NBA Playoffs Heroes and Villains: Week 1
The first week of the NBA playoffs is complete. No series is over yet, but many individuals have stood out in these hard-fought games. The drama of the playoffs has been heightened by players, coaches and even an owner who have made headlines as heroes and villains in the NBA world.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder guard
The young Thunder is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers, the No. 1 seed in the West, and Westbrook had led the way. No Lakers guards have the ability to stop him, which leads to easy baskets for Westbrook’s teammates.
Westbrook gets to the basket with ease and has played with great poise for a youngster. In the Thunder’s blowout game four win he had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs guard
Parker has been coming off the bench in the playoffs and his scoring lifted the Spurs in game three. His 23 points as a reserve was just one example of the incredible all-around effort San Antonio has received from its players.
Once again, the Mavericks are on the brink of elimination in the first round. The Spurs have a three-games-to-one lead. Dallas owner Mark Cuban isn’t thrilled. He voiced his displeasure for the Spurs before game three. His comments made him a villain in this year’s playoffs.
Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers guard
What seemed like a lopsided series got interesting. The Phoenix Suns, one of the hottest teams to end the season, led two games to one. Before game four, Roy, only eight days removed from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, asked to play.
And he did, scoring 10 points in 27 minutes, giving the ailing Blazers a much-needed boost. Just like Willis Reed did for the New York Knicks in the 1970 NBA finals, Roy returned, didn’t have a huge impact, but left his mark on the game, and perhaps, on the series.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers forward
Nobody puts up numbers like James and after the Chicago Bulls closed the gap, winning game three in dramatic fashion, Cleveland needed its star to step up.
So James did, tallying his fifth career triple double in game four. He scored 37 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished 11 assists in the game four route of Chicago. Cleveland can close out the series on Tuesday.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics forward
When the Celtics needed him the most Pierce answered the call. The Truth nailed a jumper as time expired to give the Celtics a 100-98 win in game three. Pierce scored 32 points to help Boston to a 3-0 series lead.
Although the Celtics lost game four, they are in command of a series that has been played tough. So tough, there was an incident in Boston in game one. Pierce was involved in the play, but it was his teammate, Kevin Garnett, and Miami Heat guard Quentin Richardson who got all the attention. Their actions made them villains for week one.
Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers coach
Before the series even began Jackson started mind games with Thunder forward Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer. “As far as the calls that he gets on the floor, I think a lot of the referees are treating him like a superstar; he gets to the line easy and often,” Jackson said.
Obviously, Jackson wanted to get the attention of the officials and swing some calls his way. It seems as if his comments have had the opposite effect. The majority of calls have gone Oklahoma City’s way with a gigantic free throw disparity in game four. The Lakers were 17 of 28 at the line; the Thunder was 42 of 48. That’s a lot of foul calls on the purple and gold.
Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers forward
Artest has played decent defense on Durant, harassing the lanky scorer into tough shots and forcing him to shoot a low percentage from the field.
But Artest’s own field goal percentage has been absolutely atrocious. He is literally shooting his own team out of the playoffs. Artest is settling for three pointers and getting very poor results: three for 23 in four games. Pass that ball or dribble a few steps in, Ron.
Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner
“I hate the Spurs,” Cuban said. “I have a hard time being civil to (Spurs majority owner) Peter Holt at the Board of Governors meeting, and he has a hard time being civil to me, even though we like each other.”
Cuban said this before game three against San Antonio. He has a reason to be angry. His Mavericks were beat by the Spurs in the Western conference finals in 2003. These teams have met twice in the playoffs since. Dallas has zero championships to show for its efforts while the Spurs boast four. And now, the Mavericks are on the brink of elimination as they trail three games to one.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics forward
At the end of game one against the Miami Heat, Garnett went to the aid of Pierce after a fall. Heat guard Quentin Richardson got involved, Garnett didn’t like that so the Celtic forward connected with an elbow near Richardson’s jaw.
That action led to a suspension for game two. The Celtics won anyway, but there is plenty of bad blood between these teams, especially after Richardson’s comments regarding Pierce and Garnett.
Quentin Richardson, Miami Heat guard
“I was trying to get over there to take the ball out of bounds, and he started talking to me, so I talked back. Nobody has no business talking to [Pierce]. He’s on the ground, crying. I don’t know what’s going on. Two actresses over there, that’s what they are.”
Richardson seemed to be the instigator during this incident. He didn’t receive any suspension or fine. Pierce may be known for his melodramatic playoff moment of the 2008 NBA finals when he may have exaggerated an injury, but he and Garnett being called actresses won’t help the Celtics and Heat players become chums during this series.
This kind of behavior promotes violence in the form of “hard playoff fouls.” Nothing too rough has happened, but then again, week two of the playoffs starts tonight.