Most of the former Blue Devils in the postseason have struggled to make an impact thus far in the first round.
J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers
With the series between the Clippers and Utah Jazz tied at a game apiece, there have been several notable storylines already. One of them has been Redick’s near absence on offense after he averaged 15.0 points per game in the regular season. Through two games, the former 3-point assassin for the Blue Devils has not looked like his usual self. Redick has gone just 1-for-5 from deep thus far in the series, and is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field with a grand total of 11 points.
Although Redick’s teammates have expressed that they are not concerned about the veteran’s performance, Redick himself was clearly frustrated on the court during the Clippers’ eight-point win to even the series. However, this was likely more a result of the officiating crew, which whistled him for five fouls. Looking ahead to Game 3 Friday night in Utah, the Clippers have said they will try to run Redick off more screens to get open looks and force the Jazz to commit to him defensively and open up other offensive options. If Redick can get hot in the next game or two, the Clippers will be a tough out this early in the postseason.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Much has been made about the failures of the Cavaliers' defense in the second half of the season. And though most expected them to make easy work of the Pacers, there was nevertheless some buzz around the NBA about Indiana potentially taking advantage of Cleveland’s poor defense. Three games later, concerns about the defense linger, but no one is questioning the likely outcome of the series. However, that isn’t to say the games thus far haven’t been close.
Irving led the way for the Cavaliers in Game 2 with 37 points, but nearly disappeared in Game 3. The 6-foot-3 point guard finished with 13 points, but the story of the night was Lebron James, who nearly singlehandedly willed Cleveland to a comeback victory after trailing by as much as 26.
If the Cavaliers are to make it back to the Finals, let alone repeat as NBA champions, Irving needs to be a consistent threat. That said, Thursday night’s game was likely just an aberration. And with the series all but wrapped up now with the Cavs ahead 3-0, he knows he doesn’t need to overexert himself in the next game or two. Irving had a career milestone Monday night, as he scored his 821st career playoff point for the Cavs, moving him past legendary point guard Mark Price and making him the franchise's second-highest all-time playoff scorer for the franchise.
Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz
Just 11 seconds into the playoffs, the Jazz lost start big man Rudy Gobert for at least the first three games of the series to a hyperextended knee and bone contusion. Gobert averaged 14.0 points and 12.8 rebounds per game this year, and his absence has been brutal for the Jazz, who nevertheless managed to pull out a win in Game 1 and are now tied with the Clippers. In his absence, players like Rodney Hood need to shoulder a greater load if the Jazz are to move past the first round for the first time since 2010.
Although his scoring dropped nearly two points to 12.7 points per game this season compared to a year ago, he is one of the best offensive threats the Jazz depend on to put up big numbers when they need it most. The third-year guard had eight and 10 points, respectively, in Games 1 and 2, though he only played a total of 44 minutes in the two games combined. Without Gobert, and with the series moving to Utah for Game 3, Hood has the chance to be the hero the Jazz need and give Salt Lake City hope in the postseason that has been largely absent for nearly a decade.
Against the Clippers, Hood has found himself matched up against Redick a fair amount, dueling with another Blue Devil eight years his senior. Here he is pulling a classic J.J. play on the man himself:
Rodney Hood, mama pic.twitter.com/nwNE79JKfQ— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 19, 2017
Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
In his fifth season in the NBA, Rivers showed improvement in virtually every part of his game this year. His 12.0 points and 2.2 rebounds per game were career highs, and he did much to silence critics who contended his role on the Clippers was solely due to the fact that his father is the head coach. As the season began to wind down, he was expected to play an important role as the main backup guard behind Chris Paul, and step up when needed like he did when Paul missed extended time in January and February.
However, all that was thrown into uncertainty when Rivers was injured in the last stretch of the regular season. Without him, the Clippers have turned more and more to Raymond Felton, a veteran North Carolina product who doesn’t provide the same playmaking ability on offense and defense as Rivers. Behind Felton is Jamal Crawford, an even more unpalatable option for the Clippers, who are sorely missing Rivers’ presence off the bench. Rivers will sit out Game 3 with his strained hamstring, but expects to return Sunday in Utah for Game 4.