Breakout Players from Game 1

Woooof, that was just hours and hours of television this weekend. And, even with a record number of disgusting blowouts  in the first round, there were still some great performances. Some of them creating those blowouts sure, while others ensuring the box score looked at least somewhat respectable by the final whistle. This column isn’t for the Paul Georges of the world; those guys have been up on this stage before and always know how to turn it up under the brightest lights. This is for the other guys.

Eastern Conference: Hassan Whiteside

It would’ve been really easy to give this award to fellow Heatie Luol Deng who ended up with a RIDICULOUS 31 points on 11-13 shooting and was all over the court in a brutally thorough rout of the Hornets. Deng’s been there before, however, maybe not as a dominant All-Star but still a guy who averaged 17 per game for the 62 win Bulls team that took the #1 seed and an MVP trophy away from Lebron James.

Hassan Whiteside is the guy who just started his first playoff game. And he is about to get PAID!!

For all of the people who thought Charlotte’s lack of rim protection would be fine because the Heat shoot too many mid-range jumpers.. For all the people who thought Whiteside might be too skinny to guard Al Jefferson in the post.. Or might be stretched too far from the basket by the Hornets’ sweet-shooting bigs… For all the people who thought he might be the perfect example of a selfish me before team mindset… MEET HASSAN WHITESIDE!!!

This dude went for 21 and 11 with three blocks, stayed decent from the free throw line and scared the crap out of any Charlotte player thinking about driving into the paint. This dude made Cody Zeller look like an absolute midget and Al Jefferson like your fat uncle who fell asleep on the couch after Thanksgiving turkey. He was a huge reason for Miami going +12 on the boards (at one point the Heat had 6 offensive rebounds to Charlottes’ team total of 5!!) and helped lock down by far the most surprising blowout of the weekend. We all know Wade is going to get his buckets, but if Whiteside can continue to play like this, the Heat become very dangerous going forward.

Western Conference: Gerald Henderson

I gotta give a little love to the only team in the West that was able to keep their margin of defeat within 30 points (wooof). At 28 years old, Henderson is hardly a breakout player and only ended up on this Blazers team as a salary throw-in with the Nicolas Batum-Noah Vonleh swap. Still, for a Portland squad stocked with young, intriguing wing players, Henderson was the only guy able to get anything going against the Clippers on Sunday night.

Sixteen points and a couple of steals might not be the kind of Whiteside stat line to write home about, but on a night where starters Al Farouq-Aminu and Maurice Harkless went 3-12 and 3-7 respectively, it helps to have a guy off the bench making shots. Henderson finished with a flat rating while all of the starters tanked into the deep negatives and knocked down both of his three pointers while the team finished at just 30% overall. Not only that, but he was consistently there with big shots, bumping off Jeff Green to hit a tough step-back jumper and knocking down a big three to keep the game within 15 points at the start of the 4th.

For all the wings on the roster, there’s no one quite up to the challenge of guarding the unique skillset of Blake Griffin. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Portland to be able to score with L.A., but if the Clippers insist on keeping Mbah a Moute in the starting lineup, it could just be worth starting Henderson as well to try to pace them bucket for bucket. And if Henderson keeps playing like this, somehow, someway defeats where Chris Paul is doing THIS will be the least embarrassing in the entire conference.

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