NBA Playoffs 2014: Players Who Must Improve for Their Team to Advance to Finals

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NBA Playoffs 2014: Players Who Must Improve for Their Team to Advance to Finals

If one particular player from each remaining NBA playoff team is able to improve, his team will advance to the 2014 NBA Finals.

But if this player fails, his club will be going home.

Here are the four stars whose improvements are the most vital:


4. PG Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio could do little wrong in Game 5 against Oklahoma City. The Spurs took a 3-2 series lead, pinning the Thunder's backs against the wall. 

San Antonio has won and lost as a team in the Western Conference Finals, but if one player's struggles will hold them back, it's Parker's. He's averaging 11.2 points, 3.2 boards, 1.4 assists and 1.8 steals fewer than Russell Westbrook this series.

It'll be difficult for the Spurs to eliminate the Thunder if their leading scorer continues to get outplayed to that extent.


3. C Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

Hibbert almost always finds a way to do something wrong. In Game 3, he snagged just two rebounds. In Game 4, he shot 0-of-4 from the field. In Game 5, he only shot 36.4 percent, but his 13 rebounds helped the Pacers sneak by the Heat by a three-point margin.

If they want to win two straight games against Miami, the Roy Hibbert of Game 1—who finished with 19 points and nine boards—must show up. If he doesn't, Indiana will be watching the finals from home.


2. PF Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder

Ibaka looked like the Thunder's most valuable player in Games 3 and 4. And then the Spurs adjusted. Not playing Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter together made Ibaka disappear.

After Oklahoma City looked unbeatable for two straight games, Ibaka's six-point, two-rebound stat line brought them back down to earth. The Thunder can win back-to-back games against San Antonio again if Ibaka bounces back, but if he doesn't, they're done.


Which player is the least likely to improve?

Submit Vote vote to see results

1. SF LeBron James, Miami Heat

Of these four players, James' ability to improve from his previous performance is the most important to his team.

He's also the most likely to improve.

What some witnesses of Game 5 are calling questionable refereeing limited James to only 24 minutes of action, and he never got going because of it—scoring just seven points.

It's probably more likely that James, who scored 32 points while shooting 61.9 percent from the field in Game 4, gets struck by lightning before he mimics his last outing, but those slim odds don't make his improvement any less necessary.

David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report and editor at Wade-O Radio.

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