NBA veteran Paul Pierce scored 20 points last week in the opening game of the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards first-round matchup, nearly double his regular season average. After the game, when reporters asked Pierce about his scoring outburst, he responded jokingly with, “I’ve been resting.” In other words, it’s not the regular season anymore. Pierce, an NBA champion, knows this as well as anyone.

The playoffs, the NBA’s second season, are where stars are born and legends are solidified. Players find an extra gear this time of year, fueled by a desire to take home the game’s ultimate prize: the NBA championship.

Under the bright lights of the playoffs, with the world watching on, it’s win or go home. In those conditions, the game becomes a battle, a must-win for either side—a bastion for competitiveness. It’s fitting, then, that some of the best games of the last 10 years have been found in this environment.