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5 Biggest Disappointments In The NBA Playoffs So Far

The NBA Playoffs will either make or break a team or a player. The postseason provides players and coaches the platform to expose their greatest strengths or the lowest weaknesses on the biggest stage. That is why the playoffs carry an incredible amount of emphasis, which draws in the utmost attention from basketball fans around the globe.

Early on in the first round, we have already witnessed exhibits of competitive, exciting, and entertaining basketball. There have been overtime thrillers, a few surprises, a miraculous four-point play, back-and-forth matchups, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Despite the rather great start to the 2014 postseason, there have been a few disappointments.

So who or what are those disappointing features in the playoffs so far? Let’s take a look.

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5. OFF-COURT DISTRACTIONS IN INDY
Conflict is an unavoidable matter in any workplace. The high-pressure environment of playoff basketball will test a team’s chemistry, commitment and personality. Teams are filled with players with egos, waiting for the right statement or situation to produce conflict. It’s inevitable, but containable. However, when reports start to surface that a fistfight between two teammates occurred in a practice prior to the start of the team’s first-round series, that has the potential to blow up in the team’s face.

This is what was reported earlier this week and involved the Pacers’ Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner. This off-the-court issue was ill-timed, and certainly had an effect on their Game 1 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on their home court. The Pacers are already playing through criticism from their downward spiral in the second half of the season, and are trying to find that chemistry that existed in the first half that propelled them into contender status.

On top of that, Frank Vogel is reportedly coaching to keep his job in Indy, which is not doing any favors for leadership concerns. Trailing in the series against the Hawks 2-1, Indiana cannot afford any off-court conflict or distraction to disrupt their identity. As stated above, the playoffs can make or break a team/player.

4. INJURIES
The 2013-14 regular season was plagued with injuries, as it appeared that no one was safe. Unfortunately, the playoffs are not immune to the injury bug either. The Clippers’ Chris Paul has a hamstring injury, but he is playing through it. The Rockets’ Patrick Beverley sprained the same knee that has a torn meniscus from March in Game 1 against the Blazers. The Bobcats’ Al Jefferson has a torn plantar fascia, which occurred in Game 1 against Miami. Both Beverley and Jefferson have been told that no further damage can occur by continuing to compete in the playoffs. Because it is the playoffs, both have opted to play through the pain.

However, it is disappointing because fans cannot witness each player perform at 100 percent. While Beverley seems to be more mobile on the court than Big Al, his assignment to defend and limit Damian Lillard is a monster of a challenge to tackle in an injured body.

Meanwhile, Jefferson is nothing but a warrior for playing on torn tissue on the bottom of his foot that is painful with every step he takes. He can barely run up and down the court, and his shooting efficiency has taken a hit. Despite telling his coach Steve Clifford that he thought his plantar fascia ripped a little more in Game 2, causing him to leave the floor for a portion of the game, he has made his presence known. It is just a shame for the fans to not witness what Jefferson could have fully done in this series.

3. QUESTIONABLE CALLS
Blaming the refs for determining the outcome of a game is something every NBA fan is guilty of at one point or another. However, officiating has already been a point of focus in a few situations in the first round. In a campaign for more transparency, the league has admitted to two officiating mistakes that were made at opportune moments of the game.

First, in a late fourth quarter possession of Game 1 between the Clippers and the Warriors, Chris Paul was called for the turnover as the ball went out-of-bounce. After the league reviewed it, they determined that Draymond Green fouled Paul, causing the turnover, and CP3 should have been awarded two free throws.

Second, in Game 1’s thrilling overtime between the Rockets and the Blazers, Dwight Howard was called for his sixth and final foul with 10.8 seconds remaining in OT. Portland’s Joel Freeland then hit one of two free throws, James Harden missed the game-tying jumper, and the Blazers took Game 1, 122-120. After league review, the NBA acknowledged that Dwight Howard’s foul should have been called on Freeland, sending Dwight to the line to potentially tie or give Houston the lead.

The vast majority of fans watching Game 1 between the Clippers and the Warriors witnessed a very whistle-happy officiating crew. In total, 51 fouls were called and 60 free throws were attempted. The first-round series between these two division rivals has been hyped, as each team has made it clear that they do not like one another. The massive amount of fouls seemed like an attempt to prevent something that never happened, and it only led to heavy bench minutes for stars like Blake Griffin and Andre Iguodala. Game 3 saw a controversial ending as well, as some thought Chris Paul got away with a foul on Stephen Curry that could have altered the outcome of the game.

Officials are only human and do not have enviable responsibilities. We will never know if these calls definitively changed the outcome of the game. All fans ask for is a fairly-called match.

2. ROY HIBBERT
You know you’re in trouble when you’re being sold on Amazon for a discounted price. Yes, I’m talking about Roy Hibbert. That’s what happens when you’re averaging 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds on a measly 28.0 percent shooting. How a 7-2, 290-pound center only grabs four boards per contest–which is only a slight decline from his 6.6 rebounding average in the regular season–continues to baffle me. A player that size should accidently snatch up at least six boards a game. In the first half of Game 3 on Thursday, he recorded ZERO rebounds. Additionally, Hibbert has recorded ZERO blocks and ZERO steals in three games of the first round and has basically had ZERO impact in this series so far for Indiana.

It’s come to a point where the suggestion of bringing Hibbert off the bench and starting Ian Mahinmi or Luis Scola is a viable option. The Hawks are exposing Hibbert’s weakness in the midrange on both ends of the court, and are making his credentials as an All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year candidate look undeserved. His problems aren’t limited to the midrange, as he has continually missed shots around the rim at an alarming rate. Heck, Kyle Korver even blocked Hibbert in the post! The 27-year-old is downright struggling at the worst time, and his woes reflect the current state of his team.

1. JAMES HARDEN
The Portland Trail Blazers certainly have not “feared the Beard” during their first two matchups with the Rockets. The Blazers now head back to Rip City with the opportunity to sweep Red Nation out of the first round. While most of the attention deservingly goes to the nothing short of brilliant performance by LaMarcus Aldridge thus far, the disappearing act of James Harden’s offense has ultimately hampered the Rockets in the first two outings of the 2014 postseason. Specifically, the focus should be on his offensive woes because, let’s be honest, it’s not like my fellow former Sun Devil is a defensive guru.

Harden is currently shooting 14-for-47 (29.8 percent) in the first two games of this series. Before I go any further, credit must be given to the Blazers’ defense on The Beard. For a player whose arguable greatest strength is to drive the lane and get to the free throw line, his efficiency in these two facets of his game have been almost non-existent in the first round. In 20 drives (10 per game) in the first two games of this series, Harden only scored 38.5 percent of the time, according to NBA.com’s SportVU. Additionally, he only attempted four free throws in Game 2, which is a major dip from his 9.1 attempts during the regular season. The Rockets’ offense also relies on three-point shooting, which is getting no support from Harden’s 26.3 percent accuracy from distance.

The Rockets must get more efficient and effective offense from their best scorer if they want to extend the series to at least five games. Harden must prove that his offensive struggles in the playoffs are not a habit and a continuation of shooting woes from the 2012 Finals and the 2013 postseason. Game 3 on Friday may end up being a defining moment for Harden, or maybe I’m a “weirdo” for saying that.

What have been the biggest disappointments of the postseason so far?

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