The NBA Playoffs are in full swing and we're taking a look at the players, lineups, and moments assisting teams the most during the postseason action.
The assist is always crediting the passer in the game of basketball, but it still requires the player receiving the ball to knock down he shot. Trevor Ariza helped the passers of the Washington Wizards' rack up assists and the team deliver a huge Game 4 loss to the Bulls with his 30-point effort. Nine of Ariza's 10 made baskets were assisted, coming from John Wall, Marcin Gortat, and others in the half court and in transition. When Ariza has big games and shoots well from outside, the Wizards are just better.
Ariza has hit three or more 3-pointers in a game 33 times this season including the playoffs, with the Wizards winning 22 of those games. They're 2-0 against the Bulls in the playoffs when this happens. When Ariza scores 20 points or more this season including the playoffs, Washington is 13-6. More Ariza success translates to Wizards' success.
Big scoring from the Toronto Raptors' backcourt evens up the series
The Toronto Raptors dropped home court advantage in the first game when they lost to the Brooklyn Nets, and they've been trying to pick it back up ever since. They finally accomplished that when Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 46 points in a Game 4 victory in which the Nets couldn't get anything going in the fourth quarter. DeRozan had 24 points on 7-of-19 shooting but went to the free throw line 11 times, making nine of them.
The Raptors dominated with Lowry on the court. He was a plus-14 in the game in scoring 22 points on 7-of-17 on the field while hobbling all over the court and battling foul trouble late. This is exactly what the Raptors needed to even up the series headed back to Toronto for two out of the next three games, if it goes the distance.
Last year in the Eastern Conference finals, I asked Roy Hibbert what the biggest difference was in facing the Miami Heat in 2012 in the playoffs and in the 2013 playoffs. Hibbert said the addition of the Birdman to the Heat was the big difference. Instead of an unreliable dump-off option when the Heat have dribble penetration, they added a big-time finisher at the rim who made shot blockers hesitate to rotate over.
He had 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes in the Game 3 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. Despite being dunked on by Josh McRoberts earlier in the seres, he's still in there trying to turn away shots and own the paint on both ends of the floor. The more he plays for the Heat, the better they seem to play.
The Indiana Pacers have been dying for Paul George to return to star form and we got to see it in Game 4 quite a bit. In 43 minutes of action, George had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists as he led the Pacers to a must-win victory. When the scoring wing from the Pacers shoots better than 50 percent from the floor in this series, the Pacers win. In their two losses, George is shooting 9-of-29 from the floor.
In the two victories, he's shooting 19-of-34 from the field. If the Pacers can get their best player to score efficiently and be active all around the floor, they'll avoid an embarrassing first round loss and buy themselves more time to right the ship before/if they face the Heat later in the playoffs. But they need him to be good in order to survive and advance.
Vince Carter's winning 3-pointer from the left corner was the buzz of the Dallas Mavericks' Game 3 win over the San Antonio Spurs, but Monta Ellis was the player who kept them in the game. His scoring in the fourth quarter put them in position to win the game on Carter's shot. He was 5-of-5 from the field for 12 points in the final period and was the leading scorer in the league with 29 points. Monta Ellis have it all and the Mavs win.