Bulls 103, Sixers 91

The Bulls earned themselves a huge Game One victory but lost reigning MVP Derrick Rose for the rest of the Playoffs to an ACL tear suffered during the fourth quarter. The loss of Rose puts an aura of doubt around Chicago as they play on, but fortunately for them, this is a team who played without their unequivocal leader for much of the second half of the season en route to a 50-16 record and the number one seed in the East. While their chances of making it to the NBA Finals seem unlikely after such a devastating injury, the Bulls will continue to play hard and give it all they got every time they lace ‘em up.

The Bulls, who were led by Rose’s 23 points, 9 assists and 9 boards, let an 11-point half time lead slip to five early in the third before going on a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 14. After the run, Philadelphia never got within single-digits again. Along with DRose, five Chicago players scored in double figures including Rip Hamilton who finished with 19 and Luol Deng who chipped in with 17 and 6 boards. The Sixers were led by Elton Brand’s 19 and 7 boards and Jrue Holiday’s 16 points and 7 rebounds. Game Two is scheduled for Tuesday.—Peter Walsh (@goinginsquad)

Heat 100, Knicks 67

Miami came out swinging and made a statement with a 33-point drubbing of the Knicks in Game One. New York kept in close in the first quarter, thanks to a ten-point effort from Baron Davis, but  the wheels fell off in the second quarter and the Heat blew the game wide open. During the second act, the Heat went on a game-deciding 24-2 run capped by an offensive flurry from LeBron to end the half.

Play was certainly physical in the first half as each team tried to assert their dominance early and the refs definitely did not swallow their whistles. In the first 24 minutes alone, the Knicks were called for 21 fouls allowing the Heat to take a 28-5 free throw advantage over their opponent. While the refs made a few very questionable foul calls against the Knicks, the Heat were without question the better team on the floor.

In the second half, it was more of the same as Miami continued to dominate and push the lead to over 30. New York was dealt a serious blow when Iman Shumpert went down with a knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of the series. By the end of the third quarter, Miami led the Knicks 81-47 making the fourth quarter more of a formality than a competitive 12 minutes of basketball.

LeBron James certainly made me look foolish for calling his matchup with Carmelo Anthony a “push” by going off for 32 points and dominating on the defensive end. The Heat completely neutralized Melo by fronting him in the post and exposing the Knicks lack of guard play as much of their offense consisted of passing the ball around the perimeter and taking a bad shot late in the shot clock. Melo finished with 11 points on 3-15 shooting.

Miami forced the Knicks into 27 turnovers, converting them into a franchise Playoff record 38 fast break points. Dwyane Wade added 19 points and Mario Chalmers scored 11 points while dropping 9 dimes. J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 17 points while STAT was a no-show with 9 points and 5 boards. Game two is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m.—Peter Walsh (@goinginsquad)

Magic 81, Pacers 77.

Let’s paint the picture here. Ryan Anderson, the Magic’s leading scorer without Dwight, scored 5 points. The Magic scored 13 points in the third quarter and 30 in the second half. They shot 39% from the field and only made 8 free throws. Would anyone think this string of sentences resembles anything close to a win, much less a playoff win, on the road, against a top three seed in the Eastern Conference?

It wasn’t pretty, flashy, or impressive, but the Magic pulled off a huge win in Indianapolis to get their playoff season started on the right foot. Jason Richardson channeled his inner Reggie Miller and poured in five threes (not a typo) en route to a team leading 17 points. Jameer Nelson also tied Richardson with 17 points and came one assist shy of a double-double. “With the group of guys we have now, we’re playing harder,” explained Nelson. “We’re trying to cut down on mistakes. We’re playing without our best player in Dwight Howard, who usually cleans up our mistakes.”

This Magic team may not have the firepower they have with Howard on the floor, but they are hungry. Much hungrier than before. In the series preview, we explained how this team will not go down without a fight. They have too much pride, too much anger built up inside them. Glen Davis, who chipped in 16 points and hit some key mid range shots down the stretch, summed up their attitude perfectly. “We all we got,” Davis proclaimed about the current roster. “We’re not trying to impress the doubters or make them believe in us. We believe in ourselves. We’ve been through a lot this year, both mentally and physically, and we have been able to overcome it.”

Call it an offensive struggle by the Pacers or a defensive masterpiece by the Magic, the Pacers shot a poor 34.5% from the field and never truly found their rhythm in the home opener. The whole game, from Ryan Anderson only attempting 7 shots to Paul George not touching the rock for huge stretches at a time, felt weird. Granger started off firing and connected on three of his first four shots. He then went 3-16 from the field for the remainder of the game. Roy Hibbert, in what Frank Vogel called “his best game as a pro defensively”, swatted 9 shots and grabbed 13 rebounds, putting together the Pacers only complete game. The players and Vogel all believe their lack of offensive rhythm will not be a concern going forward and already began thinking about game two. “We understand it’s a series, not the NCAA. We have a chance to respond.”—Dave Spahn (@DaveSpahn)

Thunder 99, Mavericks 98

A shooter’s credo: “When you’re on, keep shooting. When you’re off, keep shooting until you’re on.”

Scorers are told this from the very first day. That initial moment when their talent for putting the ball in the hoop was accepted as public knowledge. Regardless of age, players that can “throw it in” from anywhere on the court have always been encouraged to ignore the self-doubt, that feeling when the player remembers the past. Those previous few minutes where the one skill that has set you apart from the others suddenly is broken.

Last night, we saw two instances, both crucial to the flow and ultimate conclusion of a game. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder started tonight’s Game One of their first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks missing his first four shots. His team struggled to find flow and relied on the one-and-one capabilities of point guard Russell Westbrook to stay within reach early. But with just over a minute left in the first, just as Westbrook exited the game in favor of veteran pick-up Derek Fisher, KD put the poor offensive start aside, and made his next three shots. Seven points to keep the locals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena content and the Dallas lead to just four, a score that would seemingly be the difference for most of the night.

KD made just six of his next 19 attempts, but still there was never any eye-batting. Despite off-shooting nights by two of the game’s greatest (KD-8-27; Dirk 8-18), the game blossomed into an exciting affair that was always in doubt. It could be said that no team was ever in complete control and only Dallas had a solitary chance to take a double-digit lead (missed 3-pointer by Jason Kidd up seven with 2:56 left) at any point in the game.

The visitors especially played with energy from the opening bell. They played with bounce, hunger and a certain confidence that was worthy of a defending champion, regardless of how fractured this roster became in comparison to the same one last year.

Jason Terry was phenomenal, Vince Carter attacked the rim and Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi protected the one on the other end of the court. But in the same first half, the Thunder got great contributions by their big four of Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden. On cue, the Mavs led at half by three or four or five….

But this was still a story about shooters and one in particular. This is a story of their ability to look at every scoring opportunity in a vacuum. Their minds erased and reprogrammed.

‘I’m open; I’m shooting.’

Ignore the conscience.

Late in the fourth, the always-attacking, programmed Nowitzki had just given the Mavs a 98-97 lead after another two free throws. Forty-seven minutes and fifty-one seconds of enthralling theater and majestic basketball concluded with the Thunder owning the ball, those nine seconds and a chance. Ibaka, Harden and Westbrook all had great games (Russ was especially exquisite in the third), but the ball belonged to Durant. It was One-on-Five.

“When you’re on, keep shooting. When you’re off, keep shooting until you’re on.”

It wasn’t pretty. Durant was off but ended on. A great Game One to the home team.—Cub Buenning (@cubbuenning)