The first round of the NBA playoffs is nearing its end already, at least for a lot of teams (who are either in the midst of a sweep or near-sweep). That, naturally, has left disappointment in the hearts of some fans who expected more out of their teams in the first round.
The following players have been the most disappointing of the last couple weeks, however, and can be held accountable on some level for their teams’ lack of postseason success:
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans – A lot was made about how strong a performance Anderson put up in that legendary Game 3, where he dropped in 26 points and looked like Dirk Nowitzki circa 2011. But it’s no coincidence that his big night coincided with the closest New Orleans came in that series to winning a game. In Games 1 and 2, Anderson scored a total of seven points on 2-for-11 shooting, and he only hit a single three-pointer. While he’s not the most important player on that team by a longshot, Anthony Davis can’t do everything all by himself. A more effective version of Anderson could have made a big difference in that series.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers – Everybody expected Portland to put up more of a fight than they have through three games against the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Blazers have looked droll and utterly overmatched thus far. Frankly, a slow series from Lillard hasn’t helped. Somehow, he is averaging three fewer points per game (18 PPG) than he did in the regular season (21 PPG), despite playing five more minutes a night in the postseason. His field-goal shooting has dropped from 43.4 percent to 35.2 percent, while his three-point shooting has slipped from 34.3 percent to 16.7 percent. He played better in Game 3, which is great, but it’s too little too late at this point, especially considering Portland lost despite his stronger effort. Lillard can’t shoulder all of the burden for their 0-3 hole, but his cold shooting has been a part of the problem.
Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks – A disappointment almost from the minute Dallas acquired him, Rondo was especially disappointing in his two playoff games this spring. Granted, his injury is what officially knocked him out for the year, leaving Dallas hanging at a pivotal point in their series with the Houston Rockets, but he and head coach Rick Carlisle were never on the same page, which is why it seems as if both player and coach are at least on some level relieved to be moving on. From Carlisle’s perspective, at least, it makes sense considering Rondo made the team significantly worse when he was on the floor in the postseason, representing -44.9 points per 100 possessions during the two games that he actually played. His injury is a bummer, but it was an even bigger bummer that everybody (including Rondo himself) seemed to agree that it was better he was gone.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs – On one hand, San Antonio has weathered Parker’s two worst games in this series with the L.A. Clippers and won despite his poor showings, but even with a more reasonable Game 4 now under his belt, there’s no denying that Parker has looked pretty terrible through the first four games of this heavyweight Western Conference bout. In Game 2, he shot 0-for-6 from the field and finished with only one point in 30 minutes of action, and he has dished out more than three assists in a game only once in the entire series. He also is shooting 25 percent from the field for the postseason, well below his season average of 48.6 percent, one of the most efficient clips in the league among point guards. The problem is that he’s been banged up, but that doesn’t change the fact that Parker at less than 100 percent hurts the Spurs. It’s a good thing Kawhi Leonard has been picking up so much of the slack.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets – Knee tendinitis is giving Williams problems in Brooklyn’s series with the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, so much so that he might not even play in Monday night’s Game 4. That may ultimately be the best thing for the team to even things up at 2-2, since for the last couple of contests Williams has been stinking up the joint with his atrocious shooting. In Games 2 and 3, he combined for five points on 2-of-15 from the field. He’s been rebounding well (seven RPG through three contests), and his assists have more or less been where they usually are, but the scoring woes have been a problem. Hopefully a little rest will help his efficiency, as long as Brooklyn can survive his absence.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors – There was no reason the Raptors should have dropped all four of those first-round games to the Washington Wizards. They had homecourt advantage and were favored entering the series, but they were swept anyway. Lowry’s poor play and nagging injuries were one of the foremost reasons for that. Lowry averaged 17.8 PPG this season but only had one game in which he actually surpassed that mark, including two dismal games (seven and six points) to kick off the series in Toronto. His assist numbers were down, too, as he topped four assists only once in those four games. Shooting 23.8 in the four first-round contests (including 18.8 percent from deep), Lowry was not the asset he could have been for the Raptors.
For fans of these players and their teams, the playoffs have gotten off to a disappointing start. Almost by default, the Conference Semifinals will have to be significantly more uplifting and entertaining.
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