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Playoff Assist: Who can save their teams in pivotal Game 5s?

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

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

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.

1. Manu Ginobili's resurgence fueling/saving the San Antonio Spurs

Remember last season when Manu Ginobili looked to be on his last legs? Remember how inspiring it was for him to have one big game in the NBA Finals before his team ultimately lost? Remember how we had no idea if Ginobili would or even should come back to the NBA for this season? Those questions seem silly after a resurgent season with the Spurs and they look absurd when you start thinking of where this team would be in this series against the Dallas Mavericks without him.

In the four games against the Mavs, Ginobili is averaging 19.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three in 28.8 minutes. This is the old Manu we're used to seeing and it's a glorious sight. With Manu, the Spurs are a plus-5.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, which doesn't sound like a huge number until you see they're minus-19.0 without him playing.

2. Shawn Marion's defense hurting Tony Parker's effectiveness

Without Shawn Marion on the floor in the playoff series between the Spurs and the Mavs, Tony Parker is shredding the Dallas defense. It's not a huge sample size (only 12 shots in 30 minutes) but he's making 58.3 percent of his shots with seven assists and two turnovers. When Marion hops onto the court, he's mostly matching up with Parker and he's lowering his field goal percentage to 45.7 percent. Parker also has 11 assists and 10 turnovers in these minutes.

When it comes to fourth quarters, Marion is keeping Parker completely out of play. In 27 fourth quarter minutes in this series, Parker has taken just eight shots, scored eight points, taken zero free throws, and has three assists to two turnovers. Marion is smothering Parker and there's nothing the Spurs have been able to do about it.

3. Patrick Patterson providing a great impact in small stretches

Patrick Patterson has provided the Toronto Raptors with a huge boost in this series and with Amir Johnson giving them inconsistent play and Tyler Hansbrough not being a viable option off the bench, you'd like to see Patterson see an increase in minutes. The Raptors have a net rating of plus-8.3 points per 100 possessions with Patterson on the floor, which is the second highest on the team behind Greivis Vasquez of any player getting significant minutes. Why has Patterson been so good?

He's a stretch-4 as a natural NBA position and that's the type of player who can succeed against the Nets in this series. He's giving the Raptors 11.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in just 27.8 minutes per game. He's made 58.1 percent of his shots and 50.0 percent of his 3-point attempts. The more this team plays Patterson, the bigger the threat they are against a veteran defense.

4. Damian Lillard's lethal perimeter attack boosting the Portland Trail Blazers

It might take a sniper team to stop Damian Lillard from torching the competition behind the 3-point line and even then it feels like just a pipedream for slowing him down. His overall series play is stellar with averages of 25.5 points, 7.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and just 2.0 turnovers in 45.5 minutes. Where he's doing the most damage is behind the 3-point line.

He's taking nearly eight 3-pointers per game, which actually is a bad idea. It's a bad idea because he should be taking way more than he is. He's knocked down 48.7 percent of his long-range shots in this series and the Rockets have no clue how to defend him around the perimeter. The more he takes, the more attention the defense will have to give him. Then you've got LaMarcus Aldridge in single converage. It's over if that happens.

5. The Houston Rockets need Troy Daniels and lots of him

How do you keep up with a shooting performance like Lillard and the rest of the Blazers? You have to find shooters to match them with and they may have that guy in Troy Daniels. If you're not sure who Troy Daniels, don't worry. He was in the D-League most of the year but if you look at his shooting chart then you'll notice how incredible his prowess is for taking and making shots from downtown.

He took 12.5 3-pointers per game in the D-League for a Rockets' affiliate breeding assassins. He made 40.9 percent of those 3-pointers. In two games in the playoffs, he's picked up where he left off in the D-League. He's 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) from three in 41 minutes in this series and he seems unafraid of bombing away from outside. Let them fly, young man.

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