Two red-hot players leading surging teams to the edge of the playoff bubble have been duly rewarded with this week's NBA's hardware.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard are the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played between March 13-19.
Lillard's scorching week of dead-eyed gunning saw him lead the NBA in scoring, with 35.3 points per game. He shot 55.1 percent from the field, 59.4 percent from 3-point range, and a perfect 36-of-36 from the free-throw line as the Blazers went 3-1, all on the road, with wins over the indomitable San Antonio Spurs and playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks.
Lillard capped the week with a season-high 49-point outburst in a win over Whiteside's Heat on the second night of a back-to-back. The Blazers, who are 8-2 in March, sit just a game back of the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot out West.
Whiteside didn't score nearly as prolifically, but was no less impactful as an all-around force during Miami's 2-1 week. He averaged 20 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. His masterpiece was a 23-point, 14-rebound, three-block, 10-of-11 shooting performance in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The loss to Lillard's Blazers actually knocked the Heat out of a playoff spot they'd finally taken over after a two-month rampage up the standings, but their record is level with the eighth-place Detroit Pistons (who own the head-to-head edge), and they're just a half-game behind the seventh-place Milwaukee Bucks.