Things continue to get hotter and hotter in this year’s NBA playoffs. Every year a few players really get the attention of the world, and up their stock, and this year has been no different. Some players you may have heard of and even seen play one or twice, but nobody expected them to break out like this. Today we’ll break down the latest playoff stars shining on the world’s biggest stage.
Let’s start in with a few ballers in Philadelphia. Since the departure of Allen Iverson the 76ers haven’t been as sexy to the fair weather NBA fan, and unless you’re a die hard fan of pro basketball you more than likely slept on this team even though they challenged Detroit in the first round last year. Well they took that momentum from that first round series last year and carried it over to this season making the playoffs for the second time and going in seeded a little higher.
The biggest reason, point guard Andre Miller, who’s averaging 21.5 points against the Orlando Magic in this series. He had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assist in game 1. He then had 30 points in game 2, and then 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assist in game 3. By the time he scored 17 points in game 4, Orlando’s head coach Stan Van Gundy was convinced that Miller’s was getting his shot any time and anywhere he pleased, and you know what he’s right. Miller may not be as flashy as Chris Paul, and Deron Williams, but he is as solid as they come much like Chauncey Billups. Extremely dependable calm, and smart with the ball in his hand.
Staying in Philly shout outs go to Thaddeus Young. He’s averaging over 13 points and a little over 3 rebounds per game. He had 14 points in game 1 when the 6ers snuck up and punched the Magic in the mouth taking game 1. He then put up 20 points in the game 2 loss. He sacrificed points for a win scoring only 6 points in game 3, but the last basket was the game winner in the paint over the NBA’s defensive player of the year Dwight Howard. In game four he put 15 points on the Magic in the 76ers loss, but he also put himself on the radar and now has coaches planning for him as well as Andre Iguodala, and Miller.
Speaking of the Magic they too have a young player they’re excited about. Rookie guard Courtney Lee. This kid’s averaging over 15 points a game, and he’s hitting big shots when Orlando need them. In his playoff debut game he put up 18 points. He followed that performance up with a 24 point outing in the Magic’s win in game 2. He only had 6 points in game 3, but got back on track scoring 15 points in the Magic win in game 4.
Out west I have to give props where props are due. Mr. Shannon Brown of the Los Angles Lakers. He’s only averaging a little over 8 points a game, but keep in mind he plays with Kobe Bryant, so he’s not getting that many shots, but the shots he does get are knocking the wind out of his opponents. He’s playing great defense off the bench and taking smart shots as oppose to forced shots. When he does get the opportunity to shoot he knocks the shot down rather it’s fro the 3 point line or in the paint.
Brown had 9 points in game one, but that came from shooting 3 for 3 from the 3-point line, that’s pretty impressive. In game 2 he had 12 points shooting 4 for 6 from the field, and 2 for 3 from beyond the arch. He struggled in game 3 only hitting one basket, but bounced back in game 4 scoring 10 points. His playoff performance will probably force Derrick Fisher into retirement and Jordan Farmar to the bench.
Since we’re already in the west let’s talk about another west coast player, or should I say players. The Houston Rockets have a host of young talent that as one collective unit are shining like the sun right now. The combinations of Kyle Lowry, Von Wafer, and Aaron Brooks, have performed remarkably against the Trailblazers. Brooks is the only one of those three that’s averaging double digits in the points per game category at 16, but all together they are hitting major shots and keeping Portland on their heals.
A major attribute that’s needed in order to win in the playoffs is to play hard and there’s few teams in the league that have three young players that are playing as hard as these young guns. In the absence of Tracy McGrady these three have combined their efforts to fill the void left by their all star. Please believe that as long as Houston can keep these guys together their dreams of finally getting the Rockets into the second round will soon be a reality.
Ladies in gentlemen reports are in hat in Miami we’ve had a Jermaine O’Neal sighting. O’Neal’s averaging over 13 points a game along with more than six rebounds per outing. He struggled in game one against the Hawks along with the rest of the Miami Heat, but since then he’s been a beast. I know he’s not a young gun anymore but he is using the playoffs as his platform to show the world that he’s not done yet. In game 2, O’Neal had 19 points 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. In game 3 he had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Miami has longed to have help in the post since the loss of Alonzo Mourning and may have found that help in Jermaine O’Neal.
Lastly let’s look at the stars shining in the most exciting series in the entire playoffs. I’m talking about the Celtics and Bulls series in case you were wondering. KG went down for the Celtics and of all the guys to shine I didn’t expect Big Baby Glen Davis to be that guy. He had 18 points in game 1, 26 points and 9 rebounds in game 2, but in game 3 his versatility shined through. He had 14 points 9 rebounds, 6 assist, and 6 steals, and 3 blocks. In game 4 his numbers weren’t as big but his performance was still consistent with 10 points and 11 rebounds. He may not bring the all out KG X factor, but he’s doing enough to relieve some of the pressure from Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Speaking of X factors, the man getting it in for the Celtics has been their most improved player and even the Celtics call him their MVP of the season, Rajon Rondo. The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging a triple double against the Bulls in their playoff series. Not only is averaging a triple double but he’s Boston’s leading rebounder, assist man, and second leading scorer with 23.2 points per game just barely behind Pierce’s 23.5.
The Bulls have a few players killing the game as well. Tyrus Thomas is averaging over 10 points and almost 7 blocks per game, not to mention he’s now putting his jumper on display. In Chicago’s surprise game 1 victory Thomas was everywhere on the court offensively and defensively. He had 10 points off of 8 for 12 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 3 huge blocks. He was held to 6 points in game 2, but kept the energy going defensively with 6 blocks, and 4 boards. In game 3 he had 8 rebounds and 6 points, but came back offensively in game 4 putting up 14 points and 10 rebounds. His numbers are so so but his energy is undeniable, and it’s just the toughness Chicago needs to compliment the finesse game brought by Derrick rose and Ben Gordon.
The reigning NBA rookie of the year is averaging 16.8 points per game, with 4 rebounds and almost 7 assist. Of course you remember the 36 points and 11 assist, he put up on the Celtics in game 1. He was detained in game 2 due to foul trouble, and was just out hustled by the entre Boston lineup in game 3, but he bounced back in a major way in game 4. He was one assist shy of a triple double with 23 points 11 rebounds and 9 assist. It wasn’t so much the 23 points he scored, as it was how he got those points. He got to the hole at will, showing very little effort and set his other team mates up to knock down huge baskets. Teammates like Ben Gordon who has been undeniably on of the premier guys in this year’s playoff tournament.
Gordon’s averaging just over 20 points a game and has put on a shooting display comparable to Ray Allen’s, who he been dueling with shot for shot throughout this series. He had 20 points in game 1, 42 points in game 2 while shooting 6 of 11 from the 3-point line. He had a subpar performance in game 3 scoring 15 points, but then turned it up in game 4 scoring 22 point including a three pointer to send the game into overtime. If you weren’t familiar with Gordon before, you know him now.
This is the reason that the playoffs are so exciting. Of course you get a chance to see the league’s best players night after night, but you’re also introduced to a lot of talent that’s been slept on throughout the regular season. These are guys who have been putting it down all season long, but just weren’t getting the media attention due to bigger names like James, Wade, Bryant and Howard hogging all the press. This is the time of year when these guys snatch the spotlight and hold it on themselves and make you know them. This is what makes the playoffs so special, it’s time to shine.