His six-game run against Cleveland included a missed three-pointer that would have won Game 3, as well as a pair of botched free throws that would have iced Game 6, but it was Arenas who put his Wizards in position to win each of those games. Playing 285 of a possible 298 minutes in the series, Gilbert averaged 34 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He also shot 44 percent from the behind the arc and was refreshingly aware of his own (limited) shortcomings when the series drew to a close.
2 of 10Gary Dineen/SI
Under the radar, and usually away from the national TV spotlight, Billups was the best player on the floor for the Pistons in their opening-round win. Chauncey averaged 22.2 points and 6.6 assists, shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the arc and turning the ball over only eight times over the course of the five-game series.
3 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
It was a frustrating regular season for Duncan, who was unable to contribute his usual 22 and 12 toward San Antonio's 63-win season due to an inflamed arch in his left foot. Playing only six games in 14 days against the Kings helped Tim's first-round production; he appeared to gain strength as the series went along, and averaged 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in just 33 minutes a game, shooting 61 percent from the floor.
4 of 10David E. Klutho/SI
The most hyped player of his generation is living up to expectations, as James controlled his team's destiny and lorded over Cleveland's win over the Wizards. Notching a triple double (32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first playoff game, LBJ hit two game-winning shots and averaged 35.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists. And in case you've recently escaped from a well-guarded institution, it bears mentioning that James is only 21 years of age.
5 of 10Manny Millan/SI
Easily the first round's biggest surprise, Johnson enjoyed the best two weeks of his career in the first round. Though he's been the best backup point guard in the NBA for a few years now, Johnson remained a so-so shooter who was limited by his inability to clear space for a good shot. Against the Nets, however, AJ had something of an out-of-body experience: averaging 20 points, 5.3 assists and five rebounds a game, while notching 40 points (on 16-of-23 shooting) in Indiana's Game 6 loss.
6 of 10John W. McDonough/SI
In a town that revels in cheeseball storylines, the first playoff conquest in the Clippers' Los Angeles history was straight out of central casting. In a total team effort, L.A. overcame turnover issues, first-time jitters and a curious Reggie Evans on its way to crushing a dispirited Nuggets team. Mike Dunleavy's crew held Denver to 87.3 points on 38 percent shooting in the five-game win.
7 of 10Bob Rosato/SI
Stepping up his game in the postseason for the second year in a row, Chicago's 26-year-old forward was by far the team's best player in their six-game loss to the Heat. Showcasing a devastating touch from the outside that set up a series of successful drives to the basket, Noc averaged 22.3 points in shooting 56 percent from the floor, 48 percent from behind the arc and 86 percent from the free throw line. He also averaged 8.8 rebounds a game while harassing Antoine Walker into 38 percent shooting from the floor and 29 percent shooting on three-pointers.
8 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
Probably the most consistent performer in the first round, Nowitzki made sure his Mavericks didn't waste time in dispatching the Memphis Grizzlies in four games. Shooting 51 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three-point range, Dirk averaged 31.3 points a game along with 7.8 rebounds. His clutch three-pointer in the final regulation seconds of a Game 3 sent the contest into overtime and demoralized the Grizzlies.
9 of 10John Biever/SI
Though his teammates seemed uncertain of where to go and what to do against the Pistons, Redd raised his production levels in Milwaukee's opening-round loss. He scored 27 points per game, shooting 47 percent from long range, 89 percent from the free throw line and 52 percent overall. Hitting for 40 points in Game 3, Redd ensured that his Bucks pulled at least one win out of the playoffs.
10 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
We kept calling Bonzi a "monster," and he kept giving us reason to. Wells was an exceptional rebounder in his first four NBA seasons, even after tearing his ACL in 2001, but he regressed significantly during his last season in Portland and in time spent with Memphis. Playing his first season in Sacramento, Wells regained his touch off the glass, and it carried over into a 12-board-a-game average in the playoffs. The 6-foot-5 guard also averaged 23 points on 61 percent shooting while hitting half as many threes (five) as he nailed during the entire regular season.
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