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5 X-Factors In NBA Playoff Series Tied at One

by Photo of Kenneth Teape

With the series hanging in the balance, which people are capable of swinging them for good or bad.

5 X-Factors In NBA Playoff Series Tied at One

The NBA Playoffs have lived up to the hype thus far, with --- games going into overtime through two games of each series. Plenty of the series have gone back-and-forth with the teams splitting the first two games of the series. They are now facing a five-game series, with home court flipped to the lowered seeded team. With the series hanging in the balance, it is time for some players, and even coaches in some instances, to step up their game and start producing at the level they are capable of. Here are a list of x-factors in the series all knotted up at one that could swing the series in either direction.

Russell Westbrook, Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder drew quite possibly the toughest first round matchup, as the rough-and-tough style of the Memphis Grizzlies is not an easy style to play against, especially in a seven-game series. They handled the Grizzlies with relative ease in Game 1, but the Grizzlies showed resiliency in Game 2, pounding the paint with Zach Randolph and taking home the victory. With the series shifting to Memphis, the series hangs in the balance and one man, Westbrook, has the power to swing the series for either team.

Westbrook is undoubtedly a talented player, but he sometimes gets caught up in his own game even though he has arguably the best scorer in the NBA and potential MVP Kevin Durant next to him. Too often Westbrook jacks up mid-range jumpers, not even getting into an offense or having Durant touch the ball. It incenses Thunder fans when he does this, especially when the results aren’t extremely positive, such as in Game 2.

To be fair, Tony Allen has made life very difficult for Durant offensively, denying him the ball on multiple occasions. The ball denial Allen has shown sometimes forces Westbrook’s hand, but too often Westbrook settles for that jump shot.

With that mentality, Westbrook is playing right into the Grizzlies’ hands. Courtney Lee essentially admitted that much, when he said, "We're fine with Westbrook taking shots. I mean, it's kinda what you want - the more shots he takes the less Durant takes." They know what Durant is capable of, but Westbrook is more of a wild card. He can shoot the Thunder right out of a game, and potentially the series, quicker than he can shoot them into it against a team that plays defense as well as the Grizzlies do.

Roy Hibbert, Center, Indiana PacersArguably the biggest surprise of the NBA playoffs thus far is the fact this series is tied at one. The No.1 seeded Pacers were embarrassed by the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1, as Jeff Teague went off and the Pacers looked lost. The first half of Game 2 looked like more of the same, but the Pacers were able to right the ship in the second half, destroying the Hawks 53-33.

Taking a look at the box score will show that the Pacers were able to sustain some success by having their bigs play less; namely Hibbert. Against the Hawks, who play a spread out style of offense in which everyone on the court can shoot three pointers, Hibbert is a liability, and he has shown that throughout the first two games. Hibbert has been horrendous, shooting 5-16, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the two games.

It has gotten to the point now that the Pacers may be better off just not playing Hibbert. He is offering nothing positive on the court, as the Pacers desperate tries to get him going are actually doing more harm than help. They are making an already poor offense even less potent by force feeding a player that is not producing.

You can easily place head coach Frank Vogel in this spot as well instead of Hibbert. In the end, it is Vogel’s decision as to who will play and who will sit. Through two games, it is apparent that Hibbert is not helping, and other options off the bench, such as Luis Scola, would be better suited to face the Hawks.

It is a tight rope which Vogel must do his work from, as he risks alienating and sapping the confidence of a player already lacking it by benching him in the first round of the playoffs. But if Hibbert continues playing the way he has, the Pacers very well may not make it past the first round.

Blake Griffin, Power Forward, Los Angeles Clippers – Just take a look at the box scores from the first two games of this series, and it is evident that Griffin is a no-brainer choice as the x-factor for this series.

In Game 1, Griffin played only 19 minutes before fouling out, and the Clippers were defeated by the Golden State Warriors. In Game 2, Griffin did not commit a foul in 30 minutes, scoring a playoff career-high 35 points to lead a 138-98 blowout victory.

With the Warriors front line diminished because of injury, Griffin should be able to have his way offensively. Neither David Lee nor Draymond Green present much of a challenge in slowing down the explosive Griffin, who has expanded his offensive game this season. Jermaine O’Neal could give Griffin problems in spurts, but at his age he cannot compete with Griffin for an extended period of time.

The only thing that can slow Griffin down against what the Warriors are capable of throwing at him is himself. In Game 1 he did not use his head, committing six fouls and in essence taking himself out of the game. In Game 2 he adapted much better to how the referees were calling the game, committing zero fouls. If Griffin is able to continue with the smart and explosive play he had in Game 2, the Clippers should be able to make easy work of the Warriors. But playing in Oracle Arena presents new challenges for Griffin and the Clippers. For their sake, hopefully he is ready for what will be a raucous crowd.

Terrence Ross, Shooting Guard, Toronto RaptorsThe Raptors dropped the first game of this series, as Paul Pierce took over in the fourth quarter and willed the Brooklyn Nets to a victory. In Game 2, DeMar DeRozan looked like Kobe Bryant, scoring 17 in the fourth quarter to get the Raptors a victory and split the first two games.

If the Raptors are to take any games in Brooklyn, they will need another player to step up, and that player is Ross. Through two games, he has given little production, shooting 2-12 and scoring only five points. He is 1-9 from the three point line, enabling the Nets to just pack it in and dare the Raptors and Ross to shoot it from deep.

Ross epitomizes what this series truly is; youngsters with little experience vs. veterans with tons of playoff experience. Ross, like any young player making his first playoff experience, will struggle a little and will need to get adjusted to the new atmosphere. In Game 1, the whole Raptors team looked a little shell-shocked. They shot 39.4 percent from the field while playoff savvy Net players such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Pierce excelled.

In Game 2, the roles were reversed a bit, as DeRozan put together a monster game, getting help from one of the few Raptors with playoff experience in Amir Johnson and bruising center Jonas Valanciunas. The Nets, on the other hand, were let down by the same veterans that carried them in Game 1.

This series will ultimately come down to the Raptors youngsters growing up fast, or the Nets veterans finally running out of gas. Right now, it looks like a toss up, as they have split the regular season and playoff series in half thus far. Ross and the younger Raptors stepping up would push them past the Nets.

Jose Calderon, Point Guard, Dallas Mavericks –  Calderon was a non-factor in Game 1, as Devin Harris came up big off the bench, but the Mavericks lost as they allowed the San Antonio Spurs to go on an 18-3 run to end the game. In Game 2, Calderon played more minutes, and Dallas picked up a victory with Harris once again putting up good numbers.

With Harris performing the way that he has been, it enables Calderon to go full facilitator mode. The Mavericks can rotate Harris as the backup point guard, but also give Monta Ellis some rest and have him play the scoring guard next to Calderon.

With Calderon on the court, things are also open up for Dirk Nowitzki. Calderon is a master in the pick-and-roll, as he has a devastating outside jump shot and is automatic from 18-feet. The threat he is from the perimeter to knock down jumpers forces opposing defenses to watch him, allowing Nowitzki to go to work.

Calderon has his deficiencies, namely on the defensive end of the court, which is why he lands on this list. Having to defend another point guard in Tony Parker who excels in the pick-and-roll himself presents problems for Calderon and the Mavericks defensively. Calderon is essentially a swinging gate on defense, as he offers very little resistance. This puts immense pressure on the Mavericks bigs, which outside of Samuel Dalembert are not exactly defensive anchors either.

So for this series to swing either way, it will come down to how the Mavericks manage Calderon. The offense runs much smoother with him on the court, but the defense suffers. It is hard to imagine Harris continuing to play that well for three more victories in the series, as he didn’t put together production like this consecutively all season. The Mavericks are arguably the best eight seed to take on a top-seeded team, but at the same time there is a reason that they are an eight seed and the dilemma they face with their point guard position is a driving factor why.

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