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NBA Playoff Heroes Relishing the Limelight

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIMay 4, 2013

NBA Playoff Heroes Relishing the Limelight

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    The 2013 NBA playoffs have provided no shortage of shocking turns and legacy-creating individual performances. From superstars overcoming the loss of key teammates to rising stars solidifying their status among the elite, we've seen it all.

    The question is, which of our postseason heroes have relished the limelight?

    There have been countless individual outings worth marveling at, but they've often led to a lackluster follow-up performance. Fortunately for those hoping to see performances for the ages, certain stars have stepped up to save their teams from unfavorable circumstances.

    Don't forget, every hero needs something to save.

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 25

    Postseason Appearance: 1st

    2012-13 Postseason Averages

    24.3 PPG, 9.3 APG, 4.3 RPG, 2.2 SPG, .468/.434/1.000

     

    There are few rational arguments against Stephen Curry being named the 2013 NBA playoffs' first round MVP.

    Curry was absolutely magnificent, averaging 24.3 points and 9.3 assists during the Golden State Warriors' upset of the Denver Nuggets. He did so while shooting 46.8 percent from the field, 43.4 percent from beyond the arc and a perfect 21-for-21 from the free-throw line.

    In case you haven't heard, Steph can shoot.

    Curry began the playoffs by converting on just seven-of-20 from the field in his first career postseason appearance. Since then, he has shot 49.4 percent from the field and led the Warriors to a feat that no other team had achieved since Jan. 18.

    With 30 points and 13 assists, Curry led Golden State to a victory at the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets' home floor.

    He's now preparing for his greatest test yet: facing Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs. The question on everyone's mind will be simple as we approach this series.

    Can Curry do it all again?

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 24

    Postseason Appearance: 4th

    2012-13 Season Averages

    32.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG

     

    The Oklahoma City Thunder received devastating news after Game 2 of their first-round series against the Houston Rockets, as point guard Russell Westbrook was ruled out for the rest of the season. This was due to a torn meniscus, which thus resulted in Westbrook missing the first game of his career.

    Kevin Durant has responded even better than expected.

    Since Westbrook went down, Durant is averaging 35.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 52.2 percent shooting from the field. As a result, Durant led the short-handed Thunder past an upstart and rivalry-driven Rockets team.

    The lights are shining brighter than ever on Durant, and he's performing better than ever before.

    Not only has Durant been producing at an elite level, but he's averaging 42.7 minutes per contest during the postseason. Since Westbrook went down, that number is up to 44.3 minutes per contest.

    When a superstar is playing virtually the entirety of the game and still producing efficiently, it's safe to say they're handling the spotlight quite well.

Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

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    Position: Center

    Age: 25

    Postseason Appearance: 1st

    2012-13 Postseason Averages

    22.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 3.2 BPG

     

    Deron Williams has, understandably, had trouble developing a consistent offensive rhythm against Kirk Hinrich. Joe Johnson is playing on one leg due to plantar fasciitis and Gerald Wallace doesn't know what his role is.

    Through all of the drama, Brook Lopez has been absolutely tremendous.

    Lopez has been a dominant force on both ends of the floor, averaging 22.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 3.2 blocks per game. He's topped 20 points in five of the six games thus far and tallied 17 in the one where he failed to.

    Perhaps no performance was as powerful as his performance in Game 5, as Lopez dropped 28 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-20 shooting to snap a three-game Bulls winning streak.

    Even in losing efforts, it's Lopez that keeps the Nets in games and has them tied at 3-3 entering Game 7. In fact, one might go as far as saying that Lopez has been the most consistently dominant player in this series.

    You can harp on his rebounding totals all you'd like—Lopez will score at will and protect the rim at an elite level.

Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 31

    Postseason Appearance: 5th

    2012-13 Postseason Averages

    20.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 56.8% FG

     

    The Los Angeles Clippers took the first two games of their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. During those two games, Zach Randolph averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds on 10.0 field-goal attempts per game.

    The Grizzlies proceeded to win the next four games with Z-Bo averaging 24.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 17.0 field-goal attempts per contest.

    Randolph's aggression was the story of Memphis' triumphant series, as the team was rendered helpless when he was not asserting his will. When Z-Bo channeled his on-court hatred of Blake Griffin to producing, however, things changed.

    He wasn't playing better, he was simply more inspired.

    Randolph scored at least 23 points in each of the final four games of this series. That includes 27 points and 11 rebounds during Game 3, when Memphis was expected to lose at home to a Clippers team that had won nine games in a row.

    Z-Bo strikes again as the Grizzlies' postseason hero.

Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 28

    Postseason Appearance: 3rd

    2012-13 Postseason Averages

    17.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 RPG, 0.8 SPG, .530/.385/.818

     

    Nate Robinson has provided the NBA community with as many heart-stopping moments as any player in recent memory. From off-balance shots that have no reason to go in to legendary scoring outbursts, we've seen it all from Lil' Nate, the former multi-time Slam Dunk Contest winner.

    With the bright lights shining down on him, Robinson hasn't slowed up for a single second.

    During the Bulls' 142-134 triple-overtime victory in Game 4, Robinson tallied 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting. Not only did he hit game-tying field goals and lead a comeback from 14 points down with 2:59 remaining in regulation—legendary feats in their own right—but Robinson made history.

    By scoring 23 fourth-quarter points, Robinson fell just one point short of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls record for fourth-quarter scoring in one game—yes, that MJ.

    Since then, Robinson is averaging 19.0 points and 6.0 assists on 47.1 percent shooting from the floor. It's safe to say that he's responded to the pressure in as adequate a manner imaginable.

    It's now time for Robinson to attempt to close out the series in Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets.

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