Monday, May 2, 2011

NBA Playoffs Second Round: Night One

As the calendar flips to May, the NBA Playoffs roll on into the second round, as only eight teams are left in the hunt. The first round saw two upsets: the #5 Hawks avenged last year's sweep at the hands of the #4 Magic in the Eastern Conference, and the eighth-seeded Grizzlies pulled a shocking upset over the top-seeded Spurs out West. The second round should be even more competitive, as the teams below or barely above .500 (Pacers, 76ers, Knicks) have already been discarded. Not only that, but the lowest seed remaining, the #8 seed Grizzlies, have been playing with an energy and toughness that makes them dangerous going forward. They were in action last night against Kevin Durant, while the Big 3 squared off against the Big 4 in Miami.  Let's take a look at the action.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics (3) @ Miami Heat (2)
5/1: Game One--HEAT 99, Celtics 90 (1-0, Miami)
D-Wade soared up and over the C's
in a Game One victory
If anyone still thought that the Miami Heat were LeBron's team, hopefully last night's game put that to rest. Dwyane Wade demolished the Boston Celtics in Game One, helping the Heat take a 1-0 series lead on the strength of his 38 points. The Celtics allowed a league-low 91.1 points per game during the regular season, but the Heat rang up 99 on them last night, and D-Wade was responsible for 38.3% of them. With a plus-8 +/- rating (compared to LeBron's +1), Wade shot 14-21 (66.7%) from the floor and 8-9 from the free throw line.  His remarkable efficiency did not end there, as the former Marquette star picked up three steals while only turning the ball over twice.  By comparison, LeBron turned the ball over three times to go with only two steals.  While King James cost his team one possession, D-Wade created a possession for the Heat, and he took advantage with his sharpshooting all night long. Wade better continue stepping up for Miami because Chris Bosh looked totally overmatched against Kevin Garnett last night.  He scored only seven points on 3-10 shooting against the Celtics' interior defense after averaging 19.8 points per game in the first round. If KG is going to continue to shut down Bosh, Wade--or somebody else--better step up if the Heat want to win this series. Last night James Jones did, going 5-7 from downtown and 10-10 from the free throw line en route to 25 points. The Heat shouldn't count on him though, as James had not scored over 15 points in a game since December 2, 2010. The moral of the story: D-Wade was great for the Heat, but they are in trouble if they cannot find a consistent third scorer.

Western Conference

Memphis Grizzlies (8) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (4)
5/1: Game One--Grizzlies 114, THUNDER 101 (1-0, Memphis)
The young, dynamic front court duo for the Grizzlies was on top of their game yet again--this time against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the franchise's first appearance in the second round of the playoffs, the big guys for the Grizz went off on Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.  They combined for 54 points on 21-33 from the floor.  That's 63.6% shooting, to go along with 23 rebounds. Gasol also managed four assists and three blocks, while Randolph pitched in defensively with three steals.  It was truly a complete performance from those two, who were also  key to defeating Tim
Zach Randolph (L) was too big and too strong
for Kendrick Perkins in Game One
Duncan and the Spurs in the first round. Gasol's defense on Perkins was incredibly impressive as well. After shooting 51.5% from the floor since coming over from the Celtics, Perkins was held to two points on 1-3 shooting, making him a virtual non-entity on the offensive end. That Gasol was able to shut down Perkins offensively and then overpower him on the other end of the floor (9-11 shooting from the field) is a testament to how much he's progressed since coming over from the Lakers in a trade for his big brother, Pau. Randolph was also a huge presence inside, getting to the line nine times, hitting all of his free throws, and grabbing four offensive rebounds.  A 13-point victory in Game One on the road is impressive for such a young team. Now, Memphis just has to defend its home court, and it might even seen the Western Conference Finals.

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