“I was ready.”
That was how second-year center Nicolas Claxton described his postseason debut. In what was a relatively solid Game 1 of the first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the 22-year-old put up five rebounds, an assist, a block, and six points on 50 percent shooting as well as two fouls.
His initial takeaway from the experience? His unrelenting energy could be a catalyst to big performances in the future.
“I think I played well, I came out and had two quick fouls,” said Claxton. “My energy is pretty consistent — I always play with a high level of energy. You can get away with a lot more, you can be more physical, which is cool. I’m still feeling everything out and I’m excited to get out there (for Game 2).”
It’s unclear whether Claxton’s minutes will increase farther down the line in the postseason, but if Blake Griffin continues to struggle in space, there’s a chance Nic’s role increases. For now, Nic isn’t really worried about that; instead, he’s honed in on making the most of every opportunity he gets.
“Honestly I have no idea, but I know it was good to get out there and get my feet in my first playoff games just feeling the different intensity of the game,” said Claxton. “Like I said, I just have to stay ready and be ready for whatever minutes the coaches decide they want me to play.”
So what does making the most of his minutes entail? As it has been for most of the year, that job is primarily defensive. Always his own biggest critic, Claxton detailed a couple of mistakes he made, a few of which had to do with late contests or missed rotations like the one below.
“Obviously, this is pretty much a new season — the postseason — so just me building off what I did in the regular season, affecting the game defensively, bringing the intensity off the bench, being able to guard one-though-five, being able to protect the rim,” said Claxton about his role in the playoffs. “I had a few plays last game where I was little late. Just being all the way engaged and piggy-backing off what I was able to do in the regular season with just being that energy guy for us and helping us out a lot on the defensive end.”
Ultimately, Nic knows what he needs to work on — timing and focus — but his ultimate goal, as he explained it, is to make sure he continues to play within himself. To Nic, there is a way to overprepare and allow one’s mind to become the biggest enemy, thus leading to subpar performances.
“Every possession just means so much more,” explained Nic, “but you can’t go out there overthinking and playing to not make mistakes. You just gotta go out there freely and use your mind and just go out there and have fun. That’s the biggest thing — just going out there and just hooping.”