NBA Playoffs 2012: 7 Players Who Will Break out in 2nd Round
As the 2012 Playoffs continue, players across the league are eying the postseason as an opportunity to make a name for themselves, hoping to become the next star to emerge from this crucial period.
The first round has passed, and with it the pretenders unable to rise to the pressure and occasion of the NBA postseason. As we move into the second round, several players will have the opportunity to endear themselves to their organization and fans, and become the spark to an unexpected run or franchise-defining victory. Whether its through a game-winning shot or a crucial defensive stop, unknown athletes will present themselves to the sporting world with the goal of becoming the next hero of the postseason.
So who will these series-changing players be in the second round? Click further to find out...
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Often in the shadows of his superstar teammates, James Harden has so far used the 2012 playoffs to prove he belongs in the same discussion as his more well-known comrades in Oklahoma City.
Harden came off the bench in a big way in Game 4 against Dallas, scoring 29 points in dominating fashion. Harden was an especially important factor in the 4th quarter, capping off a big final period with a huge dunk. An instrumental factor in the 4 game sweep of the defending champs, Harden averaged 18 points, in the 1st round series, in addition to adding five rebounds and four assists per game.
If Harden can continue his recent hot streak into the next round, the heavy defensive focus on Durant and Westbrook could mean another big series for the bearded guard.
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After a somewhat pedestrian regular season, former Husky Spencer Hawes is using the playoffs to help his case for a handsome new contract during the coming free agency period.
The young 76ers center averaged only nine points and seven rebounds during the 2012 regular season, and struggled during his first two games against the Bulls in the first round. However, Joakim Noah's injury during Game 3 allowed the big man to take control during the last two games of the series. Since Noah went down, Hawes has put up an average of 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in Philadelphia's last two wins over Chicago.
If Philadelphia can close out Chicago on Tuesday, the added confidence boost Hawes has received from dominating the short-handed Bulls could help propel him to a standout second round for the Sixers.
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Heading into what could be a very important off-season, Pacers center Roy Hibbert could be looking to use this playoff season as an audition for a big contract next year.
Hibbert started off the first round somewhat slowly, turning in only eight and four points, respectively, against Orlando in the first two games of the series. However, Hibbert has come on strong to finish the series, putting up 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in Game 3, and 14 points, 11 boards, and three blocks in Game 4.
Up 3-1 and heading home for Game 5, the Pacers have a great opportunity to secure themselves a second-round spot this Tuesday. If they can, and Hibbert can continue this late-series momentum into Round 2, he could become one of the unexpected stars of the playoffs.
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As the Sixers move towards a surprising second round berth, guard Jrue Holiday could stand to make a lot of fans in Philadelphia if he can continue his stellar play into next round.
Holiday had a solid but unspectacular regular season, averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 assists per game, but has come alive during the Sixers' first-round series against the Bulls. So far, Holiday is averaging 19.8 points and five assists per game in the postseason, including a tremendous 26 point, six assist effort in Game 2. Holiday has also shown resiliency in the series, hitting several key shots down the stretch in Game 4 despite missing 13 of his first 14 shots from the field to start the game.
If Holiday can continue his impressive play into the second round, he could be a key component in an unexpected Philadelphia run in this year's postseason.
A young gun on an aging roster, Avery Bradley could be the youthful spark the Celtics are looking for as they head deeper in the 2012 playoffs.
Avery's stats so far this year have been unremarkable, averaging 7.6 points per game during the regular season. However, over his last 10 games, Avery seems to have found his scoring stroke, averaging over 16 points and shooting 53 percent from the field. Although he's struggled to make a huge impact against Atlanta in their first-round matchup, Ray Allen's various ailments should afford him plenty of opportunities as the Celtics move further into the postseason.
If the energetic young guard can find his playoff rhythm in Round 2, Bradley could become one of the keys to a successful Celtics postseason in 2012.
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Currently embroiled in a tough first-round battle against the Clippers, if the Grizzlies can make it into the second round, it will be on the shoulders and quick feet of Mike Conley.
Conley had a decent but not outstanding regular season, averaging 12.7 points and 6.3 assists for Memphis. However, he seems to be finding his stride as the Grizzlies move deeper into playoff season, putting together a very strong first two games of the season, putting up 17 points and eight assists and 19 points and six assists in his first two games of the series respectively. Conley struggled in Game 3, putting up only nine points, but should rebound for more impressive showings as the series and playoffs continue.
If the Grizzlies are going to make it out of Round 1, Conley will be a key component. If they do, look for him to continue his impressive postseason into Round 2.
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Another member of a surprisingly strong Pacers team, Paul George could grab the league's attention as Indiana prepares to enter Round 2.
George showed good improvement between his rookie and sophomore regular seasons, averaging 12 points and six rebounds during the regular season. George's performance in the playoffs so far has been somewhat underwhelming, his postseason averages far below his regular season stats. However, Hibbert's success during the first round should make him the defensive focus of a potential second-round matchup against the Heat, opening up plenty of opportunities for the second-year guard to make a big impact in the next round of the playoffs.
If George can capitalize and improve upon his current lackluster performance in the playoffs, he could become an unexpected star in Indiana by the end of next series.