• Gus Saltonstall

Top 5 Playoff Players of Week 1


NBA.com

Top 5 Playoff Players of Week 1 (Not including games played on Sunday, April 21st)

The first week of the NBA Playoffs has already led to a collection of fantastic moments between the 16 teams participating. With the Orlando Magic’s D.J. Augustine’s hesitation three to upset the Toronto Raptors in the first game of the series, to the Clippers huge comeback win against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, and the heated rivalries between Russell Westbrook/Damian Lillard and Joel Embiid/Jared Dudely—the beginning of the playoffs has not disappointed.

With the majority of the top players in the league in competition, sorry LeBron, it’s even harder for these superstars to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in terms of production. However, there are five players that have performed above and beyond the 2019 playoff participants..

Here are the top five players of the first week of the playoffs.

Honorable Mentions:

Kevin Durant- 27.3 points, 5.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 57.4% FG, 30.8%, 1.7 steals, 1.7 blocks

Joel Embiid- 25.3 points, 4.0 assists, 13.7 rebounds, 51% FG, 3.7 blocks

DeMar DeRozan- 23.3 points, 4.5 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 49.3% FG,

5. Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)

The Boston Celtics have been a rollercoaster of a team all season. Rattling off impressive winning streaks, only to lose five games in a row and have three players on the team comment on the cohesiveness of the squad.

Through all the clamor a simple fact was at times forgotten. Kyrie Irving can ball. The man can just ball. In the first three games of the series against the Indiana Pacers, Irving has led the Celtics to a 3-0 lead by averaging 25.3 points, 8.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game. He’s controlling the game on the offensive end of the floor, and shooting an incredibly efficient 45.2% from the floor, and 50% from behind the line.

Irving’s most impressive performance came in a 37-point explosion in the second game of the series.

4. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

The Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz playoff series was expected to be one of the closer of the eight series across the first round. James Harden and the rest of the Rockets team quieted down any talk of an upset real quick.

Houston has a commanding 3-0 series lead, and it is in large part due to the play of the reigning MVP award winner.

Harden is averaging a casual 27.7 points, 10.0 assists and 8.3 rebounds a game. Even when Harden struggled in the third game of the series with his shot, he came alive in the last few minutes of the game to put the dagger into the Jazz team.

Harden didn’t struggle at all though in the second game. Putting up a huge stat line.

Utah clearly came in with a game plan to keep the quick-handed Ricky Rubio on Harden, and slow him down by overplaying him hugely to the right. However, it’s just allowing the NBA’s leading scorer this season to get way to deep into the paint and either pick a pass to the corner or take a runner.

Rubio has to be having nightmares about Harden dribbling towards him at this point.

3. Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)

Kawhi Leonard is a bucket getter. A quiet bucket getter, but a bucket getter nonetheless. In three games against the Orlando Magic the former Finals MVP is averaging, 26.0 points, 3.7 assists and 6.7 rebounds on 50.8% shooting from the field and 43.8% from three point land.

The elite defender is also chipping in with a steal a game, and hunts the ball for the Raptors in the final minutes of games. Everything about Toronto just seems more confident with Leonard on the floor, and he maybe had the single best performance so far. Scoring 37 points on 15-21 shooting in the second game of the series.

2. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

The single greatest tragedy in the modern NBA is the way in which the greatness of Steph Curry has been minimalized in the all-encompassing power of the Golden State Warriors.

Curry’s playoff statistics are actually wild. The guard out of Davidson is averaging, 29.3 points, 4.7 assists and 7.0 rebounds a game in the three games so far against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Steph’s percentages are really where it gets even more incredible. The deadeye shooter is making 57.8% of his field goals, 58.6% of his threes, and 95% of his free throws. Curry’s also first in the playoffs in made three pointers a game at 5.7.

For Curry to be such a high volume shooter, and to still make such a consistent amount of his shots is incredible. The simple fact that his three-point percentage is higher than his field goal percentage is absurd.

Curry had his best performance in the first game of the series. Putting up 38-15-7 and becoming the NBA all time playoff three point leader.

1. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)

Damian Lillard is currently at war right now. The 6’3 guard out of Weber State is playing angry, and it’s clearly working. Lillard is leading the playoffs in scoring at 30.3 points a game, and also chipping in 5.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals a contest.

Lillard and Russell Westbrook have had an especially heated rivalry since January 22nd of this year when Westbrook said, “I’ve been busting that a** for years now, for years.

The Trail Blazers’ super star is currently winning the heated point guard matchup, and has his team up 2-1 in the series.

The Trail Blazers-OKC series has been the most entertaining of the first round and Damian Lillard has been the most entertaining player. Maybe the rankings will be different next week, but for the first week of the NBA playoffs—Damian Lillard is its best player.

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