Playoff Assist: Who will step up in Game 6 Friday night?
NBA writer Zach Harper breaks down players who are assisting their teams on their playoff run. He looks at the Nets, Raptors, Spurs, Mavericks, and Rockets.
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. Joe Johnson is an All-Star in the playoffs
We might not get another chance to praise Joe Johnson for his work in the playoffs, so let’s take care of that now. Johnson shouldn’t have been an All-Star during the regular season but he’s been one of the most impactful players in the playoffs. He’s leading the Brooklyn Nets in scoring at 21.6 points per game while shooting 56.1 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from downtown.
The on/off splits for Johnson are unreal. He leads the team with a plus-8.9 points per 100 possessions in this series. But the real crazy part of this stat is what the Nets are like in the 39 minutes without him on the floor. They’re a minus-34.5 per 100 possessions. How is that even possible?
2. Kyle Lowry is burning up the Brooklyn Nets
After his monster 36-point performance in Game 5, Kyle Lowry is now giving the Raptors 21-5-4 with 44.6 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from downtown. The way he demolished Deron Williams in Game 5 almost felt like D-Will must have owed him money or something. He just obliterated his competition.
The Raptors can ill afford to keep him off the court, even though he’s been limping around a bit. Toronto is 10.6 points per 100 possessions better with Lowry on the floor offensively, and 10.0 per 100 possessions better defensively with him playing. This team is getting killed without him on the floor.
3. Tiago Splitter's huge 4th quarter run against the Mavs can happen again
Tiago Splitter had nine points, six rebounds, and four assists… in the fourth quarter of a playoff game! He finished with 17-12-5 on the night and his fourth quarter run helped keep the distance between the Spurs and the Mavericks in the Game 5 victory. He was rolling to the hoop, grabbing boards, and throwing some great dimes to his teammates all night.
He took advantage of a battered Mavericks’ frontline and this is the reason they paid him the money they gave him this offseason. They have so many weapons that a lack of concentration covering Splitter is going to result in a loss for the Spurs’ opponent.
4. Vince Carter is going down swinging/shooting
Vince Carter had 28 points in the loss, continuing his stellar play in this series. Is he mad he didn’t get Sixth Man of the Year or possibly just more consideration for the award? Regardless of his reason, it’s working with his play right now. Vince is good for about 12 points off the bench right now and he’s making 39 percent of his 3-pointers.
The scoring explosion like we saw in Game 5 is something they’ll need again. He’s paired really well with Shawn Marion and Devin Harris on the floor and his defense is allowing the Mavs to go small to create matchup problems.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been incredible in this series and he could very well help the Portland Trail Blazers close out the series Friday night in Portland. It's a match-up like this why the Houston Rockets went out and got Howard this past summer. They needed a star big man to combat the other big men in the West. They needed a guy to step up and play great defense when their backs are against the wall. They needed the Orlando Magic version of Dwight roaming the paint and squaring up against someone like Aldridge.
Howard had two monster blocks at the end of Game 5 when the Rockets extended the series. Out of Terrence Jones, Omer Asik, and Howard, the All-Star big man has defended Aldridge the best and he's stopped him in the post, which is something Asik and Jones have struggled to do. Aldridge can take advantage of it by finding space when Howard has to cover the rest of the floor in help, but Howard was brought in to push the Rockets over the top. We'll see if he can do that one more time Friday night.
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