The votes for the MVP award are already in, but it might still be fun to track how our candidates are performing in the postseason so far. After seeing how the superstars performed in Day 1 of the postseason, we were fortunate enough to get some monster games from other players in the second day of the NBA playoffs. The top spot isn’t even debatable, but what about the rest? Let’s have a look.
1. Chris Paul
The Hornets opened up the playoffs on the road, in the house of the back-to-back champs and actually looked like the bullies. Chris Paul dictated how the game was played on both ends of the floor all the while doing everything possible for his team to win. He scored, assisted, ran the offense, defended, got fouled, got his teammates going and refused to let the champs intimidate him or his teammates. In other words, Paul played like the best point guard in the world.
Signature play: So many plays to chose from, but I decided that no play captured Paul’s destruction of the Lakers better than his And 1 Mixtape series of moves on Pau Gasol.
Area of concern: Still searching for one.
2. Derrick Rose
Short of coaching the Chicago Bulls, I’m not sure Derrick Rose could have done more than what he did in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers. He set the tone by repeatedly attacking the basket and getting himself to the line and also feeding his big men at the rim where they either converted or got fouled. Also, Rose made a floater to tie the game late and then came back and set up Kyle Korver for the game deciding 3-point basket.
Signature play: You could literally pick any of the amazing plays he made, but the game-tying floater was beauty.
Area of concern: Darren Collison beat him off the dribble with a lot of regularity.
3. Dwight Howard
It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No it’s Wilt! Um I mean Dwight Howard. D12 had an incredible performance against the Atlanta Hawks, as he just routinely got position in the post and found ways to score. He took the hits, and shrugged them off for an outstanding performance. It got to the point that the Hawks almost ran out of defenders to throw at him.
Some might wonder why Dwight’s performance landed him in the #3 spot behind Rose, and well it’s essentially what probably will keep him at #2 when the MVP voting is announced: one guy’s team won more than the other’s. Is it fair to Howard? Probably not. But at the end of the day, it’s the same reason that Kobe Bryant got the All-Star Game MVP trophy despite the fact that LeBron James notched the second ever triple double in All-Star Game history; because his team won.
Signature play: The block on the Ethan Thomas dunk was easily the play that displayed just how dominant Howard was on this night.
Area of concern: Dwight Howard has to display more discipline on the court and avoid silly fouls (he had five in Game 1) and also show a bit more focus to avoid turnovers (eight in Game 1).
4. LeBron James
Much like we have become accustomed to over the course of his career, LeBron did it all in Game 1. He got himself to the line, he rebounded, defended, guarded bigger and smaller players and helped his teammates get into the flow of their first playoff game as a unit.
Signature play: LeBron James made an impressive reverse lay up in transition that was a thing of beauty.
Area of concern: If the Heat are truly going to be a force to be reckoned with during the series, LeBron James will have to do much better than his 4-for-14 field goal shooting from Game 1.
5. Kevin Durant
KD played lights out in Game 1 against the Nuggets. He made shots from all over the place and just could not be guarded by the Denver defense. The scary thing is he actually could have put up more points on the board if Russell Westbrook would have looked his way a little more.
Signature play: In the late stages of the second quarter, Kevin Durant drove baseline and made a ridiculous lay up reminiscent of Derrick Rose.
Area of concern: His inability to shake loose late in games and catch the ball where the play is designed for him to get it might end up being problematic for the Thunder at some point in the postseason.
6. Dirk Nowitzki
With the world tuning in to watch the Trail Blazers celebrate on the Mavericks court, Dirk Nowitzki stepped up late in the game to make sure that would did not happen. Indeed, Disco Dirk scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to help Dallas win Game 1.
Signature play: With Dallas leading by 1 down the stretch, the Mavs turned to Dirk who took the ball in the high post, backed his man down, scored and got fouled in the process (2:20 mark in the video).
Area of concern: The Mavericks will need Nowitzki to shoot better than 7-fo-20 in Game 2 and also to do a better job protecting the ball (six turnovers in Game 1).
7. Amar’e Stoudemire
Stoudemire has always raised his game a level in the postseason when playing against Hall of Fame caliber power forwards. For years, he did it against Tim Duncan in the Western Conference, and now he finally got the chance to do it against Kevin Garnett. STAT was dominant and efficient against the Celtics defense throughout Game 1. The best defense played on Amar’e might have been the one his teammates used on him when they ignored him late in the game.
Signature play: Stoudemire crowned both Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal in the same play, much like Starks did to Horace Grant and Michael Jordan.
Area of concern: As good as STAT was during the game, he still needs to protect the ball better and avoid turnovers (four miscues in Game 1).
8. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant had a typical Kobe Bryant game. He looked to get his big guys going, picked his spots to score, played his brand of defense and put the fear of God into every Hornets defender with his shot making ability. Kobe may have lost a step, but his game is still better than most.
Signature play: A vintage Bryant double clutch jump shot over a big man that only the Black Mamba can convert.
Area of concern: Much has been made about Kobe’s ability to make shots late in games this year, and Bryant reinforced the debate with a mere 3-for-9 in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Hornets.
9. Dwyane Wade
Not a typical Dwyane Wade stat line, but he did enough to get his team the win. Wade faced some foul trouble during Game 1, which limited his production, but he did just enough for his team to get the home win. Indeed, with the game hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter, the Heat put the ball in the hands of Dwyane Wade and he delivered, as Miami closed out the game and took a 1-0 series lead.
Signature play: With the 76ers threatening late in what was a three-point game at the time, Wade drove the ball left and shot a floater off the glass as he got fouled. The Heat would go on to win.
Area of concern: Clearly Wade must avoid foul trouble to remain on the floor to help his teammates.
The “Karl Malone What Are You Doing Award”
For years I have wanted to come up with this award but just never found the right playoff moment to bring it out…until now. For those unfamiliar with the term, it was born in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. With the Jazz trailing by a point and the shot clock turned off late in the fourth quarter, the Bulls inbounded the ball to Michael Jordan and Karl Malone refused to foul him because he had five fouls and did not wish to foul out. Bill Walton then said: “KARL MALONE WHAT ARE YOU DOING”. Naturally, the Bulls won that game. If you’re looking for video footage, click here, and race to the 3:35 mark and just enjoy.
Hopefully we can have this award bestowed in every round on a different player. But the first round’s winner? Carmelo Anthony.
It was bad enough that he was 5-for-18 from the field and turned the ball over five times against the Celtics; but late in the game is when he earned the coveted award. He was called for an offensive foul late in the fourth quarter, which led to Ray Allen’s amazing three-point bomb and then he made matters worse when he caught the ball at half court, dribbled the ball endlessly and got himself at the wing where he fired a contested three-point shot that clanked off the rim and resulted in a Game 1 loss. By the way, the Knicks inbounded the ball with 11.4 seconds left on the clock, so it’s not as if Melo didn’t have time to set up a better shot.
Carmelo, you are the winner of the inaugural Karl Malone What Are You Doing Award.