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Head to Head: Best Postseason Duo

Which NBA duo has been the most impressive in the 2014 playoffs? Joel Brigham, Jessica Camerato and Moke Hamilton discuss.

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The 2014 playoffs have been incredible through one round, with a plenty of close games and memorable moments. Today, we asked Joel Brigham, Jessica Camerato and Moke Hamilton, which duo has played the best in the postseason? Here are their answers:

Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge

The Damian Lillard three-pointer at the end of Game 6 against the Houston Rockets is something that will show in playoff highlights from now until the zombie apocalypse, a truly poetic punctuation mark at the end of a series that permanently pushed both Lillard and teammate LaMarcus Aldridge into the league’s upper echelon.

Look, we knew both guys were good. Lillard won the Rookie of the Year trophy just a year ago and Aldridge has been in the argument for the league’s best power forward for a couple of seasons running. But everything is magnified in the postseason, and to have the two of them do what they did most certainly places them as the first round’s most dynamic duo.

This was the first playoff series win for both players (and the first playoff appearance for Lillard), so their rising to the occasion on so large a stage was pretty magical to watch.

Between the two of them, they averaged 55.3 points per game over the course of the six-game series. In the first round, Lillard ended up averaging 25.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.3 steals and Aldridge averaged 29.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Buried in there were back-to-back 40+ point games from Aldridge and a couple of 30+ point games out of Lillard, feats that are all the more impressive considering the tough matchup and the relative inexperience.

In fact, heading into the first round of games, that Houston/Portland series was the one that seemed like a sure thing to go seven games. Five other series took that long, but not the burgeoning Blazers. That was a tough matchup for them, but they handled it like they’d been winning postseason series for decades.

While there are some duos on other teams that scored nearly as well, the remarkable thing about Lillard and Aldridge is that we didn’t expect as much out of them as we did LeBron James and Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. These guys put themselves in elite territory, and they’re still going strong. Their terrific tandem work could very well continue in their Western Conference semifinal matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. For the sake of entertainment and Blazers fans everywhere, let’s sure hope that they do.

– Joel Brigham

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

Until another team proves otherwise, the best postseason duo is LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

They entered the playoffs with a combined five NBA championships and three NBA Finals MVPs, looking to win their third consecutive title for the Miami HEAT. Aside from the San Antonio Spurs, no other group has been as battle tested.

Before even getting into their numbers, there are factors that can’t be quantified on a stat shat. James and Wade have been through it all. They have suffered the disappointments of falling short and understand what it takes to battle to the ultimate victory.

With nearly 300 games and 11,500 minutes between them in the playoffs — they would have more if they didn’t wrap up series as quickly as they have — the two have been through more in the postseason alone than some NBA players still competing have been through in their careers. To put their postseason longevity into perspective, Wade played his first playoff game in April of 2004 when Bradley Beal was 10 years old and Damian Lillard was 13.

This postseason, James is leading all players with 30 points per game, along with averaging eight rebounds, six assists and 2.3 steals. Wade is Miami’s next top scoring option with 17.5 points per game as well as 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

The HEAT were the only team to complete a first round sweep this season. As many were pushed to a Game 7, they took care of the Charlotte Bobcats in just four. They will enter the conference semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets well rested and ready to go, led by their proven duo of James and Wade.

– Jessica Camerato

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin

After being pushed to the limit by the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as the victors in as tough of a seven-game series as you will ever see.

For that, they can thank the capable leadership of Doc Rivers, but they would probably be on summer vacation by now if not for the contributions of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.

Over the course of the long series, Griffin answered the bell by giving the Clippers 23.3 points per game on 53 percent shooting from the field. Paul, on the other hand, saved his best for last, turning in an impressive 22-point, 14-assist, four-steal performance in Saturday night’s Game 7 victory at Staples Center.

One could make the case that since both Griffin and Paul’s averages during their series against the Warriors both decreased from their regular season output, they do not deserve applause, but they certainly deserve special credit for helping to guide their team through one of the most emotional ordeals that any NBA team has had to endure in recent memory.

I was about 20 feet from Adam Silver as he expressed public outrage for Donald Sterling and from what I have been told, Clippers players came under a tremendous amount of scrutiny from both current and retired NBA players to take a more powerful stance than the pre-game demonstration they had prior to tip-off of Game 4 on April 27.

Despite it all, behind closed doors, Paul, the president of the NBA Players’ Association was in constant contact with some other members of the union, as well as its leadership in New York City. Yet somehow, he managed to make his most powerful statement on the court—controlling games when needed and helping his team advance into the second round to challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As Paul struggled over the course of the series from a numbers and averages standpoint, Griffin was a versatile and consistent offensive force for the Clippers. His most notable improvement has been his decision making with the basketball. While he has always been an above average passer for a man his size and playing his position, Griffin’s basketball IQ has seemed to increase as he has been relied upon to provide more playmaking from the low box, and pinch and high post areas of the floor.

This was exemplified in the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Warriors. With the Clippers leading the Warriors 118-115 in the waning moments of Game 7, Griffin received a pass at midcourt. Knowing full well that the Warriors would foul, Griffin made a mad dash toward the basket, his thought process obviously being that he would rather a sure two points via a dunk or layup as opposed to having to convert two free-throws. He lobbed a picture-perfect pass to DeAndre Jordan, and with about 20 seconds remaining in the game, gave the Clippers a five-point cushion that was ultimately enough to prevail.

It is his decision making and understanding of pace and space that has helped Griffin enter the MVP conversation. And with Paul, as their team attempts to overthrow the Thunder in the Western Conference’s hierarchy, it is those two who, for me, have emerged as the tandem most worthy of my accolades.

– Moke Hamilton

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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