Thursday, June 07, 2012
by Stephen Varnum
special to the Clarion Content
from The Eastside Perspective
So we are down to 4 teams left in the NBA playoffs: Thunders vs Spurs, Celtics vs Heat. How did they get there? Well, of course, the best players usually step up their game in the NBA playoffs. You can usually expect your veterans, your all-stars, and your superstars to bring all they got in the playoffs. One of the major question marks a coach has to worry about in the playoffs is what am I going to get from my rookies?
Rookies can be unpredictable. Some contribute right away and show incredible promise during the season, but when they being their playoff career...they sometimes tend to crack under the pressure. Some didn't contribute all that much during the season, but provide excellent minutes to a coach in the playoffs. Either way, it's unclear what to expect from their rookies in the playoffs.
But this year, most of the rookies have shined in the playoff spotlight and have provided great performances for their coaches:
5) Norris Cole's unexpected output keeps the Heat in the game -
On a night where Dwayne Wade couldn't buy a basket and Lebron James and Mario Chalmers both picked up 4 quick fouls, Coach Spolestra decided to lean on his rookie PG Norris Cole. Cole came in and contributed immediately with 5 pts and 2 assists, and forcing a crucial foul on Rajon Rondo in the third quarter. He helped the Heat close on a major run and gave the Heat a chance in the 4th quarter by closing the Celtics lead to 5.
Cole started the NBA season on fire, but Mario Chalmers ate up more and more minutes and outplayed Cole the whole second half of the season. Maybe Cole can provide beneficial minutes off the bench the rest of this 3 game series.
4) Lavoy Allen's big time defense -
Fresh off a great series win, the athletic 76ers were set to take on the "old" Boston Celtics. The series ended up going 7 games, and it was a very, very, ugly series. The teams averaged about 70-80 ppg, thanks to the great defense on both sides. I believe the 76ers wouldn't have lasted too long without the defense of Lavoy Allen. He clearly helped the 76ers hold the Celtics to a horrible average of 39% shooting.
KG clearly had an advantage against both Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young. Coach Collins saw this and decided to put in the defensive Lavoy Allen. And every NBA fan was like, Lavoy Who? Lavoy Allen, who only averaged 15 minutes in the last series, provided great defense on the future HOF KG. Although, KG still had some great games, Allen did his best both offensively and defensively to tired out the big man. Allen had averages of 7.5ppg 5.5rpg 1spg 1bpg and 23mpg. Allen definitely earned some minutes thanks to his fantastic postseason.
3) Greg Stiemsma's perfect performance -
The Steam Machine as they call him in Boston, is only averaging 8 minutes a game, but boy have they been effective minutes. He's blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and providing the Celtics with an important interior presence when KG is on the bench. One game in particular was game 5 in the 76ers series.
In game 5, Stiemsma came off the bench and put up a much needed boost of 10 points on 5-5 shooting. He also added 3 blocks and 2 rebs. What was the best part of his performance is that he did it in only 14 minutes. The one knock on Stiemsma is that he does tend to foul a lot. He picked up 4 fouls in 5 minutes in game 2 of the Heat series. If he can stay on the floor for the Celtics, we might see Boston in the finals.
2) Kenneth Faried's rebounding prowess -
Down 2-0 to the Lakers, the Nuggets needed their unit to step up. The starters were not getting it done. The Nuggets had their backs against the wall and needed an early spark. That spark came from the Manimal! The Manimal had 10 rebs in the first half and got the crowd in to it with highlight dunks and posterizing moves. He also held Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum with some lock down defense.
He finished the game with 12 points and 18 rebounds and he certainly earned the starting PF spot for years to come in Denver.
1) Kawhi Leonard's steadiness -
Of this whole list, only Leonard and Steimsma are still in the playoffs. The Spurs started this year's playoffs 8-0 thanks to a team effort. Leonard has certainly contributed to that 8-0 with his steady production. He didn't really contribute that much in the Jazz series, but since the Spurs' series with the Clippers began, the SDSU product has posted averages of 11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.3 spg and 1.0 bpg. Not to mention he is called upon every night usually guarding the team's best player.
Leonard will have to help slow down KD, if it's even possible to, in order to avoid elimination in game 6.