UConn in the NBA: Playoff race coming down to the wire

Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond (0) dunks against Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 1, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The 2018-19 NBA regular season is coming to a close with most teams only having a handful of games left to play, but the playoff race is still very much alive. Five teams are vying for the last three playoff spots in the East. The eight teams in the West have been decided but the matchups have not, and with the bottom four packed so close together in the standings, a lot can change in the next 10 days. Several UConn alumni are being counted on to lead their squads to the promised land; let’s check in on them.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets:

Kemba has channeled some of his old UConn March magic as of late in an effort to will the Hornets into the playoffs for the first time since 2016. In his last five games, Walker is averaging 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.8 steals in nearly 35 minutes a night. He single-handedly dragged the Hornets to an upset win over Boston last week, racking up 18 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter to overturn an 18-point deficit. There’s no question that Walker is doing his part to help Charlotte make a 2011-esque run into the playoffs, but with the Hornets currently in 10th place and three games out of a playoff spot with only six left to play, Walker will need to turn up the intensity a little more to make it happen.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons:

Drummond continues to absolutely dominate the glass for Detroit, racking up 64 double-doubles in 73 games and leading the entire lead by nearly two boards a game. Drummond is averaging a career high 17.3 points per game and has been heavily relied upon towards the end of the season. In his last 10 games Drummond has put up 16 points and 16.5 rebounds per game in over 34 minutes a night. While the Pistons currently sit sixth in the East, only a game and a half separates them from ninth place Orlando, so Drummond will have to continue producing in order to make the playoffs for the second time in his career.

Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs

Gay has consistently been a steady veteran contributor for San Antonio all season long, and his efforts have helped the Spurs clinch their 22nd consecutive playoff berth. While not the ball dominant scorer he was in his prime, he has been effective all season long in a secondary role and in filling up the stat sheet. In his last 10 games he is averaging 12 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 51 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from deep. Currently tied for seventh in the West with Oklahoma City, San Antonio is going to need Gay to continue producing if they want to avoid a first round matchup with Golden State.

Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte Hornets

Lamb probably wishes that his breakout season could’ve wrapped up after he hit that buzzer beater from the parking lot against Toronto, because his performance has been declining as of late. Lamb has not scored more than 13 points in a game in nearly two weeks, and he’s only shooting 30.4 percent in that time. After subpar performances in back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Warriors, the Hornets are going to need Lamb to regain his form quickly if they want to make the playoffs.

Shabazz Napier, Brooklyn Nets

While Napier may be fondly remembered across the state of Connecticut for his legendary March performance in 2014, he will not remember this past March so fondly. Napier only played in four games in March, playing 28 total minutes and scoring just four points. If the Nets clinch a playoff berth before the season ends, there is a possibility that Napier will get an extended look in order to give Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell some rest. Brooklyn currently sits in seventh place in the East, one game ahead of ninth place Orlando with five games to play.


Neil Simmons is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at neil.simmons@uconn.edu.