For a number of first-round matchups in the NBA playoffs, the action is just beginning. The rest of these series will be decided by the performances of a few players.
In reality, teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics could likely start planning for the offseason after falling behind 3-0. However, the remaining matchups could go either way after the first few games.
These players might not be the biggest stars in the league, but they will determine which teams advance to the second round of the NBA postseason.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
As one of the most talented point guards in the NBA, a lot is expected out of Deron Williams. After an up-and-down season, he has been disappointing in the playoffs.
After leading the Nets to a Game 1 victory with 22 points and seven assists, he has followed that up with two poor performances in the next two games. He took bad shots and missed open ones, as well as struggled to find teammates consistently.
Unsurprisingly, this led to two losses as the Chicago Bulls took a 2-1 lead in the series.
Even though he is facing one of the top defenses in the league, Williams must provide more production to help lead his team to victories on the road and at home. If he cannot become more efficient, the Nets will be going home early.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
It is obvious that Kenneth Faried is still not 100 percent healthy after injuring his ankle at the end of the regular season. However, Denver desperately needs a big performance out of the big man for the rest of the series.
Faried battled his way to 15 points and seven rebounds in the Game 3 loss to the Golden State Warriors, but the team needs more help on the defensive end.
The quick opposing guards have had an easy time scoring in the lane throughout the series. Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack combined for 52 points in the latest contest, and that includes only four three-pointers total.
Denver needs someone to defend the interior and make it harder for these players to get shots off inside. Additionally, Faried is needed to dominate the glass like he did all year after the team was out-rebounded last game.
While Faried has the injury excuse, he still must provide more for the Nuggets to win the series.
Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City is in a lot of trouble after potentially losing Russell Westbrook for the postseason with a knee injury (via ESPN).
While Kevin Martin is not expected to take over point guard duties for the Thunder, he will be absolutely vital in replacing the scoring load that the team just lost.
Westbrook averaged 23.2 points per game during the regular season and is one of the best pure scorers in the NBA. Martin needs to use his slashing ability to make things happen around the basket, as well as hit open shots on the perimeter.
Kevin Durant will obviously remain the go-to option for the Thunder, but he will not be able to do it all by himself. In order to keep pace with the high-scoring Houston Rockets, the team needs secondary players to step up to take pressure off the superstar.
Martin needs to be someone to do that after scoring only 26 points combined in the first two games of the series.
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