In the Lakers/Nuggets series it was J.R. Smith. In the Philly/Detroit series it was Reggie Evans. In the Jazz/Rockets series it was Mehmet Okur. No matter the series, there has been at least one guy that has elevated his level of play far beyond expectations to give his team a much-needed boost throughout these playoffs.
Despite seeing only 27 minutes of action per game, J.R. Smith added six full more points per game onto his season average, tallying 18.3 over the four outings. Evans‘ production tailed off during the last two games, but during the first four games of the series, he looked like Brian Dawkins on a basketball court. The guy was doing absolutely everything. He’d collected 8.7 points and 8.2 boards during those first four games, and had committed 3.2 fouls per game that the refs never saw.
It might be early in round two, but here’s who’s stepped to the dish so far…
While Okur has maintained a real strong level of play (21 points, 19 boards) through game one of the Jazz’s second round matchup with the Lakers, he’s not the early favorite as the surprise standout. You know the expression: offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. And in game one of the Lakers/Jazz series, Derek Fisher nearly locked up Deron Williams. With Fish shadowing him step-for-step, Deron went 5-18 from the field. Plus, D-Fish had a ridiculous six steals. If he can keep Deron under control, maybe Kobe will let Fisher wear the MVP ring for a week.
In the fourth quarter, Sasha Pavlovic looked like Michael Cooper when he was checking Paul Pierce. Pierce tried to swing the ball through and beat him to the basket, and not once, but twice got stripped. The second time resulted in an easy lay-up. If only LeBron was as efficient as Pavolvic (7 points, 1 steal, 1-1 3FG, 14 minutes)…
After Jannero Pargo served as the icing to make Jason Kidd‘s life a living hell during round one (14.6 points, 45% 3FG), Morris Peterson has been New Orleans’ extra weapon through the first two games of the San Antonio series. MoPete is 8-10 from the floor (3-4 3FG) for 20 points, helping to make the Spurs pay for doubling down on Chris Paul once he gets a piece of the paint.
When someone in the Dime office posed the question, ‘Would you rather have David Lee or Jason Maxiell?,’ it seemed like a no-brainer to go with Maxiell with the way he’s played this series. After struggling against Philly, Maxiell is channeling his inner Reggie Evans en route to 11.5 points, 6.5 points, and 3 blocks through two games. We’re yet to see Lee in playoff mode, but no matter the time of year he can’t change shots like Maxiell. He’s blocked one more shot than Dwight Howard through two games.