Heat 104, Knicks 94 (MIA leads 2-0)
Miami turned in another suffocating defensive performance to take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Knicks. While LeBron put together a 19-point, 9-assist, 7-rebound performance, it was DWade who gave the Knicks fits. Without Iman Shumpert in the lineup, New York’s lack of a perimeter defensive presence was glaring, as Wade got to the lane with ease against the likes of Landry Fields (who was a complete non-factor) and J.R. Smith. Flash finished with 25 points on 11-18 shooting and it could have been much more if it weren’t for the contributions of Chris Bosh, who scored 21.
New York played the Heat to a standstill for much of the first half thanks to a hot start from Melo and the presence of Tyson Chandler (13 points, 7 boards) who was ineffective in Game 1 due to the flu. Melo came out hot, scoring 21 (and finishing with 30 on 12-26 shooting) in the first half while the combination of Chandler and Jared Jeffries hit the offensive glass, making for second-chance opportunities and slowing the Miami break. But, despite the Knicks best efforts, the Heat built a 10-point lead heading into the half thanks to a late scoring barrage led by LeBron.
In the second half, New York reverted to their “All-Melo Everything” offensive scheme that consists of one pass to Anthony while the rest of the team stands around and watches. Unsurprisingly, Miami had no problem defending the Knicks “offense” in the second half and ran away with the gam—they led by double-digits for much of the third and fourth quarters. To add insult to injury, STAT suffered a deep laceration in his hand after punching through the glass that held the locker room’s fire extinguisher, which will likely keep him out for at least the next game. —Peter Walsh (@goinginsquad)
Pacers 93, Magic 78 (Series tied 1-1)
The writing was on the wall. The signs came alive. Another offensive misery awaited the Pacers in the first half. The same song from Saturday night’s loss was sung in the first half in Indianapolis. Another loss and an 0-2 home stand against the Magic seemed like the fate of Indiana until an explosion of offensive flurry from George Hill set off a run that put the Pacers in the lead for good. He poured in 12 third-quarter points and ignited a 30-point outburst for the Pacers in the frame. Hill, Danny Granger, and David West all scored 18 for the game, while Paul George went an efficient 7-10 from the field en route to 17 points. The atmosphere in Indiana was much different than Saturday night, and it all stemmed from the attitude of the players. “We knew how important this game was,” said Granger. “We couldn’t lose two games in a 7-game series on our home court.”
The Magic had trouble putting the ball in the hole again, but this time they came away on the wrong side of the win column. Ryan Anderson ignited the Magic’s quick start with 8 first-quarter points but only scored 3 in the next three quarters. Glen Davis, the Magic’s most consistent performer in the series, put together another double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Another positive sign for Indy fans is the fact that the Pacers still haven’t put together one good game from start to finish. Granger may have finished with 18 points, but he shot 33 percent from the field. West went 5-14 but sank 8 free throws. Barbosa took 10 shots off the bench and only hit 4. The only two players who had efficient offensive nights for the Pacers were Paul George and George Hill. If Granger’s shot starts falling, this team could have a new look in a few games.
On the other side, the Magic came out of Indianapolis with the series tied 1-1 heading back home while scoring only 81 and 78 points. That itself is a huge step for the Magic. Most fans and basketball heads saw the Magic as an easy sweep or a 5-game series for the Pacers, yet they head home with the series back to square one. The second half proved to be a building block for the Pacers, but they are a ways away from taking full control of the series. If the Magic can win one of the next two games, they will really shift the momentum in their favor. Like I said in the series preview, I see a dogfight in Orlando! —Dave Spahn (@DaveSpahn)
Thunder 102, Mavericks 99 (OKC leads 2-0)
Living up to a classic can be a tough business. Other than Godfather II and Empire Strikes Back, rarely do sequels live up to or exceed the original. The inaugural installment of the first-round NBA series between Oklahoma City and Dallas was a classic. A Godfather-like game with twists and turns and quality play from the opening whistle with a Star Wars-A New Hope ending that put the Thunder up early in the rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals.
Last night’s Game 2 back in OKC was hard-pressed to come up with a virtuoso encore performance, but, like the excited fan, a guy can hope.
Thus, “A New Hope” went off again and grateful hoops fans were treated to another thriller that, once again, went down to the last possession. Yes, again, no one was ever able to grab control of the game during the game’s key minutes. And again, each team took turns with the lead. In just two games played in the series, the lead has changed hands an astonishing 32 times.
On this night, the Thunder held the lead last and now own a 2-0 series advantage after a 102-99 win. Again, the NBA’s leading scorer, Kevin Durant, struggled doing what he does best, but (last time) again, the Thunder are much more than just KD.
While Durant was struggling from the field (5-17), his scoring equal from Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki, found his form early and was an offensive monster all night, especially in the second quarter (his play even prompted OKC head coach Scott Brooks to say he was the most amazing player that he had ever seen.) However, the big German missed two shots (a wide-open three, a 13-foot fadeway on baseline) in the last minute that are generally considered lay-ups for Dirk.
Much like Game 1 (sorry, I know I said I was done) Russell Westbrook played another really compelling game. Surely not his best performance, but he has been forcing the issue at the right time, taking care of the ball and dominating from the mid-range. Dirk was pretty adamant when he pondered being down 2-0 in a series he could be up by the same margin—he noted that Westbrook was the guy that was killing his team.
But, unlike Saturday night, the game lacked the up-tempo flow with exemplary offense and defense. Yes, this was still an enjoyable watch, but a consistent whistle, which sent both teams to the free-throw line a combined 71 times, continually stunted the pace.
The benches played a key role again, as the Mavs did not get the usual production from their talented allotment of reserves. On the other hand, the Derek Fisher Springtime Reunion Tour was in full-bloom. 11 points, a big fourth-quarter 3-pointer and a +11 for the man with 5 rings. And James Harden was his usual self, going for 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while also hitting some key free throws down the stretch.
OKC is up 2-0; could be down 0-2. The series shifts just a couple hours south to Dallas and the Thunder should feel confident, but surely a bit fortunate that this series on paper looks so one-sided to this point. Deep down, though, each team knows the next game back in OKC, things could be evened up at two games each.
I wonder what they’ll do for an encore. —Cub Buenning (@cubbuenning)