The playoffs all-second round team
We saw Kawhi Leonard hit an improbable buzzer beater on Sunday to end the second round of the playoffs in spectacular fashion. The Milwaukee Bucks meet up with the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern conference finals while Damian Lillard visits his hometown with the Portland Trail Blazers going at the Golden State Warriors. Before we go to the second round, we have to look at who put on the best performances for their teams.
Guard: James Harden
This was a tough one, because 3 guards played really well without consistency. Steph Curry was a no-show in the first 3 games against the Rockets; Damian Lillard had 2 games where he scored under 15 points, one of them being game 7, and the Blazers won both of them; and Jamal Murray was good all series against the Blazers but was terrible in game 7 and lost the series. Even their numbers are very similar. Curry averaged around 24/5/5; Murray was good for 24/6/5 and Lillard gave the Blazers 25/5/6.
Then, there’s James Harden. He lost in 6 games, yes, but that’s because Chris Paul didn’t show up more than anything else. Harden put up a stat line of around 35/7/5.5 while shooting 44% and 35% from the floor and 3 respectively. Unfortunately for Harden, the Rockets won’t win a championship after once again losing to the Warriors.
Guard: C.J. McCollum
Christian James gets in because he was C.J. McKiller in game 7. He put the team on his back on the biggest stage, while they were down 17 at one point, while Dame had a terrible night, while they were on the road against the best home team… C.J. hit clutch shot after clutch shot, torching the Nuggets defense with his crispy handles and smooth mid-range jumper.
He didn’t do that well on the road for the series but came up huge in that game 7 and that’s when it mattered most. He averaged just over 26 points a game with 6 rebounds and 3 assists as well. He shot 46% from the floor and 38% from deep for the series and showed that he can carry the team as well as Dame can.
Forward: Kawhi Leonard
I could have just put a picture of Kawhi and his name without any explanation as to why I chose him, and it still would have been justified. Kawhi led the Raptors in scoring 6 out of 7 games, averaged 35 points and 10 rebounds with 4 assists and was a menace on the defensive end as well, holding Simmons to 12 points per game.
Oh yeah, he also had the first game winning buzzer beater in a game 7 ever, in a game that he scored 41 of Toronto’s 92 points. He made his case for the best player in the world and will now go up against the next guy in the list to battle it out for a place in the NBA finals.
Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
What more can be said about the guy that will probably win the MVP award? Well, he dominated the Celtics for one. His stats read 28.4 points/11 rebounds/5.2 assists/1.4 steals/1.6 blocks. He shot 52% from the floor and decided to turn into Stephen Curry from deep, burying 7 of his 17 attempts, good for a 41% clip. Not bad for a guy that supposedly couldn’t shoot.
He also played just 34 minutes per game, uncharacteristic for a superstar in the playoffs. Giannis is just so dominant whenever he’s on the floor and goes into the conference finals nearly fresh, having played just 9 games and 283 minutes in total.
Center: Nikola Jokic
Big Honey is certainly not the reason the Nuggets lost this series. Portland didn’t have an answer for his huge body, and he was dominating at will it seemed. Just a shame that his conditioning isn’t up to par yet, because he seemed gassed at the end of each game, let alone the quadruple overtime game where he played almost 65 minutes.
Jokic averaged around 27/14/8 while shooting 52% from the floor and 46% from 3-point land. His defensive game has to improve but his impact on the game was so big that it was impossible to overlook him just because they lost the series. Nobody even came close to his numbers. Let’s also not forget that he broke the microphone in the press conference after game 4 and then blamed it on someone else. Legend.