the one that went to the Lakers was Game 3.
Kobe Bryant led the way with 36 points, seven rebounds, and six assists and went 18-of-18 from the free-throw line as the Lakers edged the Thunder in Los Angeles, 99-96. Both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum posted double-doubles and as a team, the Lakers hit 41-of-42 from the line overall.
This win was huge for the Lakers who had blown a chance to steal Game 2 on the road and many believed they would get swept by the surging Thunder. Bryant ensured that would not happen and though they ultimately came up short, it showed they would not just go down without a fight.
5. Phoenix Suns | 2010 Western Conference Finals, Game 6
The Suns gave the Lakers everything they could handle in the 2010 Western Conference Finals and were going to go all out at home in Game 6 to try and take it back to Los Angeles for a winner-take-all. Unfortunately for Steve Nash and company, Kobe Bryant was not going to let that happen.
Bryant scored 37 points, including nine in the final two minutes to shut down a late Suns rally and send the Lakers to the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics with a 111-103 win. The most infamous shot came with under a minute left as Bryant rose over excellent defense from Grant Hill to knock down a fadeaway jumper, then proceeded to turn around and pat Suns head coach Alvin Gentry on the backside as if to let him know, ‘Better luck next year.’
Metta World Peace also scored 25 points, but it was the greatness of Bryant that stood out as he showed he would not be denied on his quest for his fifth championship.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder | 2010 First Round, Game 6
The Oklahoma City Thunder were just this plucky team led by the young duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The defending champion Lakers were supposed to step right over them on their way to another championship and though they ultimately did, they had to earn every bit of it.
The memorable moment came via Pau Gasol, who tipped in a Kobe Bryant miss with 0.5 seconds left to give the Lakers a 95-94 road win while sending the Thunder home. The shot by Gasol is one of — if not the biggest one of his Lakers career — and prevented them from having to face a Game 7.
Bryant was Bryant, but a team cannot win a championship without everyone contributing and this was one of many contests on this run where a role player came up huge.
3. Boston Celtics | 2010 NBA Finals, Game 3
After dropping Game 2 at home and the series tied at 1-1, the Lakers were in serious danger of falling behind in their quest to avenge their 2008 NBA Finals loss to the Celtics.
Bryant scored 29 points but when he struggled in the fourth quarter, it was the always reliable Derek Fisher who stepped up, knocking down four shots down the stretch to hold off a Celtics rally. Fisher would rebound a miss by Ray Allen and drive it the length of the floor finishing a floater over Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis while being fouled to ice the game for the Lakers and reclaim homecourt advantage.
In a career of clutch moments for Fisher, this was undoubtedly one of the biggest — and the Lakers certainly do not win their 16th championship without it.
2. Phoenix Suns | 2010 Western Conference Finals, Game 5
It is the best four-point performance anyone could ask for.
Ron Artest struggled mightily all game but while everyone else sat and watched Kobe Bryant’s attempted game-winner, he was getting in position to rebound and put it back in for the buzzer-beater to give the Lakers a crucial 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
After Jason Richardson improbably banked in a three-pointer to tie the game, Artest came through much to the delight of the Staples Center crowd. This was one of the most entertaining Lakers playoff games in a long time, well-played on both ends with great performances from everyone involved.
Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and everyone came to play on this night, but it was Artest who would shine brightest. His post-game interview with Craig Sager only made it that much better.
1. Boston Celtics | 2010 NBA Finals, Game 7
We all knew what it would be.
One of the most tension-filled NBA Finals games in recent history, everything came down to this Game 7 at Staples Center between the league’s biggest rivals in the Lakers and Celtics.
The game was a defensive struggle as both teams struggled shooting, most notably Kobe Bryant who shot just 6-of-24. However, he found other ways to win, grabbing 15 rebounds and hounding everyone defensively. Pau Gasol had 19 points and 18 rebounds and the Lakers dominated Boston on the glass, grabbing 23 offensive rebounds on the night.
Once again, Ron Artest came up huge with the biggest three-pointer of his career to put the Lakers over the hump as he blew a kiss to the crowd and Sasha Vujacic came in off the bench with ice in his veins to seal the game with a pair of free throws.
The Lakers exacted their revenge from two seasons earlier and defended their NBA championship while vanquishing the hated Celtics.