When the Bulls were eliminated from playoff contention on the second-to-last-game of the regular season, two of the more prominent Iowans in the NBA (Fred Hoiberg and Doug McDermott) were sadly eliminated, ending Hoiberg’s much-discussed and brutally disappointing first year as a head coach.
But, hey, there are still a couple other intriguing Iowans fighting on as the playoffs have headed into the semifinals round. Here they are ranked in order of relevance to their teams:
- Harrison Barnes: With MVP Stephen Curry still out with a knee injury, Barnes and the rest of the Warriors have proven to be a formidable team even when missing the league’s best player. Barnes is a consistently reliable and efficient defensive player even on nights when his shooting is off (which was pretty often in the second half of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs). The most impressive moment of win of the Warriors’ postseason so far came in Game 2 this week against the Trail Blazers when the ever-effective, small-ball Lineup of Death (which features Barnes at the 4) took the lead from the Blazers for the first time all game at the 42 minute mark and then proceeded to win by double digits. The fact that Barnes thrives among the closers is one of the strongest incentives the Dubs will have for re-signing him this year, even if it costs a pretty penny. He also earned some good buzz in that regard this week in a glowing feature from Warriors reporter Tim Kawakami in which HB’s zen outlook drove home Kawakami’s point about Barnes’ under-valued culture-boosting presence.
- Kyle Korver: Much like last year, Korver is struggling with his vaunted 3-point shot right when it matters most: in a post-season match-up against the East-favorite Cleveland Cavaliers. On Wednesday, the Cavs even set an NBA record by scoring 25 three-pointers against Korver and the Hawks, essentially beating (actually, more like humiliating) them at their own game. Korver was stuck guarding a red-hot J.R. Smith for some of that game and thereby found his way into highlight reels for all the wrong reasons. The Hawks need Korver to step up and be a threat from the perimeter in order to free up space for Paul Millsap to go to work inside and for Jeff Teague to drive into the lane. If those guys can’t find looks then the Hawks have no chance. And they can’t get the looks if Korver is out of rhythm because the Cavs can leave him alone and double the hot hand if needed (or hide a weaker defender on him).
- Nick Collison: Collison continues to get minutes in the rotation for the Thunder, usually playing about ten minutes a game and functioning as a ball-moving, playmaking big that rarely shoots and almost never posts up. That worked out alright against the badly hobbled Mavs in the first round but the fact that he puts up almost no points is going to be a problem against their current foe, the Spurs, on nights (like Game 1) when Durant’s shots aren’t falling. The Thunder’s lack of bench production has been an issue all year and could be their downfall now that they are up against maybe the deepest team in the NBA.
- Kirk Hinrich: The most minutes Captain Kirk has seen this post season came in the fourth quarter of the aforementioned beatdown of the Hawks, so that kind of puts you in the ballpark.