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:
Houston Rockets: Ryan Anderson
Anderson in Wins: 9.9 PPG, 45.3% FG, 40.7% 3P, 1.21 PPP, 1.07 PPPA
Anderson in Losses: 8.8 PPG, 35.9% FG, 31.1% 3P, 1.07 PPP, 1.20 PPPA
Ryan Anderson has been very polarizing since joining the Rockets. Last season, when he was a more featured player on the team, Anderson was often criticized for his lack of defensive mobility. Anderson, the recipient of a large contract that pays him nearly 20 million dollars per year a few seasons back, was the focal point of many Rockets trade rumors despite averaging 13.6 points per game on 40.3% three point shooting on 7.0 attempts per game. Anderson’s role was reduced for this season, but he still started 50 games for Houston, and his play and efficiency shooting the basketball is clearly important to whether the Rockets win games as evidenced by his shooting splits. If defenses shut off the Rocket’s back court production, Anderson and the front court must be ready to step up.