Playoff Assist: Scoring binges playing big role in second round
NBA writer Zach Harper breaks down players who are assisting their teams on their playoff run. He looks at the Thunder, Heat, and Blazers.
1. Russell Westbrook's huge scoring night saved the Thunder
While Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder struggled to generate consistent offense during much of Tuesday night's controversial victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, Russell Westbrook didn't struggle at all. Westbrook's aggressive scoring push and incredible ability to draw fouls to get to the free throw line was a theme all night long, especially on the final three free throws he got to win the game with six seconds left. Durant was just 6-of-22 from the field in the game and 3-of-17 through the first three quarters.
Westbrook was there though to be the scorer against Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers' guards. He had 29 points heading into the fourth quarter, and while he didn't shoot well during the fourth quarter (3-of-10), he managed to carve out 10 points, including the winning free throws on a touch foul during a 3-point shot. Overall, Westbrook had 38 points on 11-of-23 shooting to help get the Thunder a 3-2 series lead. Oh and there may have been some officiating issues at one point...
2. LeBron James can't be stopped inside by the Nets
The Miami Heat are riding their superstar with LeBron James averaging 30.3 points on 59.7 percent shooting during their series against the Brooklyn Nets. It doesn't seem to matter which defenders are thrown his way. Put Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Mirza Teletovic, or Andray Blatche on him and it doesn't matter. He's getting to whatever spot he wants on the floor and he's making the Nets pay. His 49-point outing in the Game 4 victory was a great example of him doing what he wanted on the court.
He got to the restricted area for 12 shot attempts and made 11 of them in Game 4. For the series, 34 of his 72 shot attempts have come in the restricted area and has made 28 of them. That's a success rate of 82.5 percent in the restricted area during this series. The Nets don't have a big man to deter him at the rim (sorry, Mason Plumlee) and he knows it. If the Nets are going to stay alive in their postseason, they have to wall off the paint from LeBron.
3. Nicolas Batum's all-around game could prolong the inevitable
The Portland Trail Blazers finally recorded a win in the second round against the San Antonio Spurs when the entire Blazers' team showed up from opening tip until the final buzzer. It was the first 48-minute game they had played in the series, after getting down huge in the first half in each of the first three games, only to never quite mount a big enough comeback to make it a contest. Game 4 was different, even if they are delaying the inevitable series loss after dropping the first three games. A big part of that was Nicolas Batum.
Batum had his best all-around game of the series with 14 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. He showed his versatility and play-making ability. When the Blazers get a game of at least 14 points, seven rebounds, and five assists out of Batum this season, they're pretty hard to beat. They're 9-4 in these games, including the playoffs. If Batum can win that match-up against Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio, we may head back to Portland for a crazy Game 6 atmosphere.
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