Updated: April 25, 2010, 12:53 AM ET

Thunder-Lakers Game 4 Preview

Playing Nice in the Postseason

By Henry Abbott
TrueHoop

The playoffs are different. The fouls are harder, the preparation is more intense, the defensive schemes are more focused, and the easy shots are memories. The emotional burden can be high; nerves can fray. It's not for everybody.

Here's a peek at a few players who are ahead of the curve in the early going:

Richardson
Richardson

Jason Richardson
The Suns guard started the playoffs as something of a goat. He was the guy who was supposed to be guarding Andre Miller when Miller led Portland to a Game 1 road win. Since Alvin Gentry switched Grant Hill onto Miller, however, Richardson has taken off. It's amazing what two straight scorching-hot shooting nights can do for your production: Today, Richardson leads the entire NBA in playoff PER. Even including his bad early stretch, he's now a ridiculous 14-of-23 from downtown in three games. Thursday night, Richardson had 42 points, as described by Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns: "That's a playoff career high and two shy of an overall career high. He's 24-of-35 (68.6 percent) from the field and 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) from three the past two games, and he's averaging eight boards a game from the shooting guard spot."

Durant
Durant

Kevin Durant
The Thunder's MVP candidate is making his playoff debut, is being hounded by a very aggressive Ron Artest and has taken some punishment in the box score -- he has made just 27 of his bullish 74 shots from the floor, and has turned the ball over 14 times compared with just seven assists. But the Thunder are hanging tough with the Lakers, and Durant is a big part of that story.

"There's no human on the planet who would score efficiently against what the Lakers are doing to Kevin Durant," David Thorpe says. "It is very clear their game plan is to stop him at all costs, and we're not talking about a bad defensive team. Maybe you'd prefer he shoot 68 shots instead of 74, but generally the Thunder need him to stay aggressive. If he passed a ton more, they'd have even more turnovers because that's not what they do. And he was pretty great in Game 3, I thought. His guarding Kobe Bryant in crunch time was the story of the playoffs so far."

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