The NBA Playoffs is a completely different animal than the regular season. Defenses are tighter, game-play is slower, and games are closer. When this occurs, anything can happen. We saw the Cavaliers upset a Warriors team that was 73-9 in 2016, last year a veteran Los Angeles Clippers team was upset by a young Utah Jazz team in its first post-season appearance since 2012.
These upsets were caused by supporting players failing to step up when the defensive attention was placed elsewhere. In 2016 it was Harrison Barnes, who averaged just 9.3 points on 35.2% shooting and 31.0% from three in 31.7 minutes per game.
In 2017, it was Chris Paul‘s back court teammates J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Austin Rivers who failed to step up. The Clippers were up 2-1 on Utah, and Blake Griffin got hurt. Instead of scrapping it out and stepping up to the moment, those three shot a combined 17/59 in all three subsequent Clipper losses – 28.8% from the field. If the right players don’t step up to the moment, then their teams will fail in the playoffs. Here are the players who need to step up this season for their teams:
Toronto Raptors: C.J. Miles
Miles in Wins: 10.5 points per game, 38.1% 3P, 1.14 points per possession, 1.05 points allowed per possession
Miles in Losses: 9.3 points per game, 35.5% 3P, 0.95 points per possession, 1.19 points allowed per possession
C.J. Miles is going to be the player who gets open looks from the perimeter in the playoffs once defenses collapse on DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. The same happened for him when he was Indiana with Paul George and Jeff Teague/George Hill. Miles needs to hit these shots. His per possession efficiency in the regular season is night and day of a difference when Toronto wins and when Toronto loses, and defenses need to respect Miles’ abilities or pay the price for not if Toronto is going to make a playoff run.