NBA Aussie contingent set for Playoffs

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One of the most represented international countries in the NBA this season, Australia will have five players competing in the 2016/17 playoffs across three teams.

San Antonio Spurs (2nd Western Conference)- Patty Mills.

For the sixth straight season with the Spurs, Mills is headed to the NBA playoffs where he will be hoping to replicate his 2014 success with the club.

This year, he is playing a career high 22 minutes per game and while he does not normally start, coach Gregg Popovich continues to look to him down the stretch.

Scoring 9.5 points per contest, he is shooting 44% from the field and 41% from beyond the three-point line but his role as a distributor is where his game has improved in 2016/17, collecting a career-high 3.5 assists.

San Antonio will face the seventh seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round with Game 1 scheduled for Sunday, 10am AEST.

They have struggled against Memphis during the regular season with the series tied at 2-2 but if the Spurs can penetrate the Grizzlies’ tough defence, they should have too many weapons.

Utah Jazz (5th Western Conference)- Joe Ingles and Dante Exum.

Utah have been of the most impressive sides of 2016/17, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12 and Ingles and Exum have been solid contributors to that run.

Exum struggled early to get back into the rhythm of an NBA season but has proven his ability to control the tempo of games as the season has worn on while his explosiveness is well and truly back, evidenced by his dunk against the Spurs earlier this month.

He is now shooting 43% from the field for 6.3 points per game and playing 19 minutes which should see him play a significant role in the post-season.

After leading the competition at the All-Star break in three-point percentage, Ingles has hardly cooled off.

He now sits third with 44% for 7.1 points per game and has played every match of the season for the first time in his career.

When on court, the Jazz are not afraid to have Ingles run the floor while his work at the defensive end is just as critical, averaging over a steal per contest.

Utah will face the streaky LA Clippers (fourth seed) in the first round on Sunday at 12.30pm AEST which will pit Exum against one of the best point guards in the business, Chris Paul.

The Jazz have upset more than their fare share of Western Conference rivals this season but they have a 1-3 record against the Clippers.

While it has been five long years since they last featured in the post-season, it has been even longer for Utah since they won a playoff series, going back to 2009-10.

Milwaukee Bucks (6th Eastern Conference)- Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker.

The Bucks last appeared in the playoffs just two seasons ago but they have only reached the post-season three times since 2006-07 while they have not won a finals series since 2000-01.

Dellavedova will play a vital role within the young Milwaukee organisation due to his previous finals experience as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He is averaging career-highs in points, assists and steals per game while he is also getting to the free-throw line more than he ever has and he must keep up that aggressiveness if Milwaukee are going to break their playoff losing streak.

Maker will likely not see much court time during the post-season but has had a very strong rookie season after being selected as the tenth pick in the 2016 draft.

He is shooting 46% from the field, puncutated by a number of highlight dunks, and has shown he can stretch out and knock down the three-point shot as well (39%).

Featuring in 56 games and garnering a bigger role as the season has worn on, Maker has set himself up to be a long-term player in the NBA.

The Bucks will face the Toronto Raptors, who started 2016-17 with a bang before dropping to the third seed come playoff time.

Game 1 is scheduled for Sunday at 7.30am AEST.

They have still defeated Milwaukee in three out of four contests this season though and the home court advantage will also help them considering the Bucks’ 19-22 record away from home.