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Five non-stars to watch in NBA playoffs
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On April 18, 2013 @ 9:00 pm In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
It’s a no-brainer that the success of the Miami Heat depends on the performances of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Same for the New York Knicks with Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder with Kevin Durant and the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Dig deeper, and there is a player or two on each team, such as the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook or the Boston Celtics’ Jeff Green, whose postseason production — or lack thereof — will go a long way in determining how long, or short, his team lasts in the playoffs.
USA TODAY Sports spotlights five of those players as the 2012-13 playoffs open Saturday and Sunday.
It’s that time of the year for the Thunder guard.
Every shot he takes and every pass he makes is dissected. He is one of the league’s most polarizing players.
His aggressive offensive game is loved and despised, sometimes on consecutive possessions. There is good Russell Westbrook and bad Russell Westbrook — the Westbrook who shoots 15 of 27 with 37 points and the Westbrook who goes six of 22 from the field.
The Thunder and Westbrook are tired of that narrative, but it will come up throughout the playoffs when Westbrook has an off night.
“His style of play is always going to draw scrutiny, especially with the great point guards we have today,” ESPN analyst and former NBA player Bruce Bowen said. “He’s different than any other point guard. Chris Paul can affect the game without scoring. One of the best attributes of Russell Westbrook is his attacking style. So many times we find fault with that, but that’s what actually works for the Thunder.”
One factor his supporters can take solace in: Westbrook’s number of bad games has decreased this season as he put together the kind of season that might land him on the all-NBA first team.
Westbrook averaged 23.2 points, 7.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds – one of four players who averaged at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists this season. He shot 43.8% from the field and 32.2% on three-pointers as his shots per game decreased and assists … [For more on Five guys, other than stars, to watch in NBA playoffs, click here.]
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