2011 NBA Playoffs: 6 Players Who Will Step Their Game Up
The regular season is when players get noticed, but the postseason is where players are remembered. It is where a young Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Celtics and announced himself to the world. The first round can provide some great players a platform to shine. However, while they are playing at one level, their team and teammates appear to be stuck at another. So this is a list of great players that will rise to the occasion, even if their teams fall short. So ante up ladies and gents, here are your sensational six, and, as always, your comments are appreciated.
6: Gerald Wallace
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Wallace was probably the most significant midseason addition for any team this season and has given the Blazers some added athleticism on the wing. He is a borderline All-Star player who should play exceptional in this series. The Mavs have never been a defensive juggernaut and Wallace's play is based more on activity then skill.
The up and down tempo should provide more possessions for Wallace, who last year never really had a chance with the Bobcats. However, the Mavs have some pretty good players themselves, and that will be the difference.
5: LaMarcus Aldridge
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Aldridge did not make the All-Star team but is still one of the top players in the NBA. He is facing a Mavericks team that is athletic and likes to run, which fits his game just fine. He is a player who thrives in the open court and has played well in big games.
Although he will put up monster numbers, do not expect that to lead the Blazers to the next round.
4: Carmelo Anthony
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The world’s most-hated small forward will give the Celtics fits. Following in the footsteps of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Melo will put up 30-plus in this first-round matchup but will not defeat the Celtics. Carmelo's offensive prowess is pure and fluid, it is his defense that leaves you wanting more. Paul Pierce will probably draw the assignment first then give way to newly acquired Jeff Green. Either way Melo will have his way against the Celtics, but sadly his team will be exiting stage left.
3: Zach Randolph
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Tim Duncan is old, really old. But even in his prime, Randolph would have given it to him. Z-Bo is efficient, crafty, and can finish with either hand. The Grizzles will be without Rudy Gay so this means more opportunities for Zach. The Spurs have an older Duncan, an undersized DeJuan Blair, and a feisty Antonio McDyess to try and contain the Grizz forward. That should be enough to win the series, but Randolph will have at least one game of 30 points and 20 rebounds.
2: Jrue Holiday
Holiday has played well this year but has struggled against the Heat. His struggles will be added motivation for the UCLA product to step his game up. Holiday will have the ball in his hands a great deal, so the opportunities will be there, and he should make the most of them. The Sixers have a transition style of play and this give him plenty of possessions to get buckets. However, just like his other list mates, it will only lead to a short one-week extended vacation.
1: Russell Westbrook
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Westbrook will announce his presence among the NBA elite with authority this postseason. Arguably the top point guard in the Western Conference, Westbrook should take at least two games completely over. Defensively he will have his hands full with the different players the Nuggets can throw at him, however offensively few have the talent of Westbrook.
This series will be a track meet and that fits Westbrook perfectly. He is athletic and strong with the ball. In the four previous games against Denver he scored 19, 28, 18, and 17, but the most telling is how many shots he was able to get up. In those four games he took 19, 16, 17, and 15 which was consistent with his average for field goals attempts per game for the year, 17.0. So now that it is money time look for Westbrook to shoot more and this should mean he will score more.
Yet, Game 7 will prove to be a tall building that this superman will not be able to leap in a single bound.