It may be early in the NBA Playoffs, but some players are already struggling on the court, and they’re costing their team. For whatever reason, the first round of the postseason has not been kind to these players, and they will be looking to turn things around in the games to come.
Here are eight struggling players that need to step their game up — sooner than later.
Scoring only 13 points through two playoff games is hardly what the Timberwolves expected from their All-Star center in his first taste of the postseason, but that’s what Karl-Anthony Towns has managed to produce in consecutive losses to the Houston Rockets.
To put his struggles in perspective, Towns’ 13 points through two playoff games is tied for the third fewest in NBA history for a player who averaged at least 20 points per game that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk). To have any chance at getting back in the series against the top-seeded Rockets, Minnesota is going to need Towns at his best on the offensive end of the floor.
The logic behind Hassan Whiteside’s lack of playing time in Games 1 and 2 against Philadelphia was that the style of play in Joel Embiid’s absence put him at a disadvantage on the defensive end of the floor, where he was being forced to guard smaller bigs on the perimeter. But when Embiid returned from injury for the Sixers in Game 3, Whiteside’s lack of playing time continued (which caused him to criticize head coach Erik Spoelstra after the game). He played just 13 minutes in the Heat’s 128-108 loss on Thursday night, finishing with five points, two rebounds and one block.
Meanwhile, Embiid took advantage of Whiteside’s absence in the paint, punishing the Heat for 23 points, including 10 from the free-throw line. Spoelstra and his staff need to find a way to get Whiteside more involved in the series before it’s too late.
With the number of shots Carmelo Anthony has gotten in the first two games against the Utah Jazz, he should be scoring more than 15 or 17 points a night, but that is what the Oklahoma City Thunder forward put up in Games 1 and 2, respectively.
Anthony is shooting 35.5 percent from the field, and 25.5 percent from beyond the arc in the postseason. For a player that prides himself on his scoring, those aren’t the types of shooting percentages you’d expect. It’s no secret that the Thunder rely heavily on three players for scoring, so if Melo is struggling, that could be an issue down the road.
The decision to replace Jeff Green and Rodney Hood in the starting lineup with J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver paid off, as the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to come away with a victory in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Surrounding LeBron James with more shooters seemed to be the right strategy.
Green gives the Cavaliers versatility on defense, but his shooting in the series has left a lot to be desired. He went scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting in Game 1, and had just two points on 1-for-3 shooting in Game 2. Once his shots start falling again, Green should be able to help contribute more on the floor.
If Damian Lillard continues to struggle, the Portland Trail Blazers will be making an early exit from the playoffs. The star point guard has now made just 18 of his 55 shots from the field, and four of his 16 shots from 3-point range in the series, following a 119-102 loss to the Pelicans in Game 3 Thursday.
Lillard, after failing to reach the 20-point mark in Games 1 and 2, finally got to 20 in Game 3 despite shooting 5-for-14 from the field. To make matters worse, he also turned the ball over eight times. There’s no doubt about it—Lillard has to step up in Game 4, or Portland is finished. It’s hard enough to win on the road as is, especially as well as the Pelicans are playing.
J.J. Redick has cooled off in the last two games for the Sixers after scoring 28 in the opener. The veteran sharpshooter has been limited to 10 and 11 points, respectively, in Games 2 and 3, and he has shot 2-for-12 from the 3-point line during that span.
Redick’s poor shooting didn’t stop Philadelphia from taking Game 3, thanks to some solid scoring performances by his teammates, but it could be a problem if it continues the rest of the series.
Normally one of the best shooters on the floor every time he steps onto the court, Bradley Beal has seriously disappointed for the Washington Wizards. After leading the team in scoring during the regular season, with 22.6 points per game, Beal has averaged just 14 points in two games against Toronto. He’s also shooting 39.3 percent from the field, and 27.3 percent on 3-pointers.
Playing against the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards simply cannot afford to have Beal go cold. He needs to play like he did during the regular season, when he was putting the ball in the basket at the same rate as the best scorers in the league. Furthermore, when he’s shooting the ball well, it makes John Wall’s job a heck of a lot easier.
Despite Eric Bledsoe claiming not to know who Terry Rozier is, he must have some sort of idea after watching the Boston Celtics point guard drop 23 points against his team for the second game in a row. Meanwhile, the best Bledsoe has been able to do for the Milwaukee Bucks in the postseason is score 12 points in a 120-106 Game 2 loss Tuesday.
With the Bucks point guard struggling to contribute on the offensive end of the floor, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton have been left to carry the scoring load. So far, that duo alone hasn’t been able to produce any victories for the Bucks, meaning Bledsoe will have to start contributing more on the offensive end for his team to have a shot at winning the series.