Worst No-Shows of the NBA Playoffs So Far
For professional basketball players, the NBA playoffs is not the time to suddenly go missing in action.
Take one look at the 2013 playoff field, and you'll see countless examples of players and teams doing exactly that.
Look at Brandon Jennings, for example. After saying his Milwaukee Bucks would take down the Miami Heat in six games during the opening round of the playoffs, Jennings scored a grand total of 27 points in Games 2, 3 and 4.
That's not exactly the way to put your money where your mouth is, friend.
Jennings isn't the only one who limped through the playoffs literally (see: Joakim Noah) or figuratively (the Boston Celtics offense and the Denver Nuggets' three-point defense, for example).
In no particular order, let's look back at the players and teams that failed to show up for the first round of the playoffs.
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Of any playoff no-show featured here, Brandon Jennings may end up being the worst.
Before the start of the first-round series between the Miami Heat and his Milwaukee Bucks, Jennings decided to publicly predict that the Bucks would emerge victorious in six games, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
One four-game sweep later, Jennings looks like he just cost himself millions.
After scoring 26 points on 20 shots in the Game 1 loss, Jennings finished with 27 points on 37 shots in Games 2, 3 and 4 combined. His three-point shooting was particularly awful, as he only converted six of his 27 attempts (21.4 percent) over the course of the series.
He played only 23 minutes in Game 4, staying on the bench for the entirety of the fourth quarter. That's not exactly the ideal way to convince teams that you're worth a massive long-term contract, Brandon.
Jennings enters restricted free agency in the summer of 2013 having reportedly turned down a four-year, $40 million contract extension offer from the Bucks the year before. For a point guard who shot 39.9 percent during the regular season and only 29.8 percent in the postseason of 2012-13, he'll be lucky to find a general manager crazy enough to match the Bucks' offer from last summer.
The Los Angeles Lakers at Home
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The Los Angeles Lakers entered their first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs with mild upset buzz, having just beat the Spurs sans Kobe Bryant in the final week of the season.
That was then. The playoffs ended up being an entirely different animal.
The Spurs came out and wiped the Lakers off the face of the playoff map with a four-game sweep, which only grew more painful for Lakers fans as it progressed.
After losing Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio by 12 and 11 points, respectively, no one could have predicted what would unfold for the Lakers next.
In Game 3, San Antonio snuffed out any hope the Lakers had of making it a series, beating them 120-89 in Los Angeles. The 31-point blowout was the worst home loss in Lakers franchise history.
Game 4, believe it or not, might have been worse. The Lakers looked completely lackadaisical on defense, Dwight Howard got ejected from the game minutes into the third quarter after two technical fouls and the Spurs won by 21 points to finish the sweep.
For a team expected to contend for an NBA championship, the first-round playoff knockout was embarrassment enough, Bryant or not. The Purpler and Gold's complete lack of effort during both home games only rubbed salt in the very open wounds of Lakers fans.
Vinny Del Negro
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Two games into his first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Vinny Del Negro appeared to have all the answers needed to guide the Los Angeles Clippers into the Western Conference semifinals.
Four games later, Del Negro's job appears to be in grave danger.
When the Grizzlies returned to Memphis, they flipped the series on its head. They held the Clippers' once-explosive offense to 82 points in Game 3 and 83 points in Game 4, and Del Negro seemingly had no counter in mind.
Blake Griffin sprained his ankle between Games 4 and 5, only exacerbating the Clippers' problems, as Lamar Odom started receiving more playing time in Griffin's absence. Predictably, Zach Randolph feasted on Odom like a cannibal at Jamestown, and the Grizzlies went on to win Games 5 and 6 with Griffin limited.
As common as it may be to pick on Del Negro, he deserves it after this performance. In Game 6, Del Negro played 11 players and "235 combinations" of said players, as ESPN's Bill Simmons tweeted, which he called Del Negro's "bad coaching opus."
Vinny D seemed to have no backup plan in mind for the possibility of Griffin getting injured. Having little faith in DeAndre Jordan (and his terrible free-throw shooting percentage), little hope in Lamar Odom and low expectations for Ronny Turiaf isn't quite the recipe for a playoff series win against a team led by Randolph and Marc Gasol, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year.
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Jeremy Lin's postseason reputation took a beating thanks to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In Game 1 of the first-round series between Lin's Houston Rockets and the Thunder, he finished 1-of-7 from the field for four points, four assists, three rebounds and four turnovers. He missed all four of his three-point attempts, and the Rockets lost by 29 on the road.
Linsanity seemed to be on the brink of returning in Game 2, as Lin recorded seven points, four rebounds and three assists in the first half, but a bruised right chest muscle sidelined him from halftime onward. He played 18 largely ineffective minutes in the Game 3 loss and missed both Games 4 and 5 due to the chest injury.
Without Lin, the Rockets turned to a point-guard-by-committee duo of Patrick Beverly and Aaron Brooks, both of whom stepped up considerably. Beverly averaging 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in the playoffs ranks as one of the biggest first-round surprises in any series.
Lin's postseason reputation already took a beating during the 2012 playoffs with the New York Knicks, when a partial meniscus tear sidelined him for the entire first round. The New York media jumped all over him for saying that he wouldn't return despite being 85 percent recovered from surgery, even though he later clarified that he meant he couldn't even play 5-on-5 at the time.
With that memory perhaps fresh in his mind, Lin came back in Game 6 for the Rockets' final home game, but only finished with three points on 1-of-4 shooting in 13 minutes. Had Lin been half the player he was during Linsanity with Russell Westbrook sidelined, the Rockets would have possessed a very real chance at toppling the top-seeded Thunder.
The Denver Nuggets' 3-Point Defense
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The Denver Nuggets entered the postseason with one of the worst three-point defenses among playoff teams. That spelled doom against a three-point happy team like the Golden State Warriors.
During the 2012-13 regular season, the Nuggets allowed opponents to convert 8.4 three-point attempts per game, second-worst in the league, and gave up a league-high 23.1 attempts per night (tied with the Warriors, as it turns out).
In the playoffs, the Warriors knocked down 9.8 of their 24.3 three-point attempts per night, or a league-high 40.4 percent, against the Nuggets. Denver is the only team to have allowed an opponent to convert at least 40 percent of its three-point attempts in the opening round of the playoffs.
Much of the Warriors' success with the long ball can be attributed to the Stephen Curry show, but Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack and Harrison Barnes all got hot from deep at certain points in the series, too.
The Nuggets experienced systematic failures guarding the three-point line against the Warriors, which ended up fueling the biggest first-round upset of the 2013 playoffs.
Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith in Game 5
J.R. Smith came to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 dressed in all black, ready to bury the Boston Celtics' postseason aspirations for good.
Instead, an absolutely miserable performance by Smith and Carmelo Anthony (less so) helped the Celtics steal Game 5 on the road and send the series back to Boston for Game 6.
Smith, as he's wont to do on occasion, couldn't hit the broad side of a barn (on the night he returned from a one-game suspension for an ill-advised elbow to Jason Terry's face). The 2013 Sixth Man of the Year finished a miserable 3-of-14 from the field and 3-of-8 from three-point range, all three of which came in the fourth quarter with the game virtually out of reach.
Anthony, following up on a 10-of-35 performance in the New York Knicks' Game 4 loss, wasn't much better one game later. He missed all five of his three-point attempts and finished with 22 points on 24 shots.
It's not as though the Celtics lit up the scoreboard against the Knicks in Game 5. Boston scored 92 points on 89 possessions. The Knicks just couldn't take advantage and had their own struggles offensively.
The Anthony-Smith duo were in danger of being no-shows once more during Game 6 in Boston, but both stymied a furious late rally from the never-say-die Celtics. The C's had trimmed the Knicks' 75-49 lead down to 79-75 before Anthony drained a mid-range jumper with just over three minutes left, knocked home a three-pointer 90 seconds later, then watched Smith ice the game and the series with a three-point play.
The Boston Celtics Offense
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If Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce just played their last games as members of the Boston Celtics, both just went down while proving what being a champion means.
Despite facing a 3-0 series deficit against the New York Knicks, the 2008 champions were too proud to go down in a clean sweep. They took Game 4 in Boston in overtime, then stole Game 5 from an unsuspecting Knicks team back in New York.
The Celtics finally succumbed in Game 6, and it's plainly obvious what held them back against the Knicks. Hint: It's not their defense.
Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics lacked a true orchestrator on offense. Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce can only do so much, and neither can replace Rondo's innumerable contributions.
Even without Rondo, a team can't win a playoff series averaging 82.3 points per game or by scoring 80 or fewer points in four of the first six games. The C's won both times they cracked the 90-point mark in the series, but the team couldn't overcome three straight games in the 70s during Games 1-3.
Game 6 summed up the series perfectly. The Knicks exploded out to a massive 75-49 advantage, watched the Celtics stage an incredible, improbable rally, but the C's ultimately fell short after digging themselves into too deep a hole. Without Rondo and Ray Allen, the Celtics didn't have the firepower to fight another day.
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Blake Griffin didn't have a postseason to write home about in 2013.
After averaging 18.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game for the Los Angeles Clippers throughout the 2012-13 regular season, Griffin's per-game averages fell across the board once the playoffs started.
In the six games against the Memphis Grizzlies, he averaged only 13.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He shot nearly 53 percent overall during the regular season but only knocked down 45.3 percent of his field-goal attempts against Memphis.
If that wasn't bad enough, Griffin also suffered a moderate ankle sprain in practice between Games 4 and 5, reportedly landing Lamar Odom's foot. He tried to tough out the pain in Game 5, but only lasted 20 minutes before retiring for the night midway through the third quarter.
Without a fully healthy Griffin, the Clippers headed back to Memphis facing elimination in Game 6. Griffin gutted out nine points and three rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench, but the Clippers fell 118-105, knocking them out of the playoffs far earlier than expected in Clipperland.
It's hard not to wonder what would have happened in this series had Griffin not landed on Odom's foot during practice, but c'est la vie in the 2013 playoffs, apparently.
The Road Teams in the Pacers-Hawks Series
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For the first five games of the Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Hawks series, the road team got absolutely throttled.
The Pacers stomped on the Hawks to start the series in Indiana, using a 107-90 victory in Game 1 and a 113-98 blowout in Game 2 to propel them to a 2-0 series lead. Heading back to Atlanta, the Pacers appeared well on their way to a conference semifinals date with the New York Knicks.
The Hawks didn't feel like playing nicely with that storyline, though. Back at home, Atlanta held the Pacers to 69 points in a Game 3 thrashing and won Game 4 by an 11-point margin, 102-91.
Indiana jumped right back on the Hawks in Game 5 with the series shifting back to the friendly confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, taking a 3-2 series lead after a 106-83 blowout. Through five games, the Pacers averaged 108.7 points per game at home compared to 80.3 on the road and shot 47.4 percent overall from home versus 35.7 percent on the road.
The Pacers held true to their offensive struggles on the road in Game 6, scoring only 81 points in Atlanta. The Hawks did them one better, though, scoring only 73 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field and going more than a quarter's length, only having scored on a goaltending violation by Roy Hibbert.
If the Pacers hope to advance past the New York Knicks and into the conference finals, they'll have to straighten out their road woes in the coming days.