The 2012-13 NBA playoffs are officially upon us, as the regular season has concluded and the league's 16 elite teams are prepared to do battle for the NBA championship. On Saturday, Apr. 20, we'll get our first look at the postseason action.
The question is, who will be every game's X-factor during day one of the playoffs?
After a full 82-game season, we've established knowledge in reference to the established stars. We've also developed an understanding for which players are on the rise in the star spectrum, as the youth begins to shape the NBA's future.
With that being said, the postseason is often the time in which the sleepers emerge as the keys to success.
From role players to injury-plagued veterans, every team has an individual who will step up with the lights shining bright on center stage. With four separate games taking place on the opening day of postseason action, we're likely to witness those same events transpire.
So who will be the X-factors?
Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, Game 1
Time: Saturday, Apr. 20 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Regular-Season Series: 3-1, Knicks
X-Factor: Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
Since the 2013 NBA All-Star break, Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green has averaged 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. Green is doing so while posting a slash line of .493/.439/.798.
The question is, can Green continue his All-Star caliber play while under the spotlight of the 2013 NBA postseason?
This is the age-old tale of the NBA, as players thrive during the regular season and then fall apart in the playoffs. For the sake of the Celtics, they simply cannot afford to have that happen with Green.
How better to prove your legitimacy than to step up at Madison Square Garden?
For what it's worth, Green does have 15 games of postseason experience under his belt. In that time, he's made six starts and shot 43.8 percent from beyond the arc during a 2011 run with the Celtics.
Boston will need Green to go All-Star if they're going to upset the Knicks in Game 1.
Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets, Game 1
Time: Saturday, Apr. 20 at 5:30 p.m. ET
Regular-Season Series: 3-1, Nuggets
X-Factor: Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
When it comes to the Golden State Warriors, a majority of the praise has been centered around the tandem of Stephen Curry and David Lee. Lee led the league in double-doubles, while Curry set the NBA record for three-point field goals made in one season.
With that being said, the Warriors would not be where they are today without the contributions of sixth man Jarrett Jack.
Jack has been sensational, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists in 29.7 minutes while coming off of the bench. Jack posted those numbers on an impressive slash line of .452/.404/.843.
Jack also led all NBA bench players in clutch scoring and clutch assists (via NBA.com).
Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets, Game 1
Time: Saturday, Apr. 20 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Regular-Season Series: 3-1, Bulls
X-Factor: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Quietly but surely, former Marquette Golden Eagles star and current Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler is budding into a high-quality shooting guard. For evidence, simply take a gander at the numbers.
Since the All-Star break, Butler is averaging 10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals on 47.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Butler has pushed his numbers to a new high, averaging 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds on 56.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc during the month of April. Butler has three double-digit rebounding games in that time, including a 22-point and 14-board performance against the New York Knicks.
Chicago will need Butler's hot April to continue if they're to make a run at the Brooklyn Nets.
Butler will have his hands full with six-time All-Star Joe Johnson. Fortunately, Butler's defensive presence has been tremendous and his offense has since followed.
Butler is the key for Chicago, but can he step up in the postseason?
Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers, Game 1
Time: Saturday, Apr. 20 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Regular-Season Series: 3-1, Clippers
X-Factor: Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Clippers
According to the rankings, the Los Angeles Clippers are the favored team in this series. With that being said, the Memphis Grizzlies are a powerful interior team that can slow the game down and dominate defensively.
To get by the Grizzlies, the Clippers will need Lamar Odom to step up in a major way.
Odom has the pedigree, as he has posted career postseason averages of 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 102 games. Most recently, Odom averaged 12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 2011.
The Clippers need Odom to rediscover his previous form in Game 1.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are both All-Stars, which places a heavy burden on Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to counter them. In order for the Clippers' less experienced players to step up, however, they'll need Odom's veteran guidance.
If Odom wants to prove to be worth the money L.A. invested in him, this is the stage for him to shine.
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