The postseason has been eventful to say the least. We’ve seen the exits of the favorites to win the title. Furthermore, we are seeing the rise of a new era with neither LeBron James or Stephen Curry making the Finals this year. But among the events that have transpired, one of the best stories has been seeing players elevating their games under the bright lights of the NBA Playoffs.
Given that the playoffs is the most grueling stage of the season, it is all the more important for each player to step up. With teams planning to go deep, every single player from the roster must make their impact and display a “Next Man Up” mentality. For this piece, let’s take a look at five players who became better in the NBA Playoffs than in the regular season.
The Clippers are finally making the Western Conference Finals for the first time since Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up back in 2019 and a lot of the credit should go to Terance Mann. Despite only averaging 7.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game in the season, the Clippers guard made the most of his second start in the postseason by exploding for a career-high 39 points to close out the second round against the Jazz in Game Six. Mann dropper 20 of his output in the third quarter which was a franchise record for most points in a quarter.
Terance Mann finished with 20 points in the 3rd quarter.
That is a Clippers playoff record for points in a quarter. pic.twitter.com/ccvbsSwgym
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2021
In the Western Conference Semifinals, Mann averaged 10.7 points per game to help the Clippers weather the absence of two time Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, who went down with a knee injury. With Mann stepping up for the team, there is no question that the Clippers will look to finally break the curse.
Although Stephen Curry is a name that fans know of, there is no question that his brother Seth Curry is making a name for himself in this year’s NBA Playoffs. In the regular season, the younger Curry averaged a decent 12.5 points per game while shooting an efficient 45% clip from rainbow country. But in the playoffs, Curry has kicked it up a notch.
In this year’s playoffs, he is averaging 19.1 points per game while shooting a red-hot 50% from the three-point line. But more importantly, he played a pivotal role against the Hawks in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Curry put up 24 points which was spiked by six treys. Furthermore, he is also averaging 21.8 points per game in. the series while making an out-of-this-world 59.8% of his shots from deep.
Curry’s more aggressive shooting can also be credited to Sixers Head Coach Doc Rivers for giving him the green light to attempt more shots in the postseason.
According to Doc Rivers, he said “Well, his emphasis is after the season, we talked about this going into the playoffs, I’ve never told a guy, his weakness is that he needs to shoot open shots. It’s like the dampest weakness to ever have and he heard us.”
With Curry masking the most out of the green light to shoot, there is no doubt that his shooting is a welcome sight for the Sixers looking to win their first NBA championship since 1983.
KD finally made a return to the hardwood this year after suffering a torn achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals. As we all know, he showed us that he hasn’t missed a beat. Although KD played only a limited 35 games during the regular season and averaged a decent 26.9 points per game, there is no question we saw an even more dangerous KD in the NBA Playoffs.
The Nets star averaged 34.3 points and 9.3 boards per game in 12 games of their playoff campaign. With KD’s shooting, the Nets were able to dispatch the Boston Celtics in the first round. Furthermore, he nearly helped the Nets advance to the next round amidst the injuries suffered by the team.
In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, KD averaged 35.4 points and 10.6 boards per game. He also tallied 49 points and 48 points in Games Five and Seven respectively. The latter would turn out to be an instant classic where KD and two time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo laid it all out on the floor in a game that needed an extra period to decide a winner.
Unfortunately for KD, the Nets fell short against the Bucks. However, there’s no doubt that KD pieced together one of the strongest injury comebacks in the league history after a spectacular showing in the NBA Playoffs.
As a two-time MVP, we all know that Giannis can do a lot of damage on the court. In fact, he just put up another MVP-worthy season this year by putting up 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. However, given his NBA Playoffs history, his postseason form was still suspect to some critics. But after his performance in the Eastern Conference Semis, there is no doubt he is out to win a championship.
The Greek Freak registered a monster 31.9 points and 12.9 boards per game to help the Bucks eliminate the Brooklyn Nets in seven games. He registered 40 points and 13 rebounds to out-duel the favorites led by superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden.
After two lopsided losses to start the series, everyone expected KD and the Nets to walk past the Bucks. However, Giannis clearly elevated his game in the series to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in NBA Playoffs history. If Giannis can maintain his elevated play in the postseason, there is no doubt he can possibly take the Bucks to the promised land this year.
The Suns are on a roll this year. After finishing as the number two seed to end their playoff drought,the Suns took no prisoners by eliminating the defending champs in the first round and sweeping the Denver Nuggets led by MVP Nikola Jokic. A big part of their continued success is the breakout of Deandre Ayton in the postseason.
The regular season saw Ayton put up decent numbers of 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. In the postseason, the Suns big man is averaging 15.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Although this isn’t a major improvement, it’s his high percentage clip in the postseason that made him a breakout star in the NBA Playoffs. Ayton is shooting at a highly efficient 71.6% from the field, which was a 9% improvement compared to his output in the regular season.
Considered to be the X-Factor of his team by keeping in step with the likes of Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis, Ayton’s breakout couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Ayton has been a monster in the paint as he utilizes his size and mobility to log in efficient buckets that translates to more space for shooters like Devin Booker to do some damage in rainbow country.
With Ayton’s rise to becoming one of the premier centers in the league, there is no question that the Suns are putting together a solid playoff return that can possibly result into a championship.