Now that all the 2011 NBA Playoffs first round series’ are complete, there have been some monumental performances that one day, many years from now, will be re-lived by fans too young to remember (or those suffering from a bout of nostalgia) on Hardwood Classics. Here’s a look at our All-NBA & All-Bust Teams for the 2011 NBA Playoffs first round series...
The First Round All-NBA TeamThe players that made a huge difference to both their teams and their series... Center: Dwight Howard The Magic may have been bounced in the first round, but not because of Dwight Howard, which is why you can’t go past Superman here. In the 6 games Howard played against the Hawks, the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year only had one game with less than 15 rebounds. In Game 1, he had a career playoff-high 46 points to go along with 19 rebounds. Averaging his best scoring numbers this season, including over 30 PPG in four losses in this series, it’s easy to see why Howard hasn’t committed to the Magic long-term, who have no consistent second options or clutch scorers.
Power Forward: Zach Randolph Could have been Dirk here after he was the most influential player for the Mavs in the first round and played like a true MVP. However, to not put Zach Randolph here would be a crime. Facing off against the No. 1 San Antonio Spurs, Z-Bo grabbed this series by the throat, taking over Game 1 and Game 6 to propel the Grizzlies to their first ever playoff wins and series win. After a great Game 1, Z-Bo his an audacious 3-point attempt in Game 3 (that had no right going in) that will live on in NBA history for many years. To further cement his importance, Z-Bo was near-perfect in the Game 6 series-clinching win, going for 31 points, 11 rebounds and being the most influential player in one of the biggest upsets in NBA history.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant Had a great deal of help from Russell Westbrook, a super impressive Serge Ibaka and reliable James Harden, but to put anyone else here would be a crime. Durant was phenomenal during this series, especially Game 1 and Game 5. Hitting a combined 82 points off 55% shooting in Game 1 and 5, the Durantula scored at will in Game 1 and took over the fourth quarter of Game 5 to secure Oklahoma City’s first ever playoff series win. Watching KD’s shoot jump shots is one of the best parts of the NBA and his technique is second to only one player. That guy is….
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen ….Ray Allen. Even at 35 years old, Ray Ray is the greatest shooter of the modern era. Averaging a playoff high 22 PPG in his time as a Celtic, Allen was an unfathomable .654 from the arc, ridiculous even for his lofty standards. Forced to play 40 minutes a contest in the sweep of the New York Knicks due to poor bench play from the C’s, in a game the Celtics seemed destined to lose, Allen sank a go-ahead three with 12 seconds left in the game to demoralise the Knicks. He backed that up again with a 32-point game in a blowout Game 3 victory, padded by an 8-11 night from 3-point range that simply had to be seen to be believed.
Point Guard: Chris Paul CP3 singlehandedly made this series a contest. His Game 1 performance of 33 points and 14 assists (where his “troublesome” left knee looked 110% and as explosive as ever) was bested only by his 27-point, 15-assist, 13-rebound performance in a Game 4 win over the Lakers. That’s right, people. A point guard that stands at (a generous) 6-feet tall grabbed 13 boards, recorded a triple-double and led his team in rebounds in three of their six first round match-ups. Seeing the heart and determination Paul displayed in this series should live on forever in the minds of basketball fans, and is the reason fans fall in love with sport.
Sixth Man: Jamal Crawford This spot could have gone to any number of Marc Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose or even Serge Ibaka, who had an outstanding 24 blocks in the Thunder’s first round series against the Denver Nuggets, including a frightful 9 in the Game 5 win. But this spot was earned by Jamal Crawford. Sure to be a hot commodity during the free agency period (if there is one, stay tuned on the NBA’s potential lockout), Crawford was a catalyst in the Hawks’ series win over the Magic. Outplaying the Magic’s backcourt, Crawford was deadly coming off the bench and made history by becoming the third player in NBA history to score 20 or more points in four consecutive playoff matches. His ability to enter the game and score more points per game than four of Orlando’s five starters was impressive in itself. What’s more impressive, however, is almost singlehandedly beating the Magic at their own game by dropping 17 3-pointers on the NBA leader in 3-point field goals made.
The First Round All-Bust TeamEven with historic performances from the All-First Round Team, there were still some insipid performances from the first round. Let’s have a look at the All-Bust team of players who didn’t earn their keep: Center: Pau Gasol Logged most of his minutes at PF against the Hornets, but the poor play of another 4 position player mean Pau gets pushed to the 5. Despite having a decent Game 6 when the Lakers closed out the series, Boom Boom Pau only recorded double-digit rebounds in one game against the undersized Hornets, all but erasing the Lakers’ greatest strength of front court size and length. His .418 FG % was a far cry from the .529 he shot in the regular season. The knock on Pau for most of his career is his penchant to get soft when the game gets tough, which was his biggest issue in the first round as he found himself being overpowered too much by Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza on the glass.
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer Touted as a big free-agent signing to push Chicago to the next level, Boozer should have been a leader for the Bulls this postseason, but had his worst payoff series to date against Indiana. Not only was he out-hustled by the inferior Tyler Hansbrough on more than one occasion, he shot a terrible .358 from the field over the series. Generally a decent shooter, albeit with an unconventional shooting stroke, who shoots around .500 Boozer’s settling for jumpers against a front court that he could get to the rim against was a bad sign for the Bulls going forward.
Small Forward: Hedo Turkoglu Not much more to say about Hedo that wasn’t mentioned above. Re-acquired by Orlando to provide the playmaking ability and outside shooting that powered the Magic into the Finals in 2009, Hedo shot a deplorable .294 from the field. Couple that with his 7-of-30 series from the arc and refusal to even make a contest on the glass, and Hedon’t makes a great case for worst playoff performer of 2011.
Shooting Guard: J.R Smith What is there to like about a player with mercurial talent that not only wastes it, but talks about leaving his team the following year while in the midst of an 0-2 hole in the first round of the playoffs? While he was shooting well from range, his reluctance to enter the paint against the Thunder’s frontcourt duo of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins forced Smith to take too many ill-timed jumpers that killed the Nuggets in this series. His outburst forced coach George Karl to severely limit his minutes and, for a team searching for a go-to shooter, Smith’s immaturity was a catalyst for the Nuggets’ 7th first round exit in the last eight seasons.
Point Guard: Jameer Nelson Oh, Jameer. The face of inconsistency in the NBA. Other than his amazing 20-point 3rd-quarter in Game 1, he failed to be Superman’s sidekick in this series. A decent shooter, Nelson was just one of a handful of Magic shooters that choked in this series, only hitting 6 of 26 3-point attempts. Nelson put up solid assist numbers with 5 per game, but having 2 games with less than 3 assists from a starting point guard who is shooting poorly is the best way to suffer an early playoff exit.
Sixth Man: Antonio McDyess Inserted into the starting line-up due to his height advantage over under-sized DeJuan Blair and veteran experience, the 36-year old McDyess has looked exactly that; old. With the Spurs being….someone had to take the fall for what was a monumental failure that will probably spell the end of an era. For McDyess, he was simply outplayed by the feistier Grizzlies bigs and didn’t serve as a reliable running mate for Tim Duncan, who did all he could to put his team on his broad shoulders but simply didn’t get enough help from his front-court teammates.