The NBA kingdom is being conquered by the one-two punch of the point guard and shooting guard combo. Long gone are the days of Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal banging away in the paint. The Memphis Grizzlies “grindhouse” style of basketball is the closest image of the days where the big men ruled the hardwood and people just refer to that style as “boring” in today’s game.
The game is ruled by fast, electric, deadly combinations in the backcourt. The first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs has provided some of the best basketball in years, but what backcourts have been doing it the best? Remember, this is the backcourt that starts the game, so Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford won’t appear on this list.
This list might surprise some, but remember, it’s about the lethal combination of two players, not just one. Chris Paul is the best point guard in the game, but does his presence with J.J. Redick do more than Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan? Let’s count down the top five backcourts remaining in the NBA Playoffs.
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5. Deron Williams/Joe Johnson
With as much money as Williams and Johnson are making, the two are expected to put up major numbers each game, being evaluated strictly on the amount of dollars in their contracts. Regardless of the money, game respects game. Johnson and Williams have been pillars of consistency this postseason, as the Nets try to advance past a young and hungry Raptors squad. Paul Pierce has been there in the clutch, but Johnson and Williams are the two that are responsible for keeping the Nets in the game.
Even though the Nets lost last night, Joe Johnson helped come back from a 26-point deficit, scoring 18 of his 30 points in the third quarter. The Nets appeared cooked, being down 62-44 at the half, but Joe Johnson wouldn’t die. The seven-time All-Star has been validating his selection this postseason, averaging 21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 56 (!) percent from the field and 47 percent from deep.
Joe Johnson is proving he’s worth the $21 million he’s earning this season and giving some payback on that six-year, $123 million contract. No one can ever live up to that amount of money, but Johnson is doing justice with his playoff performances–he’s shot 54 percent or better in every playoff game except one.
After averaging 15.8 points in the regular season, Johnson has been resurging in the playoffs with his 21.6 points per game. The Nets will need this performance to continue from Johnson if Brooklyn wants a chance to escape the first round, something this All-Star group has yet to complete.
Long gone are the days where Deron Williams was mentioned as a better point guard than Chris Paul, those were lost in Utah with Jerry Sloan. Still, Deron Williams has been pretty damn good for all the injuries he’s suffered and played through this season.
Williams is on the downslide of his career, but he’s putting up better numbers in the postseason than the regular season. Williams is averaging 16.8 points, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game this season. Still, the Nets will need more out of Williams if they want to get past the first round. Williams is averaging 23 points per game in the Nets two victories, but only 12.7 points per game in the Nets’ three losses, including 0-for-6 from three in the past two losses. Despite that, the combination of Williams and Johnson has been the main reason that the Nets are in this series.
Joe Johnson is carrying more weight than Williams right now, shooting 56 percent from the field. The Nets are one game away from being sent home by the upstart Raptors. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams need to show that veteran presence that’s supposed to challenge the Heat for a spot in the NBA Finals this season.