Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> Tony Allen can play, sure, but what happened to MVP Kevin Durant in the first round? BTW, who’s your early leader for postseason MVP?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I attribute Durant’s indecisiveness during the Memphis series to the playoff effect of a defense adjusting game by game to its opponents’ strengths. That’s going to continue, but Durant and the Thunder should be quicker to adjust back. As for postseason MVP, I’ll take LeBron James against the field. More than the first two, if Miami wins another ring, it will come via his will and his skills, happily swapping out the Podoloff trophy for the Russell.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Mostly, you answered your own question. Tony Allen happened to him early and late, K.D. got a bit out of sorts and out of kilter and it became a series about survival rather than looking good. He did, the Thunder did and that’s all that matters. Even though his team was thumped in the opener of the second round, I’ll give LaMarcus Aldridge the edge for early playoff MVP for the way he carried the Blazers to their first series in 14 years against the Rockets. But that’s only because LeBron James has barely had to break a sweat so far. The best from the best is yet to come.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I’m still trying to figure this out. KD’s shooting percentages have dipped really since the start of April and there is genuine concern here that something’s not right. The biggest indicator that I red flag is his playoff free-throw percentage of 75 percent. He’s an 88-percent free throw shooter for his career and hit 90 percent last season. It suggests, to me, either he’s fatigued or not concentrating fully, or those two factors are working together.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I don’t know that anything “happened” to KD. He faced a good defensive team and a very good defensive player, as you mentioned. And he played huge minutes. As easy as it is to say Durant is young and can handle the heavy workload or that Durant is so much better than a lot of players that he can adjust, having 42 or 43 minutes be a slow day takes a toll after carrying so much burden in the regular season. He was spending a lot of time in the high-40s and low-50s.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince played fantastic individual defense, but Durant had the attention of the whole Grizzlies D, which happened to rank second after Marc Gasol returned in mid-January. The best players see extra defenders in the playoffs, especially when they have a teammate or two on the floor who can be left alone. My playoffs MVP so far is LeBron James, even though the Heat haven’t really needed much from him to this point. He’s just been the best player, there isn’t anyone really close, and the Heat are the only team in either conference that’s a clear favorite to make The Finals.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Durant’s fine. Tony Allen and the Grizzlies happened to him in the first round. Nothing more and nothing less. And he survived them. The real test comes against a Clippers team that doesn’t have an individual defender like Allen to slow him down. They’re going to try and limit him as best they can but the Clippers will live with Durant getting his and hoping to outscore him and the Thunder to get to the conference finals. My early leader for postseason MVP? He’s only played five games, so far, but I’m going with LeBron James.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: I’ll tell you what happened to Kevin Durant in Round One: He won. Rather, his team won. And if there’s anything you should understand about Kevin Durant, it’s that he doesn’t care much about the individual numbers or stats — he just wants to win. That isn’t just lip service, either: KD is not nice when it comes to winning. Did he have some low scoring games? For him, sure. But the most important thing is he figured out how to give his chance the best opportunity at winning every night. Which is what MVPs do.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: KD had a couple of tough games, something that happens even to MVPs. He’s guilty of having them in the postseason: a consequence of Tony Allen stalking him even on the bench. Not to mention poor shooting, and some shaky playmaking in the team (Westbrook fell into I’m-gonna-win-this-alone mode at times). But when it counted most (Game 6 and 7) he averaged 34.5 ppg. But my early leader for postseason MVP is Damian Lillard, a playoff rookie who killed the Rockets with a buzzer beater and he’s averaging Jordan-esque and LeBron-esque numbers. Tony Parker thinks he’s already among top 5 PGs in the NBA: he has the chance to prove it against Parker himself, the No. 2 in my early postseason standings.