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February 06, 2012
The fortunes of five teams rest on these players, all of whom need to step up
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February 06, 2012

Time To Rise

The fortunes of five teams rest on these players, all of whom need to step up

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When Jrue Holiday pumped in 14 points in the fourth quarter of Philadelphia's win over New Orleans last month, he momentarily filled one of the Sixers' biggest needs: a go-to scorer. The surprising 76ers (14--6 through Sunday) are well coached and go nine deep, with seven players averaging double figures in scoring. Their energy and depth will serve them well in the condensed regular season, particularly in the Atlantic Division, where the Celtics are aging and the Knicks just appear confused. Still, scouts wonder who will step up when the game slows down—as it does in the postseason.

That could be Holiday (right), a 6'4", 180-pound playmaker with sneaky change-of-pace quickness and an improving (career-high 40.3%) three-point shot. "Jrue has so much talent," says Philadelphia forward Elton Brand. "When he's playing well, there isn't much he can't do."

A more reliable Holiday will be critical to the Sixers' second-half success. Despite superior size, Holiday shoots too many long twos (4.2 per game from 16 to 23 feet, ninth-most among starting point guards) and is just 36th among all point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.74). If Holiday can improve in those areas, Philadelphia will have a dangerous option in the fourth quarter.

Here are four more players who need to pick up their play:

Metta World Peace


Los Angeles coach Mike Brown's decision to move World Peace to the second unit hasn't panned out: The Pacific Pacifist is averaging a career-low 5.1 points per game, and the Lakers' bench has produced a league-low 19.4. Brown said last week he is considering restoring World Peace to the starting lineup in the hopes of sparking a flagging offense that is tied for 13th in the league in points per 100 possessions (100.6)—and getting the Lakers (12--9, eighth place in the West) safely into the playoffs.

Carmelo Anthony


Much was expected from the Anthony--Amar'e Stoudemire pairing this season, but the Knicks (7--13 at week's end) have not been able to make it work. "They are both ball stoppers who like to play in the same area," says a scout. "They don't run plays for Amar'e because the ball is [often] in Melo's hands first." In the absence of a pure playmaker, the Knicks need Anthony to be more of a facilitator, something he suggested he was willing to do last week.

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