Everyone who follows the NBA yearns to find that preverbal "diamond in the rough," that guy who comes out of nowhere to provide his team a lift when you least expect it. This search ignores the reality that almost everyone in the NBA is capable of helping in some capacity some of the time if given a chance. The talent level is distributed so evenly that it still boggles my mind that role players get paid so much money. But that's a subject for another day.
On Monday night, two such players rose from the scrap heap to lead their teams to big wins. For the Atlanta Hawks, it was second-year point guard Jeff Teague. Pressed into duty to be the first line of defense against Derrick Rose due to the injury of Kirk Hinrich, Teague somehow logged 45 minutes, slowing Rose well and scoring 10 points on his own. He didn't exactly score efficiently, but he was confident and he did a great job covering Rose and others on defense. Really, you have to throw stats out the window here. The very fact that he was competent and confident after playing less than 10 minutes total in the first-round series win over the Magic (eight of which came in the Game 5 blowout loss) is a huge accomplishment.
For the Dallas Mavericks, it was Corey Brewer. There was a strange subset of smart basketball people who howled at the audacity of the New York Knicks to cut him after acquiring him in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Maybe it wasn't the smartest decision, but it definitely didn't deserve the outrage it received. Nevertheless, we're going to hear about it more because Brewer provided a big lift in eight minutes in the third quarter. He hit a couple shots and played good defense, helping the Mavericks erase a 16-point deficit in an eventual win.
Without their contributions, neither of those teams win Game 1. Now, let's sit back and wait for these players to go from being underrated to wildly overrated.