ACC alums strutting their stuff in NBA playoffs
MAY 05, 2013 11:59p ET
If you missed the first round of the NBA playoffs, well . . . I hope you’re not an ACC basketball fan. Because there was at least one player on 15 of the 16 teams who played in the first round. Now that the first-round series are complete (and some second-round series have either started or are starting), here’s what you missed, and what you can still watch:
Ty Lawson, Denver: Anyone who watched the former Tar Heel in college — or in his last two seasons at Denver — knows that the point guard’s speed is almost unguardable end-to-end. But Lawson very nearly carried a team without a legitimate superstar to the Western Conference semifinals (the Nuggets lost 4-2 to the Warriors). He’s the closest thing to a superstar that Denver has at the moment, and he was the only player on his team that could manufacture his own offense. Steph Curry of the Warriors might have stolen the spotlight in that series, but Lawson’s achievements (21.3 ppg, 8.0 apg in the playoffs) speak for themselves.
Jarrett Jack, Golden State: He’s been a bench guy/journeyman for much of his NBA career, and he’s on his fifth NBA team (fourth in the last five seasons). But the former Georgia Tech point guard might be making himself quite a bit of money in free agency. Jack is averaging 18.8 points and 7.0 assists in the playoffs so far on nearly 53 percent shooting. Oh, and by the way, entering the playoffs, Jack had notched one 20-point game since Feb. 26. He had four 20-point games in the six-game series with Denver. Yeah.
Taking the next step
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City: The Boston College alum had developed a nice role as a backup point guard in Oklahoma City, but then starter Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus early in the series with Houston. He’s out for the playoffs, and the Thunder have no one except Jackson (and the aged Derek Fischer) at the point. Jackson has answered the challenge, though: he averaged 18 points in the next four games without Westbrook, he hasn’t turned it over much and has even shown some of the playmaking ability he had at BC. Not on Westbrook’s level, but it’ll do. (And really, not many are.)
Harrison Barnes, Golden State: The Warriors really needed their rookie (and North Carolina product) to step up when David Lee was injured early in the playoffs, and he has done that. He averaged 14.8 points a game in the series against Denver. His season high was 21 points, and he has passed that total twice in six playoff games already. Barnes has also been clutch down the stretch, and his late free throws helped secure the Game 6 (and ultimately, the series) win. He was never as dominant as pundits thought he’d be in college, but some of those same pundits insisted his game was better suited for the NBA. Perhaps they’re being proven correct.
The usual suspects
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: Anthony is averaging 28.9 points per game, second-most in the playoffs, but he’s also taking 26.9 shots per game and shooting 37.8 percent. It’s not a bad thing for the Knicks to have the former Syracuse star taking most of the shots. In fact, it’s probably necessary. But after the Knicks went down 1-0 to Indiana in the Eastern Conference semis, it might be that Anthony doesn’t have the energy to do both.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio: The Big Fundamental might have to play fewer minutes than he did in his younger days, but the former Wake Forest star and one of the best NBA players ever when it’s all said and done is still doing Duncan-like things. Namely, averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the playoffs so far in a four-game sweep of the Lakers. The fewer games he has to play, the better off the Spurs will be. But they’ll be going up against a young and athletic team in the Warriors in the next round.
Carlos Boozer/Luol Deng, Chicago: While seemingly the entire Chicago roster is out with injuries, these two former Duke stars are just doing what they do. Boozer is averaging 17.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in the playoffs. Deng missed the last two games of the Brooklyn series (which Chicago won 4-3) because he had to get a spinal tap last week to rule out meningitis, but he was averaging 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds in the playoffs. If Chicago is going to push Miami, both will have to play a big role.
Also worth watching
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks: The former Georgia Tech point guard tore his ACL during the playoffs last year. He returned in January, but — understandably — he wasn’t quite his old self. He’s getting back to that place though, averaging 14.5 points in the last two games of the Boston series and adding 11 in the opener of the Indiana series.
Danny Green/DeJuan Blair, San Antonio: Green got used to providing a spark off the bench while he was at UNC, and even though he’s a starter now for San Antonio, he plays a similar role. The Spurs don’t rely on him for points, but he can provide them anyway, particularly when he gets hot from three-point range.
Blair averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in the final two games of the L.A. series sweep (in just 16.5 minutes) off the bench. The Pitt product, who was drafted in 2010, set career lows this season in scoring and rebounding, but he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year. Regardless of whether he stays in San Antonio, he’ll need to impress someone.