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:
Philadelphia 76ers: Robert Covington
Covington in Wins: 13.3 PPG, 45.9% FG, 40.6% 3P, 1.12 PPP, 1.00 PPPA
Covington in Losses: 12.1 PPG, 35.7% FG, 34.1% 3P, 0.96 PPP, 1.10 PPPA
In the post season, the interior of opposing defenses are going to focus on Joel Embiid, and the perimeter of opposing defenses are going to focus on Ben Simmons. As for the rest of the team, it’s all about hitting those open looks from the shifted defensive attentions. None of the other role players seemed to have the same inconsistency as Covington in wins vs. losses. Covington shoots over 10% less from the field in losses, and his defense suffers with it – he allows 10 points per 100 possessions more in losses. Covington has to be locked in and determined come the post time.