Friday, April 22, 2011

NBA Playoffs: Night Six

Eastern Conference
Indiana Pacers (8) vs, Chicago Bulls (1)
4/16: Game One--BULLS 104, Pacers 99 (1-0, Chicago)
4/18: Game Two--BULLS 96, Pacers 90 (2-0, Chicago)
4/21: Game Three--BULLS 88, Pacers 84 (3-0, Chicago)

The Bulls' strong play inside was too much
for Hibbert and the Pacers last night
Last night saw another ultra-close game in what I never thought would be a close series. Granted, the Bulls now have a commanding 3-0 lead; every game has been close, however, and the Pacers have shown that they can play 48 minutes of quality basketball against the East's top seed on a nightly basis. In every game, though, a Bulls players has come through big in the clutch to secure the win, and last night it was Derrick Rose hitting a driving layup with four defenders draped on him and under 20 seconds left in the game. The fact that he could even penetrate like that shows the big flaw for the Pacers all night long: mediocre play from their big men. Center Roy Hibbert and power forward Tyler Hansbrough each shot 3-12 from the floor, combining for only 16 points. They also weren't much of a force in the paint, with only 12 rebounds between them. Though those numbers are barely below their season averages (12.7 rebounds combined), that just isn't enough against a team like the Bulls. Most alarmingly for the Pacers, the team was outscored significantly when their two big men were on the floor. In 31 minutes of action, Hansbrough had a -13 +/- rating, as D-Rose and Co. slashed to the bucket all night long--including when it counted most.

Philadelphia 76ers (7) @ Miami Heat (2)
4/16: Game One--HEAT 97, 76ers 89 (1-0, Miami)
4/18: Game Two--HEAT 94, 76ers 73 (2-0, Miami)
4/21: Game Three--HEAT 100, 76ers 94 (3-0, Miami)

On a night when only eight players saw action for the Heat (even Mike Miller was a "DNP--Coach's Decision") and the bench contributed only 12 points, Dwayne Wade stepped up and led his team to a close road victory. The game was tight all night, and Philadelphia even had an eight-point lead in the third quarter. D-Wade was just too much for the less-talented 76ers, though, as he nearly got a triple-double. He shot 10-19 from the field and hit all 12 of his free throws en route to a game-high 32 points. Wade also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 8 assists--he even got a couple blocks for good measure. The task of guarding D-Wade seemed to tire out Andre Iguodala, who shot just 3-10 for the game. An honorable mention in last night's game goes--little surprise here--to LeBron James. He also made more than half of his field goal attempts (8-15, 24 points) and pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds to go with six assists. The Sixers showed some fight after a horrible Game Two performance, but the Heat's big stars were just too hot to handle.

Western Conference
Portland Trailblazers (6) @ Dallas Mavericks (3)
4/16: Game One--MAVERICKS 89, Trailblazers 81 (1-0, Dallas)
4/19: Game Two--MAVERICKS 101, Trailblazers 89 (2-0, Dallas)
4/21: Game Three--TRAILBLAZERS 97, Mavericks 92 (2-1, Dallas)

In cutting the Mavs' series lead to 2-1, Portland has gotten themselves back in the series--but they have to win Game Four as well to have a legitimate shot at the upset. After a rough Game Two in Dallas, Brandon Roy played a key role in the Trailblazers' Game Three win. Though Roy went scoreless in only eight minutes played on Tuesday night, he scored 16 points on 60% shooting and four assists in a nice rebound effort last night. Roy was critical to the Blazers' balanced scoring that led them two a hard-fought victory over the unbalanced Mavericks in Game Three. Portland had four players (Roy, Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller, and LaMarcus Aldridge) with at least 16 points scored. By contrast, the Mavericks had only two players (Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry) in double-figures. Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd combined for only 17 points and four assists, well below their season averages of 20.4 points and 9.6 assists per game. Those two players need to step, back up if the Mavericks are going to hold off the Blazers in this series.

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