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Production Reduction?

May 16, 2005
May 16, 2005

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May 16, 2005

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Production Reduction?

The hot hands of the first round will be hard-pressed to keep it up

EVERYONE TALKS about defense in the playoffs, how it slows stars, dictates tempo and always, always prevails. But during the first round, points per game increased (to 98.8 from 97.2 during the regular season), and not just because of the high-octane Suns--even Detroit, a team that embodies tenacious D, averaged almost triple digits (98.8). Fueling this surprising binge were players riding a hot streak or exploiting a cushy matchup. (Pistons fans refer to such runs as "Brian Scalabrine moments," in honor of the Nets' reserve who erupted against Detroit last postseason.) Can these scorers keep it up during the conference semifinals? Here are the players on each remaining team who had the largest surge in the first round and the ones likely to have the largest in the second. --Chris Ballard

This is an article from the May 16, 2005 issue Original Layout

FIRST-ROUND BREAKOUT SCORERS

SPURS: MANU GINOBILI (+6.8 ppg)

Ricocheted his way to the hoop against Denver, averaging 10.0 free throws. Should have similar success against Seattle's interior D, though bruise crew of Danny Fortson and Reggie Evans will exact toll.

SONICS: JEROME JAMES (+12.3 ppg)

Career 4.9 ppg scorer abused Kings front line, shooting 58.1%. Don't expect an encore; Tim Duncan and Nazr Mohammed will make former Harlem Globetrotter (he joined the team during the lockout) look like a Washington General.

SECOND-ROUND STAR? TONY PARKER With Sonics doubling down on Duncan, the perimeter and driving lanes should be wide open. Matched against inexperienced Luke Ridnour, the savvy Frenchman, who scored 29 points in Game 1, will zip through creases in D.

HEAT: DAMON JONES (+4.9)

Set up shop beyond arc versus Nets, casually nailing 4.3 three-pointers per game while shooting 50.0%. Against Washington's ball hawking backcourt, life will be harder for the not-so-fleet playmaker.

WIZARDS: JUAN DIXON (+4.2)

Made up for subpar series with Bulls by going MJ in Game 4, scoring 35. Quicker than Damon Jones, but hold those WHAT WOULD DIXON DO? wristbands; reserve guard not likely to go off again.

SECOND-ROUND STAR?SHAQUILLE O'NEAL Gets revenge for second-place MVP finish by punishing Brendan Haywood and sandcastle-soft frontcourt. Shaq had season-high 40 in December versus the Wizards.

PISTONS: BEN WALLACE (+3.1)

Most surprising of surprise scorers, tied Bulls' Tyson Chandler for lead in offensive rebounds during first round (4.8 per game). Expect him to return to defense-oriented ways in physical grudge match against Indiana.

PACERS: REGGIE MILLER (+0.8)

One of two Pacers to increase scoring in Celtics series, mainly by getting to the line more often. Detroit will allow him fewer open looks--though he may be able to pad his average with technical foul shots.

SECOND-ROUND STAR? RIP HAMILTON He and Miller will run each other through a maze of screens. Expect younger, quicker Hamilton to get the best of it; with Detroit's spot-up marksmen, Indy can't afford to double.

SUNS: JOE JOHNSON (+3.2)

Hitting 52.9% of threes tends to lift your scoring. So does facing the Grizzlies, who allowed 6'7" swingman to earn best plus-minus rating (+62) in first round. Long-limbed Dallas swingman Josh Howard won't be so accommodating.

MAVERICKS: JASON TERRY (+5.9)

Shoot-first point guard did just that against Rockets, leading first round in treys made (20) while shooting 60.6%. Should continue high-scoring ways versus Steve Nash, who proved there is no D in MVP.

SECOND-ROUND STAR? STEVE NASH NBA logic says you make him shoot rather than pass. Then again, Nash beat Dallas two of three while averaging 14.5 assists and more shots (15.5) than against any other team.

COLOR PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (PARKER, NASH)COLOR PHOTOMANNY MILLAN (HAMILTON)COLOR PHOTOBOB ROSATO (O'NEAL)COLOR PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (PARKER, NASH)