Friday May 15th, 2015

When the NBA postseason rolls around, teams adjust their game plans to combat the same opponent throughout a seven-game series. Defenses lock in, adapt to certain tendencies, and frustrate great players as a result. So while it’s not expected that every player will improve his game on the big stage, at least playing up to regular season standards is a must.

A handful of guys whose teams advanced beyond the first round have disappointed in that regard. Their production has dropped in a variety of categories at the worst possible time, and it could very well cost their team’s chances at advancing further, if it hasn’t already.

Jamal Crawford, Clippers

Jamal Crawford has carved a niche in the NBA as a spark plug off the bench. He’s a lights-out shooter who’s collected not one, but two Sixth Man of the Year awards in his career. For a Clippers team with a weak second unit—they finished 22nd in bench scoring during the regular season at 30.4 points per game—Crawford needed to be the catalyst.

Instead, “J-Crossover” has continued his troubling trend of scoring fewer points in the postseason compared to the 82-game grind. That hasn’t proved to be a death knell for the Clips, especially since they’ve found offense through an unlikely source named Austin Rivers. It’s concerning exactly how inefficient the veteran has been shooting the rock.

Crawford’s shot chart for the playoffs thus far is littered with red. He’s been dreadful when shooting three-pointers above the break (20.8%), and his postseason percentages overall—36.3% from the field and 23.1% from long range—are doing a lot more harm than good. Provided that Crawford doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of defense, rebounding or distributing, he’ll continue to be a liability if he doesn’t start knocking down his shots with more consistency.

Kyle Korver/Jeff Teague, Hawks

Atlanta’s backcourt tandem was tremendous during a regular season in which the Hawks set a franchise record with 60 wins. Both Korver and Teague were named to the All-Star team for the first time in their respective careers. Teague shot 46% from the field (his best mark since 2011-12), and Korver at times flirted with the prospect of posting the league’s first-ever qualified 50-50-90 shooting season. As defenses have clamped up in the postseason, though, both guards have struggled (by their standards).

Teague is converting less than 40% of his field goal attempts. Korver’s three-point percentage of 37.6% is still respectable by human standards, but it’s an absolute freefall from his regular season mark of 49.2%. Credit Washington’s Bradley Beal for sticking to Korver like gum on a sneaker, but Atlanta’s sharpshooter has still found some good looks. The Hawks as a whole haven’t looked like the regular season juggernaut they were. Getting their crisp passing and efficient shooting back will have to start with Teague and Korver.

Zach Randolph, Grizzlies

Compared to his regular season numbers, Zach Randolph’s scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks numbers are all down. His shooting percentage (48.7% in the regular season) has plummeted to just 42.9% during 10 postseason games.

Z-Bo has actually been quite good from midrange, but his ugly 44.4% conversion rate in the restricted area has bogged down his production in a big way. Golden State’s great interior defense, anchored by Andrew Bogut, has a lot to do with that, but it’s still an unsavory figure. For an interior brute like Randolph, it’s bizarre to see him struggle with his attempts so close to the bucket.

Joakim Noah, Bulls

It’s worth noting that Joakim Noah is not expected to be a scorer for Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls. But he still did his coach no favors in the postseason with his woefully inefficient offensive production.

In addition to averaging a playoff career-low 5.8 points per game over the course of 12 postseason affairs, the former Florida Gator made just 31-of-76 field goal tries (40.8%) and, perhaps even more shockingly, 7-of-20 free throws (35%). He shot 60.3% in the 2014-15 season and maintains a 71.6% clip for his career. 

Noah battled through injuries, but there’s reason to believe this showing could be a harbinger to a steady (and perhaps swift) decline as the big man creeps beyond age 30.

MORE NBA: What's next for Bulls after second-round loss?

LeBron James, Cavaliers

Blindly criticizing LeBron James has become a favorite pastime for basketball curmudgeons everywhere dating back to his free-agent departure from Cleveland in 2010. It’s become old hat to nitpick LBJ’s performances, provided that he’s one of the best talents the game has ever seen. With that caveat out in the open, James has been alarmingly inefficient during the 2015 playoffs.

The four-time MVP shot below 40% three separate times against the Bulls (hat tip to Jimmy Butler’s defensive efforts). Overall, he’s shooting just 42.4% from the floor and has sunk a putrid 14.6% of his three-pointers (7-of-48). He’s dishing out 7.9 assists on average, but they’ve essentially been negated by a whopping 4.6 turnovers per game (which leads all players this postseason).

James has been forced to carry Cleveland with a hobbled Kyrie Irving and sidelined Kevin Love. Even though he’s headed back to the Eastern Conference Finals, elements of his game have been disappointing. The King will have to clean up those flaws in the next round. If he doesn’t, either the Hawks or Wizards could take full advantage and head to the NBA Finals.

More from Ben Leibowitz:

Every NBA Team’s Best Point Guard Ever

What If Shaquille O’Neal Made His Free Throws?

Questions Facing the Spurs this Offseason

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