After a shortened 72-game season and the Play-In Tournament, the 2021 NBA Playoffs are finally here.
The playoffs are where career-defining plays or moments are etched into memory. It's also an important benchmark when comparing two players, given the stakes are much higher than during the regular season.
Be it due to injury or disappointing performance, there are a number of notable players that will be looking to get back on track in these upcoming playoffs.
Without further ado, here's a list of the most notable players who are looking for retribution in the upcoming postseason:
Return from injury
After playing just three games in the Orlando bubble, Simmons was ruled out indefinitely. It forced him to leave the Disney campus to undergo surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee, a result of the left patella subluxation he suffered in a game against the Washington Wizards.
The pain of the injury aside, the Aussie also seemed deeply affected by how the 76ers postseason ended early with a first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
Watching my team get swept hurt, and I don't ever want to feel that way again.- Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) August 24, 2020
Simmons has far from disappointed in his two previous postseasons (2018, 2019) - both of which ended in the Conference Semifinals - with averages of 15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.5 steals over 22 games.
Given Philadelphia's roster composition and their title aspirations, the 2018 Rookie of the Year will be keen on making a positive impact to do away with the memories of last year and help the 76ers towards a deep playoff run.
Before the restart was announced in the Orlando bubble, Bogdanovic was ruled out for the season after undergoing surgery on his right wrist to repair a ruptured scapholunate during the season's hiatus.
The 6-foot-7 wing joined the Jazz in the 2019 offseason to add more ammunition to their offence and before his injury, was averaging a career-high 20.2 points with an efficiency of 41.4 percent from long range while making a career-best 3.0 3-pointers per game.
Although Donovan Mitchell more than compensated for Bogdanovic's absence with his explosive performance in the 2020 postseason, the Jazz may have advanced past the first round if they had one more threat out there.
Given the heartbreaking fashion that the Jazz were eliminated in last year, relinquishing a 3-1 series lead and losing Game 7 at the buzzer, Bogdanovic, who is carrying a hot hand into the 2021 postseason, will look to ensure this year is different with the franchise looking on track for a deep playoff run.
In the final nine games of the regular season, the forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina averaged 25.6 points, which included a career-best 48-point night, with shooting splits of 52.2 percent from the field, 45.9 percent on long-range attempts and 90.5 percent on his free-throw attempts.
Unlike Simmons and Bogdanovic, Westbrook actually played in the 2020 playoffs.
However, the star guard was returning from a bout with COVID-19, which has been documented to not be easy to return from. Additionally, discomfort in his quad, resulted in the former MVP missing the first three games of the Rockets' postseason journey. Once he returned, he was off his mark and sub-par by his standards.
In the eight games he played, he averaged 17.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists but turned the ball over an average of 3.8 times and connected on just 24.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.
In 2021, Westbrook is better placed from a health standpoint and will be looking to deliver in the playoffs at a standard that he, the fans and the media are more accustomed even if the Washington Wizards are considered heavy underdogs against the Conference's top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
With his performance in the 2020-21 regular season, George has silenced his naysayers to an extent.
Over 54 games in the 2020-21 season, he averaged 23.3 points at a career-best field goal efficiency of 46.7 while also dishing out a career-best 5.2 assists. His 3-point efficiency of 41.1 percent is also just a shade of his career-best of 41.2 percent from last season.
However, real statements are made in the postseason and George hasn't had a great track record of it off late when the season is on the line.
Paul George in elimination games since 2017:- StatMuse (@statmuse) September 16, 2020
2017 vs CLE: 15 PTS, 5-21 FG, 3-9 3P
2018 vs UTA: 5 PTS, 2-16 FG, 0-6 3P
2019 vs POR: Scored on by Dame on series-winner
2020 vs DEN: 10 PTS, 4-16 FG, 2-11 3P pic.twitter.com/vw4kPOumtD
Ideally, the Clippers would hope their season doesn't get to an elimination game but George's subpar 2020 postseason came under the magnifying glass in the three games that the Clippers collapsed in the Western Conference Semifinals, which eventually led to their elimination despite leading the series 3-1.
In those final three games against the Denver Nuggets, George averaged 23.0 points but shot just 38.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc while nearly committing as many turnovers (2.7) as he would record assists (3.7).
As the sixth seed without Ben Simmons, the 76ers were considered underdogs against the Boston Celtics in the 2020 playoffs. That being said, they still had stars in Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Al Horford in the lineup but still were swept.
While Joel Embiid did the heavy lifting in averaging 30.0 points and 12.3 rebounds for the series, there was much to be desired when it came to Harris' performance. Despite the additional burden and extra shots on offer, Harris averaged 15.8 points in the series.
Moreover, considered a legitimate long-range threat, the 6-foot-8 wing only knocked down two 3-pointers all series against the Celtics to finish with an efficiency of 13.3 percent. With the roster more balanced and primed for a deep playoff run, Harris would be looking to maximize his role to deliver this time around.
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