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:
Golden State Warriors: Quinn Cook
Cook in Wins: 18.5 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 42.9% 3P, 1.18 PPP, 1.08 PPPA
Cook in Losses: 29.3 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 45.8% 3P, 1.09 PPP, 1.21 PPPA
It doesn’t make too much sense as to why Cook scores almost twice as many points on a higher three point percentage in Warriors losses – that is until you look at his playing time splits. Cook averaged under 20 minutes per game in Warrior wins, and almost 30 minutes per game in their losses. This tells a story of Cook not being a reliable point guard. It’s not Cook’s fault, he went from being waived by the Cavaliers into being thrust into the starting line-up in a big minute role of a Warriors team that every single team in the league wants to beat the most.
Cook’s offensive efficiency has been very fair, especially in wins, but Cook has been the worst defender on the Warriors this season. Against a coaching genius like Gregg Popovich, this could serve to be problematic. the good news for Cook is that no Spur guards are very threatening individual match-ups. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have both lost a few steps at this point in their careers, but if Cook isn’t an apt system defender, San Antonio can and likely will exploit this.