With the NBA Playoffs dwindled down to the Elite Eight (and quickly narrowing down to the Final Four), let’s quickly look at current players in the postseason with pitfalls that very well may send their team home early.
From Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and his free throws, to Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks and his temper, to Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers and his scoring (despite meaningful minutes of action), it’s time to take a glance at seven guys in the NBA Playoffs, and how their drawbacks could cost their teams a trip to the conference finals and beyond.
Keep in mind that a majority of these players slumps are based on statistics, percentages, and off-the-court issues, and just because these guys may have their downfalls doesn’t mean their teams won’t advance.
But let’s at least look, hypothetically-speaking, at seven playoff players pitfalls and how their downs could quickly turn to their team’s early exit.
Through seven playoff games, Dwight Howard is averaging a pathetic 49.4 percent from the charity stripe (with just 40 makes out of 81 attempts).
And people though Shaq was bad from the line!
Howard’s free-throw funk better end before Orlando’s hot-streak does, because if the game comes down to a pair of shot from the free throw line for Dwight, Magic fans will be holding their breath.
Though stats can’t really measure a player’s temper, it would be foolish to believe that Josh Smith’s anger issues (both on and off the hardwood) have not had a hand in the numerous losses for the Atlanta Hawks this postseason.
Not that Atlanta’s 0-3 hole can be completely blamed on Smith and his temper, but it definitely doesn’t help matters as the Hawks aim to avoid being swept in Game Four.
And if Smith’s temper flares up in a tight must-win upcoming game, Atlanta can kiss their Hawks goodbye.
As a side note, the players with the highest number of technical fouls during the regular season were Boston’s Kendrick Perkins (15) and LA’s Kobe Bryant (14); Smith picked up 10 technical fouls during the regular season in 2009-10.
Steve Nash’s defense, or lack thereof, has to have the Phoenix Suns a bit worried.
Not that the team has a whole lot of worrying to be doing after jumping out to a quick and commanding 3-0 lead over the San Antonio Spurs (and they very well may finish the sweep tonight, regardless of Nash being injured with a boxer-like black eye), but Nash’s terrible defense could lead to an early-exit for the Suns.
If Phoenix truly hopes to keep the momentum going in their favor (and yes, they look REALLY good right now), Nash will need to step up defensively—especially in the next round against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ron Artest may have an entire array of issues and problems both on and off the court, but his biggest weakness to the Lakers is his horrible 3-point shooting.
Through nine playoff games played, Artest is averaging just 22.4 percent from beyond the arc, connecting on just 11 shots out of 49 attempted 3-pointers).
LA may be cruising to a second round beat-down of the Utah Jazz, but the Lakers will need Artest’s long-range shooting to heat up quite a bit if they want to avoid an upset against the Phoenix Suns.
Through 10 games played this postseason, Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford is shooting a mere 36.7 percent from the field (draining just 51-of-139 field goals).
Not something the Hawks’ players or fans want to see with Atlanta down 3-0 and on the verge of being swept by the Orlando Magic.
Though Crawford is still averaging 16.1 points per game, his field goal percentage must improve in Game Four if he expects his Hawks to hang on for another game.
Once again, LA has truly (for the most part) been coasting through postseason play; but Lamar Odom’s fouling tendencies have to at least somewhat concern the Lakers and their fans.
Playing 27.1 minutes per game during the playoffs (nine games), Odom is averaging four fouls per contest.
And if Odom isn’t more careful with how he plays during his time on the hardwood, he may find himself benched for even longer.
Especially if the Lakers want to keep on rolling and keep on winning.
The lack of scoring from Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao this postseason has to have some Cavaliers fans running for the nearest bathroom to vomit.
Through eight playoff games played and 23.3 minutes per game, Varejao is averaging just 5.5 points per contest.
And though the Cavs pretty much live and die based on LeBron James’ performance, Cleveland will need help from the role players if they hope to advance to the next round, after currently being in a 2-2 deadlock with the Boston Celtics.
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org