The NBA Playoffs are when legends are made, stars have the opportunity to become superstars and in every playoff game, there are a few unsung heroes. The first day of the 2017 playoffs, Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers, Matthew Dellavedova from the Bucks, Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs, and the Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles were all heroes for their teams that will go completely unnoticed. Teams need guys like them to step up in the playoffs and do all the little things so the stars can shine.
Indiana Pacers – Myles Turner
Even though the Pacers missed a great chance to steal home court from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Turner’s effort stood out in their loss. The Pacers outrebounded the Cavs 41 to 34 and Turner was responsible for eight of them but he also did a great job of boxing out Tristan Thompson while his teammates collected the boards. Turner also had active hands as he deflected passes to cutters and came up with a key block down the stretch against Kyrie Irving. Even though the Pacers would lose the game, Turner’s 11 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 1 block put them in a position to steal it and makes him a Pacer’s unsung hero.
Milwaukee Bucks – Matthew Dellavedova
The Bucks showed no playoff jitters in their blowout win against the Toronto Raptors as they stole home court. Dellavedova was a disruptive thorn in the Raptor’s side. When an errant pass goes over Cory Joseph’s head, he tried to stop the backcourt violation by throwing it to PJ Tucker. Dellavedova read the pass and made it a difficult catch for Tucker who fell into the backcourt for a Raptor’s turnover. Dellavedova also was one-half the tandem that hassled Kyle Lowry into a 2 for 11 shooting night, by going over screens and constantly trying to contest his shot. These hustle plays do not show up in box scores but they always add up.
San Antonio Spurs – Danny Green
If someone only watched the first eight minutes of the first quarter of the Memphis Grizzlies versus the San Antonio Spurs, they would have thought the Spurs were on their way to getting blown out at home. Mike Conley led the charge in the first quarter going four for four, including two threes with four assists as the Grizzlies built a 13 point lead. Then he was silenced the rest of the game by Danny Green. Conley would go 1 for 10 for the rest of the game. Green was everywhere during the Spurs run to take over the game. He helped off his man to get a block on Vince Carter then he played perfect defense on a two on one break to stop a dunk. Green stays on Conley he goes through a pick-and-roll to get another block and also came up with a steal on an inbounds play. Green finished with four blocks and a steal as the Spurs ran away with a 111-82 win.
Utah Jazz – Joe Ingles
One of the key players for the Clippers is JJ Redick, they make a concerted effort at the start of games to get him going and shots early. All season long he averaged 5.1 points on four field goal attempts in the first quarter, the highest for him than in any other part of the game. Joe Ingles took him out of the game early in the Jazz’s game one win. Ingles chased Redick around a screen and blocked his first shot, stripped him a few plays later, drew an offensive foul on Redick, and also stole a handoff between Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford. The Jazz stole game one by two points, each possession in playoff basketball matters and these stops by Ingles quietly contributed to the Jazz’s win.
On every team, there are role players who handle the dirty work but do not often get the attention they deserve. Some of their work will show up in the box score and some will not, but it all plays a pivotal role in teams getting a win in the playoffs. Turner, Dellavedova, Green, and Ingles all contributed to their teams in their first game of the playoffs in ways that may not always show up on the stat sheet but are extremely critical plays. Whether it’s boxing out, being in the right position defensively to cover for a teammate or diving for a loose ball, these hustle plays among others are what is needed to get playoff wins.