In preparation for the start of this weekend’s NBA Playoffs, we thought that would be interesting to take a look at this postseason’s x-factors. While it is more conventional to say that Player X is the x-factor for their franchise entering the playoffs, you always need to dig a little deeper, go a little bit more in depth by taking a look at other specific variables within different team’s situations that have the capacity to swing a series.
Here are our 10 X-Factors for the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
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10. Homecourt Advantage for OKC
OKC is a special place, especially during the postseason when 18,203 fans are all wearing their Thunder blue. The Thunder are 33-6 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena this season and come playoff time, OKC’s home court environment becomes a different animal. During the postseason, the Thunder faithful are so invested in their team that the arena turns into the NBA’s own Cameron Indoor Stadium. The collegiate atmosphere is unique because the fans are engaged throughout the entire game and don’t need a meter on the scoreboard to get loud. With the Thunder being the only pro sports franchise in Oklahoma City, the homecourt advantage that OKC possesses is unmatched. Made evident by Lil Wayne‘s failure last season to get tickets in the postseason, the arena’s seats are filled with Earthshaking Thunder supporters that are so noisy they caused George Karl‘s daughter to show up with earplugs for Game 2 of the 2011 OKC/Denver playoff series.
9. Grit n’ Balls
That’s the motto for KG, The Truth and co. as the Celtics try to make what may be one last playoff run with an aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. After KG stated during All-Star Weekend in Houston that it may have been his last, only time will tell if the Big Ticket will be donning the Celtic green next season. It seems like we’ve been having this conversation for the past three seasons, not knowing when Beantown’s heart and soul would move on. But after surprisingly pushing Miami to seven in the Eastern Conference Finals with a depleted bench last season, the C’s vets believe they have something left.
Ray Allen took his talents to South Beach and franchise point guard Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, but this experienced team has shown flashes of excellence against some of leagues best this season and with the veteran postseason experience of Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry, all bets are off. If the Celts can get back to their defensive ways and hold opponents to under 100 points a game in the playoffs, Boston can certainly make some noise.
8. San Antonio’s Health
Somehow, someway, the San Antonio Spurs continue to be among the league’s best. As part of a grueling 82-game schedule, Gregg Popovich does a great job of managing his older trio of stars, giving them rest even when the rest of the league doesn’t appreciate it. While the Spurs go into the postseason with the NBA’s third-best record, there is some reason for concern surrounding the status of Pop’s ball club. Manu Ginobili‘s status is unclear as he recovers from a hamstring injury, Boris Diaw is out 3-4 weeks after back surgery, and Tony Parker recently returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for a month. To top it all off, the Spurs parted ways with Stephen Jackson last week. San Antonio’s scenario could leave them with a paper-thin depth chart as they attempt to make another run with their core vets.
7. Denver’s Altitude
There are certain adjustments that coaches and players must make come playoff time when playing on the road. Then there are the adjustments that must be made when playing specifically in Denver. Playing in the Mile High City poses a problem for even some of the league’s best conditioned athletes as opposing players have trouble getting sufficient oxygen at the Pepsi Center. While it may not be a big deal to George Karl’s squad because they are used to playing in these unusual conditions, the influence that Denver’s altitude can have on a playoff series cannot go unrecognized. Made evident by the Nuggets’ home record, which is the best in the NBA, Denver’s altitude can have a serious impact on a series if the opposing team takes too long in getting acclimated.
6. Kevin Martin’s Entering James Harden’s Role
While former Thunder sixth man James Harden has become a franchise player in Houston, Kevin Martin is embracing his new role, averaging 14 points per game and shooting a career-best 42.6 percent from beyond the arc. After being the man on sub-par teams over the course of his eight-year career, Martin is fitting in seamlessly with the Thunder’s winning culture, using his ability to fill it up to help guide OKC to the No. 1 seed in the West. If Martin can stay hot from the outside throughout the postseason, opposing defenses will be pressed with limited options. An efficient K-Mart will continue to open the floor up for Durant and Westbrook.