The playoff anticipation is palpable in the Orlando bubble.
Ever since the NBA resumed its season on July 30, it seems as though teams are displaying the level of intensity that will be needed come postseason time. Now, with two weeks in the books and the seeding games all finished, it is time to take a look once again at how some former Blue Devils have impacted the action in Central Florida.
The former Duke freshman phenom has carved out a slot in the regular rotation for the Rockets. While filling in for superstars such as Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Rivers has proven to be a steady source of ball handling and outside shooting. Last Sunday, however, Rivers made his presence felt in a major way, with a career high 41 points on 70 percent shooting against Sacramento. Rivers constantly put pressure on the Kings’ defense with impressive individual moves and a deadly jumper. With Westbrook likely to miss the start of Houston’s first round series against Oklahoma City, look for Rivers to receive minutes in crucial situations.
Another ring for Cook?
In his first season with the Golden State Warriors two years ago, former Duke captain and 2015 national champion Quinn Cook earned a ring alongside Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, two players who happen to be among the greatest to ever touch a basketball. This season, Cook is looking for a second title as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Over his last two outings, the former All-American provided a scoring punch in increased playing time, with 16.5 points per game on 42.9 percent from distance. If the Lakers are looking for another backcourt playmaker to help Lebron James secure a coveted fourth championship, Cook has the experience in clutch moments to rise to the occasion.
More of the same from Tatum
In what has been a fantastic season for Jayson Tatum, the Celtics have constantly relied on their third year forward for key baskets. In the last two games, Tatum has appeared to be in postseason form, averaging 29 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4 assists per game in victories over Orlando and Memphis. Despite the fact that the St. Louis native was not named a finalist for Most Improved Player, Tatum has clearly been one of the breakout performers across the entire league. With the Celtics looking to make a playoff push and challenge other Eastern Conference contenders, his effectiveness at attacking off the dribble and his marked improvement as a distributor may prove to be a deciding factor.
Other than the play-in games between the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies, the playoff participants are fully determined. All in all, eight of the 17 remaining clubs have a former Duke player on the active roster, including some championship favorites.
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