Playoff Assist: Players helping their teams to Conference finals
NBA writer Zach Harper breaks down players who are assisting their teams on their playoff run. He looks at the Thunder, Heat, and Pacers.
1. Kevin Durant is a human flamethrower
In a closeout game to end the Los Angeles Clippers ' season and move the Oklahoma City Thunder on to the Western Conference finals, Kevin Durant had an absurd scoring display. He started the game 1-of-7 for three points in the first quarter, and then went off to lead his team back and bring them the victory. In quarters 2 through 4, he went 9-of-16 from the field and scored 36 points. He finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists to account for 50 of the Thunder's 104 points. His accurate shooting came mostly with the jumper too. Here's his shot chart:
Only two shots came in the restricted area and he peppered the Clippers' defense with jumpers from all over the floor. He set fire to the Staples Center and just watched it burn.
2. Ray Allen rounding into form at the right time for the Miami Heat
The Miami Heat have a great thing in the Big Three but LeBron James , Dwyane Wade , and Chris Bosh can't do it all on their own. They need supplementary scoring, especially when facing the top defense in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers . In the second round series against the Brooklyn Nets , Ray Allen was big. He hit some very clutch shots to stick the dagger in his former teammates, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce , but mostly he found ways to score and take some of the pressure off the main guys.
In the four wins over the Heat, Allen scored in double figures in each game. He averaged 14 points in the victories and scored just nine points in the one loss. He made 51.4 percent of his shots in the four wins and went 2-of-6 in their Game 3 loss. Allen struggled against the Pacers the last couple seasons but as long as he's able to hit the big ones when they count and get his team some key baskets here and there, they'll be fine in the second round.
3. Roy Hibbert 's production is needed for victory
As much as Roy Hibbert has left to be desired in his play the last 3.5 months, when the Indiana Pacers won in the second round against the Washington Wizards , he was a huge contributor. In the two losses the Pacers had, he averaged two points, one rebound, and 1.5 blocks. He did almost next to nothing, other than altering a few shots at the basket. In the four victories though, Hibbert was huge for them.
Hibbert averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. He made his shots, turned stuff away at the rim, and forced the Wizards to keep a body on him at all times. It helped open things up for the Pacers to run some stuff inside-out with Paul George . When the big man is engaged and able to get a few buckets early, he presents a big obstacle for the opposing team. The Pacers will need him to be as good as he was against the Heat last year in the playoffs, in order for them to think about competing for an NBA title.
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