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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Top 10 performers in the NBA playoffs so far

Kevin Durant Warriors

It has not taken a lot of time for the NBA playoffs to produce some incredibly memorable and elite performances. The first round alone offered a whole lot of signature moments for the game’s leading stars, and the second round has gotten off to a running start in that regard as well.

Which players have led the charge? Here are the top ten performers in the NBA playoffs so far.

10. C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard got the majority of the headlines for Portland, and deservedly so, but McCollum has stepped up his game in the playoffs to help his teammate along. When the Trail Blazers won, he was usually in the middle of it. In Portland’s two most lopsided wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder, McCollum had his two best scoring games of the playoffs, contributing 33 and 27 points. His 23 points per game is the 12th-best mark in the playoffs, ahead of the likes of top scoring guards Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan.

9. Paul George, Thunder

It was George, not Russell Westbrook, who proved to be Oklahoma City’s most reliable scorer in the first round. He averaged 28.6 points per game in the Thunder’s series loss to Portland despite shooting only 32 percent from beyond the arc, partially due to getting his rhythm back after a shoulder injury. He also contributed eight and a half rebounds per game and scored 30 points or more in each of Oklahoma City’s final two games.

8. Joel Embiid, 76ers

Embiid deserves as much credit for what he’s playing through as he does for how he’s played. In addition to a troublesome knee, he needed an IV just to get through Game 2 against the Raptors. Despite all this, Embiid is averaging a double-double for the playoffs, with 21.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. That includes a dominant 31-point, 16-rebound performance that essentially knocked Brooklyn out of the series when his team needed him most.

7. Pascal Siakam, Raptors

Siakam’s breakout season has translated into an even better postseason. On a team that boasts Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol, Siakam has been the key figure in Toronto’s push into the second round, averaging 23.3 points and eight rebounds per game. Both of those marks are higher than his season totals, which were career highs in their own right. Siakam is emerging into a complete NBA player who looks like he’ll be a star for years to come, and he’s doing it on a big stage.

6. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

With Denver’s backcourt battling inconsistent shooting nights, they’ve often turned to Jokic to carry the load, and he’s always been up to the task. He posted a couple of monster games against the San Antonio Spurs, including a 43-point night in a losing effort. His 37-point, nine-rebound performance was also decisive in the series opener against Portland. On the whole, Jokic is averaging close to a triple-double with nearly 25 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists per game.

5. James Harden, Rockets

Harden has posted a couple of stinkers in these playoffs — he had games in which he went 3 for 20 and 10 of 26 against the Utah Jazz. He still scored over 20 in both games, which were Houston wins, and has simply piled up the points in every other contest. He’s averaging 29 points per game, good for fourth in these playoffs, while spreading the ball around to the tune of 7.7 assists per game. Amazingly, he may need to step it up even more to get past Golden State, which won’t be easy after his eye injury in Game 2.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

The Greek Freak didn’t face an enormous first round test against the Detroit Pistons, especially since they didn’t have Blake Griffin for two of the four games it took Milwaukee to sweep. It doesn’t diminish what Antetokounmpo was able to do. He comfortably averages a double-double during the playoffs, with 25.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. The points tally is actually lower than his season average, suggesting that the Bucks star still has room to grow.

3. Kawhi Leonard, Raptors

Leonard may end up being the difference between the Raptors of the past and this year’s team, which looks much more well-equipped for a long, deep playoff run. He thoroughly eviscerated the Magic in the first round before doing an even more comprehensive job in the series opener against Philadelphia, dropping 45 points on the overwhelmed 76ers before following it with 35 more in a Game 2 loss. Factor in his defensive prowess and rebounding, and there aren’t many players in the postseason more valuable to their team than Leonard is.

2. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

Lillard has, without a doubt, authored the signature moment of the playoffs so far. That shot merely capped off an astonishing 50-point performance that got a big monkey off Portland’s back and solidified Lillard’s status as a clutch player who can win when it matters. Lillard went toe-to-toe with Russell Westbrook and outplayed him, and even in a losing effort, dropped 39 against the Denver Nuggets in that series opener. More huge point totals are definitely to come for the star guard.

1. Kevin Durant, Warriors

It’s been a long season for Durant with free agency looming and questions about his future and his commitment to Golden State. He’s shaken it all off and turned in some of the best basketball of his career come playoff time. He leads all playoff scorers with 35 points per game, knocking down nearly 40 percent of his threes. Durant’s performances against the Clippers were remarkable — he dropped 45 in a losing effort in Game 5, only to follow it up with 50 points in an elimination game two days later. He is dominant right now and finally getting his chance to carry Golden State.



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