Welcome to the heart of the playoffs, where a single game can change the entire mood of the series and where amazing can happen on every single possession. With all four series on the brink of an elimination, we take a look at the players who have seen their stock rise exponentially in recent days, and the players whose recent poor play finds their team facing a deficit.
So who is sizzling hot like your favourite Indian street-side snack? Who has gone cold like an icy summer drink? This is the NBA-India edition of Hot or Not:
Sizzling Jalebi Hot: Roy Hibbert - After a first All-Star selection last season, Hibbert started slow this season and he failed to be consistent enough to match last year’s form. His points and rebound averages fell slightly, and there was worry that the young big man’s development had stalled a little too early. Luckily for Pacers fans, Hibbert has shown up big in the playoffs, scoring 13.8 points per game (up from 11.9) and adding 9.6 rebounds (from 8.3). But the numbers don’t tell the whole story: Hibbert’s inside presence has been the core reason why Indiana are enjoying a 3-1 series lead over the Knicks, as he has helped in giving his team a big rebounding advantage on both ends of the floor, being a major presence on defense, and forcing the Knicks to double team him on the offensive end. The 24-point, 12-rebound masterclass in Game 3 was probably Hibbert’s best career playoff showing.
Frosty Kulfi Cold: JR Smith - Here are some numbers to make you shudder. After a wonderful season where he averaged a career high 18.2 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting, Smith has struggle mightily in the playoffs, particularly in the second round, where his production has dropped to 13.3 ppg on 28.1 percent shooting – just 18-64 from the floor. Without Smith proving to be a consistent second offensive option to Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks offense has stagnated in the series.
Fresh Samosa Hot: Mike Conley When Rudy Gay got traded, questions arose about who would have to develop as Memphis’ go-to guy when they desperately needed a bucket in clutch situations. That guy is Mike Conley. It helps that Conley gets open looks created by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph attracting so much attention in the paint, and the underrated point guard has also fully taken advantage of Russell Westbrook’s absence. In the last three Memphis wins, Conley has averaged 21.3 points per game to go with 6.7 assists and 6.7 rebounds. He flirted with a triple-double in a dominant Game 2 (26-10-9).
Freezing Thandai Cold: Serge Ibaka Good thing Ibaka finally broke out of his slump in Game 4, although it wasn’t enough to save the Thunder from losing in overtime. Ibaka, who had shot an impressive 50 percent from the field in the first round, has suffered from a slump in the second, shooting just 12-39 (30.1 percent) in the first three games of the series and having a tough time dealing with the Memphis bigs of Gasol and Randolph on the other end. Without Westbrook, the Thunder desperately need more offense from Ibaka to assist Kevin Durant, who has been carrying them single-handedly for the majority of this series.
Garma Garam Pakora Hot: LeBron James LeBron has been so effective over the past few years that his dominance is almost taken for granted. The newly crowned, four-time MVP continues to be the centerpiece in Miami's bid to make a third consecutive Finals' appearance. His stats are down from the regular season - owing more to the changing pace of the playoffs - but James is still averaging 24.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists in the playoffs, along with a league best Player Impact Estimate (PIE) rating at 22 percent in the postseason.
Icy Lassi Cold: Nate Robinson Robinson was the story of the playoffs through the first round and in Game 1 of the second round against Miami, scoring 18.3 points per game and being the offensive spark-plug the team needed in the absence of Derrick Rose. But once Miami adjusted to make Robinson work harder for his shots, the diminutive point guard has had a terrible time in the last three games, shooting a combined 8-35 (22.9 percent) from the field in the Bulls’ losses. He was held scoreless on 0-12 shooting in Game 4. With Kirk Hinrich also sidelined, Robinson has had to take the role of a playmaker for the squad too, and the strain of his extra responsibility seems to have finally caught up.