Last night saw two very different games in the NBA playoffs. In one, the home (and higher-seeded) team dominated the opposition from the first whistle. In the other, the heavily-favored hosts battled to the final whistle against a mediocre team, but still came out on top. Though the second game sounds--to me, at least--more like one in which the Heat were playing, it was actually the Bulls that had to sweat it out in Game Two. The Heat got some great offensive performances from their stars, and they even played defense, too. Let's take a look back at last night's games and see what we can learn going forward.
Philadelphia 76ers (7) @ Miami Heat (2)
4/18: Game Two--HEAT 94, 76ers 73 (2-0, Miami)
After a close first game in Miami, this one was downhill the whole way for the 76ers. The Heat outscored them in every quarter except the fourth--that didn't matter, though, because the Sixers were already in a 23-point hole by that time anyway. In such a dismal all-around performance for Philadelphia, the stat of the game goes to the 76ers starting lineup, which was about as bad as it gets for a playoff team. Five Sixers starters combined for 29 points, the same amount as LeBron James scored on his own. They shot 11-37 (29.7%) from the floor, while only taking eight free throw attempts all game; LeBron alone hit 10 field goals and took 10 free throws. There were no shortage of goats in the Sixers' starting five last night, as Elton Brand had three points on 1-5 shooting, while Andre Iguodala had as many turnovers (five) as points. As bad as Brand was, that's how good his counterpart, Chris Bosh, was last night. He scored 21 points on 9-13 shooting and grabbed 11 boards for Miami. He also managed three steals while not turning the ball over once. As sloppy and inefficient the Sixers were, that's how solid Chris Bosh was, as he and his co-stars ran roughshod over a floundering Philadelphia lineup.
Indiana Pacers (8) vs, Chicago Bulls (1)
4/18: Game Two--BULLS 96, Pacers 90 (2-0, Chicago)
If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that I was watching a taped version of Game One last night. Derrick Rose scored over 35 points, got plenty of rebounds and assists, and led the Bulls' surge in the fourth quarter. The Pacers got some solid, but unspectacular, production from Danny Granger, who scored about 20 points on 50% shooting, with a few rebounds and assists. And in the end, the contrast between these two players was the difference in both games. As Game Two wound down, Rose was in the thick of the action, while Granger was nowhere to be found--Mike Dunleavy took a critical three-pointer instead of the Pacers' 20-point scorer. I was impressed with how the Pacers made both games so far in the series competitive, and they will be a tough team to beat in Indiana. However, if Granger doesn't eventually turn in a performance that lives up to his reputation, these two close games could be all for naught in Indiana.