The opening stanza of the wildly-anticipated Eastern Conference Finals began the way everyone expected the series to go: tight, tense, dramatic, and highly entertaining.
And then the third quarter began, after which the Chicago Bulls ran away with Game 1 over the Miami Heat.
The Bulls, led by their MVP point guard, came out for the second half with a renewed purpose, dominating on both ends of the floor (including, most critically, the glass), and being the more forceful of the two teams. It’s something Miami knows has to change if they’re to head back home with a tied series.
The Heat aren’t worried — concerned, yes — and they know what needs immediate addressing. From Sports Illustrated:
“We took it on the chin in virtually all of the energy areas,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “Offensively we got away from things we normally do … You have to be able to execute details, setting guys up, screening, moving the ball. Because of losing a lot of those effort areas and the second-chance points, it really deflated us.”
“We have to move on and learn from this,” said [Dwyane] Wade, who finished with 18 points on 17 shots. “We need to figure out a way to make sure we don’t hold the ball. We need to move the ball and make them work.”
“We shot our own selves in the foot, we didn’t move the ball like we usually do,” said [Chris] Bosh. “This is no different from any other loss that we’ve had. We took a beating tonight, and I think we’ll get better. This has been a group all year that’s responded well when we’re down.”
Aside from correcting their defensive and rebounding mistakes, Miami’s two superstars, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, will need to provide Chris Bosh with better offensive support in Game 2.
Talk about an oddly fitting role reversal, in what continues to be perhaps the most unpredictable Playoff season in NBA history.