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:
Miami Heat: Kelly Olynyk
Olynyk in Wins: 12.8 PPG, 53.9% FG, 41.8% 3P, 1.17 PPP, 1.01 PPPA
Olynyk in Losses: 9.8 PPG, 44.3% FG, 31.3% 3P, 1.03 PPP, 1.13 PPPA
Kelly Olynyk has been huge for the Heat this season. The Canadian big man was brought in to serve as a back -up to Hassan Whiteside, but Olynyk has started 22 games for Miami, and he’s played marvelously. Miami is a few games above .500 with a top six NBA defense, and Olynyk is the team’s leader in win shares despite being 9th in minutes per game. Still, his effectiveness in Heat wins compared to Heat losses is significant. In wins Olynyk has generally been a threat from anywhere on the court offensively while the Heat resemble a dominant two way team. In losses Olynyk shrinks. His production as a big man (44 FG%, 31 3P%) is inefficient even by the standards of a guard. For Miami to have the slightest chance against Philadelphia, Olynyk has to step up, be a threat from three to draw the dominant sixer big men to the perimeter, and play efficiently.