The NBA’s 2019 playoffs are heating up with only eight teams in the running to win this year’s Larry O’Brien trophy. The playoffs this year hasn’t only been unpredictable when it comes to basketball betting and handicapping games with plenty of surprises this year.
Except for the Boston Celtics who are down 1-3, the other three series’ are tied at 2-2 which means the race for the title is still wide open. The defending champs are still in the mix but there are plenty up-and-comers who are more than willing to dethrone them.
Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the top individual performers of the 2019 NBA playoffs by checking out the top scorers. The stats below are prior to the start of games dated 5/6/19:
1. Kevin Durant 35.6 PPG
When we talk about the Golden State Warriors, the first words we remember are “Splash Brothers.”. That’s because the Golden State’s high-scoring and three-point shooting backcourt put the team on the NBA map when they won their first title in 2015. But during the Warriors’ 2017 and 2018 title victories, it has been Kevin Durant who has carried the team in the playoffs. KD has been the Finals MVP the last two seasons and it has been him, mostly, who’s delivered the big baskets. This postseason is no different. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are bothered by injuries and have been off in recent games. Durant meanwhile is coming off a 46-point game in a losing effort last time out at Game 3. His numbers this postseason are staggering 35.6 PPG on a 51.5/43.8/91.7 shooting split. You can call him snake or whatever but he’s carrying the Dubs right now. In fact, he’s been doing so since he arrived in the Bay Area.
2. Kawhi Leonard 32.3 PPG
The playoffs is why Toronto made the trade for Kawhi Leonard. At this stage in the playoffs last season, LeBron James and the Cavs already swept the Raptors. It hasn’t been easy as the Sixers have been stubborn. But after losing Game 2 and falling down 1-2 after Game 3, the Raptors stormed back with a big Game 4 win behind, who else, but Kawhi Leonard. Leonard exploded for a playoff career-high 45 points in Game 1 and he showed up again with 39 points in Game 4. Through the first 9 games of the 2019 playoffs, Leonard is the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game while shooting at an effective FG percentage of at least 65%. Only three players in NBA history have averaged 30-5-3 while shooting an EFG of 60%: Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Michael Jordan. The Raptors have regained home-court advantage. Look for Kawhi to continue his historic postseason run.
3. James Harden 30.5 PPG
The league’s leading scorer was on fire in the latter stages of the regular season. The Rockets started the season very slow and were even out of playoff contention before they got back to health and Harden caught fire. Now the league’s reigning MVP is trying to lead his team past the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs. Last year, the Rockets led the Warriors 3-2 entering Game 6 of their 2018 Western Conference Finals. But the Rockets lost Chris Paul to injury and Golden State went on to advance to the NBA Finals and win their second straight NBA title. Harden had 41 points in Game 3 and scored 38 on Monday with their Game 4 win that tied the series at 2-2. Harden’s really having a spectacular season, given his scoring outbursts and his consistency in doing so. My only worry with him is that he’s been doing this for so long now that he may run out of bullets as the games get tougher.
4. Damian Lillard 30.4 PPG
It’s always been about Dame Time in Portland. The Blazers entered this postseason with the trauma of losing the previous two playoffs via sweep. But this year, the Blazers made sure that there won’t be a three-peat. Lillard’s 40 footer sealed Portland’s Game 5 win and he was sensational during that series. Lillard’s been on and off in round 2 so far but you know that when the game is on the line, there’s this kid who’s always going to be willing to take that big shot. The Blazers now find themselves tied with the Denver Nuggets at 2-2 in this series. Lillard has been fearless and while isn’t shooting as red hot as it was against the Thunder, he’s still making them baskets against the Nuggets.
**Paul George 28.6 PPG (eliminated in Round 1)
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo 26.9 PPG
The Greek Freak is having an otherworldly season. During the regular season, Antetokounmpo put up incredible numbers across the board to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the NBA. With Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks won 60 games this season, the first time that has happened since 198. The Greek Freak is averaging 33.33 points in their three wins against Boston including 39 in the pivotal Game 4 win which gave them a commanding 3-1 lead over last season’s Eastern Conference Finalists Boston Celtics.
6. C.J. McCollum 25.3 PPG
C.J. McCollum has always been known as Damian Lillard’s backcourt partner. But this season and in the playoffs in particular, McCollum has emerged as a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor. McCollum played 60 minutes in the epic Game 3 against the Nuggets which went to four overtimes, the longest NBA games since 1953. It was McCollum who made the big shots for Portland. Lillard was there but as Dame struggled, he allowed McCollum to get the touches and C.J. delivered. McCollum topped Denver with 41 points in Game 3.
Blake Griffin 24.5 PPG ( eliminated in the first round)
7. Nikola Jokic 24.5 PPG
The Joker is the reason while the Denver Nuggets are successful this year. The Nuggets’ 7-foot unicorn has filled up the stats sheet all-season long. Jokic is a perfect all-around player who knows how to pass the ball, grab rebounds and of course score points. Scoring has never been his priority but with the stakes high, he’s coming on strong as the series against the Blazers is tied 2-2. Jokic is coming off back-to-back triple-double performances and the Nuggets are starting to assert themselves as a true contender this season.
Russell Westbrook 22.8 PPG (eliminated in round one)
8. Stephen Curry 22.6 PPG
The Golden State Warriors’ two-time MVP is still putting up high scoring numbers despite the fact that he’s been struggling as of late. Curry is the best shooter in the league and maybe the best of all-time. His ability to knock down three pointers from as far as the parking lot makes him a threat once he steps inside the half court line. Curry waxed hot against the Clippers in Round One but the Rockets seem to have him struggling right now. Steph scored 30 points in a losing effort in Game 3 but overall, he is shooting just 39.4% from the floor and 26% from downtown this series.
9. Kyrie Irving 22.0 PPG
Kyrie Irving led Boston to a fast start in the playoffs as the team swept the Pacers in round one and defeated the Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern semis. But since then, Irving has struggled to find his mark. He shot 4-18 and scored just 9 points in game 2 then went on to struggle and shoot 8-22 in Game 3 and 7-22 in Game 4 on Monday night. The Celtics are now down 1-3 in the series and look like they are in disarray. Irving was criticized for leaving the court before the game was over and that may be an ominous sign for the Celtics. Irving has been rumored to be planning to leave Boston this summer despite saying at the start of the season that he wants to stay.
10. Jamal Murray 21.7 PPG
Jamal Murray has provided Nikola Jokic which the clutch shooting to help Denver win close games. After coming up short in the epic Game 3, Murray played like a man on a mission with 32 points in Game 4. He made all of his 11 free throws, including six in the crucial stages of the ball game. He later revealed that his dad used to make him shoot free throws blindfolded back when he was a kid. I’m not sure if that is really true but what’s certain is that Murray has come to his own in these playoffs and is proving to be the star that Denver needs to play alongside Jokic.