Playoff Assist: Stars and young guns stepping up for Game 3

Playoff Assist: Stars and young guns stepping up for Game 3

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

More postseason coverage: Playoff schedule, results | Latest news, notes

The NBA Playoffs have begun and we're taking a look at the players, lineups, and moments assisting teams the most during the postseason action.

1. DeMar DeRozan getting into a rhythm in Game 2 possibly saved the Raptors' season

In the first game of this series, DeMar DeRozan shot just 3-of-13 from the floor and only four of those attempts came in the restricted area. He exploded in Game 2 for 30 points with 17 of those 30 coming in the fourth quarter. Not only did DeRozan play much better on the offensive end, but he was smarter about the way he attacked.

DeRozan got deeper into the paint on more possessions and it resulted in eight attempts at the rim out of his 21 field goal attempts, and he got to the free throw line 14 times. He was aggressive and a closer for the Raptors as they closed out a tough one at home. If he can give the same type of effort and attack for the Raptors in Game 3, they could very easily regain home court advantage.

2. Bradley Beal's clutch shooting gave the Wizards a huge advantage

Over the last six minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 2, Bradley Beal played the role of hero. There were 15 points in those six minutes for both teams combined (Wizards with 11, Bulls with four). Beal had nine of those points, more than doubling the Bulls' total of four points in that stretch. He hit a couple of big 3-pointers to quickly erase a nice lead for Chicago and it allowed the Wizards to extend the game and send it to overtime.

How do the Bulls stop this man? He's so active and under control. They can put Jimmy Butler on him, but Beal's in between game and ability to move without the ball can be tough for Butler to keep up with. If only they had a guy like Luol Deng to defend him in late game situations…

3. The defensive duo of Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews fueling Portland advantage

Through the first two games of his Rockets-Blazers series, the combination of James Harden and Chandler Parsons is shooting 29-of-83 from the field (34.9 percent). A big part of that futility by the Houston wings is the defensive presence and effort of Batum and Matthews. They've been physical but haven't hacked. They've absorbed the attempts at drawing contact without impeding progress and allowing a foul to be called.

Their ability to keep these guys from burying 3-pointers and/or getting to the free throw line is as much of a reason for the 2-0 series lead as just about anything.

4. Nobody touch LaMarcus Aldridge right now! He's too hot!

Speaking of reasons for the 2-0 series lead in this series, LaMarcus Aldridge is stupid hot right now. He's scored 89 points on just 59 shots. His versatility is shining through and he's stepping up in these big moments. The first game he shredded the Houston defense inside. They packed the paint in Game 2 and he took to the midrange like an assassin. There doesn't seem to be anything the Rockets can do right now.

Terrence Jones is getting roasted. Dwight Howard can't stop from getting burned. And Omer Asik is too slow. I guess you can say he's blazing some scoring trails with his 44.5-point average right now.

5. It was fun to see the old Dwight Howard back on the court

The first half was much prettier than the second half in Game 2 but it's good to see Dwight Howard looking more like the Dwight of old right now. He's very active on defense and he's catching oops and dunking everything on offense. This was Orlando Dwight who had people wondering if he was the third best player in the NBA. He can continue to play like this too. He wants to post-up but if he keeps moving, the defense can't contain him.

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