Wednesday, May 4, 2011

NBA Playoffs Second Round: Night Three

Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics (3) @ Miami Heat (2)
5/1: Game One--HEAT 99, Celtics 90 (1-0, Miami)
5/3: Game Two--HEAT 102, Celtics 91 (2-0, Miami)
With another easy win in Miami, the Heat have now put themselves in control of their series against the Celtics. Boston would have to win four out of the next five games in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, but that does not look likely after their performance the past two games.  The Heat's explosiveness was  on display last night, as they dominated the paint against a Celtics team with great frontcourt depth. Miami had nine blocks as a team compared to only two for the Celtics.  Boston could not do much offensively in the paint, and Miami ended up taking 14 more free throws than the Celtics as a result.  The Celtics, then, had to rely on their outside shooting to compete in Game Two, but it just  wasn't up to snuff. Ray Allen contributed  only seven
LeBron was head and shoulders above
Ray Allen all Game Two in Miami
points on 2-7 shooting, including only one three-pointer.  He'd been averaging 4.5 three's per game in the postseason before last night, so that performance left much to be desired. Paul Pierce was similarly mediocre for the Celtics last night, as he was limited to 13 points and a -10 +/- rating.  Pierce and Allen had together been averaging 44.2 points per game in the postseason, but last night they combined for only 20. That was the huge difference in the game as the Celtics had to rely on their outside shooters--but those shooters came up short. Despite the Celtics' woes, the Heat players did have something to do with their team's victory. LeBron James was excellent last night, despite being outplayed by teammate D-Wade in Game One. LeBron scored 35 points on 14-25 shooting (56%) from the field while grabbing seven rebounds en route to a +10 +/- rating. After a lackluster first half--that ended with Miami only holding a five-point lead--James broke out in the second half. He scored 12 points in the final six minutes of the third quarter, turning a one-point Boston lead into a five-point Miami edge heading into the final period. In that fourth quarter, LeBron kept up the pressure by scoring 12 more, including a personal 7-0 run that increased Miami's lead from five to 12.  At that point, with 4:35 left in the fourth, the game was all but over.

Hit "Read More" to read about last night's Memphis/Oklahoma City game

Western Conference

Memphis Grizzlies (8) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (4)
5/1: Game One--Grizzlies 114, THUNDER 101 (1-0, Memphis)
5/3: Game Two--THUNDER 111, Grizzlies 102 (1-1, Tie)
Check out that beard!
There were a bunch of interesting stats from this game, but here's the only important one: the Thunder shot 52.8% from the floor. No team can hope to win a playoff game--let alone one on the road--when letting their opponent shoot over 50% on their field goals. That's a huge reason why the Grizzlies lost last night and why the series is tied going to Memphis. In both games, the Thunder got huge performances from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; they combined for 62 points in Game One and 50 points last night. The difference, though, was how the Thunder role players performed in each of those games. On Sunday afternoon, Thunder players not named Durant or Westbrook scored 39 points on 44.1% shooting. Last night, by contrast, they scored 61 points on 61.8% shooting from the field. By having multiple scoring options on the court at any given time--as opposed to just two viable ones in Game One--the Thunder were able to score at will and tie up the series. The non-Durant/Westbrook attack was led by World Beard Champion James Harden (see above).  Harden scored 21 points, including hitting all 11 free throw attempts, in 30 minutes of action. He also dished out five assists while collecting three steals. In Game One, Harden also had the most points out of any Thunder bench player: five. Last night, he poured in 21, and Erick Maynor chipped in with 15 more off the bench to give Oklahoma City a balanced scoring attack all game. Far from getting contributions from unlikely sources, the Grizzlies, by contrast, struggled to even get production out of their primary scorers. Zach Randolph, the team's offensive leader in the First Round as well as Game One, was the primary offender last night. Though he managed 15 points, he only shot 2-13 (15.4%) from the field. Randolph aside, the Grizzlies actually shot 50% in Game Two.  However, Z-Bo was such a black hole that, even when his shots weren't falling, he continued to take them.  Randolph has shown this postseason that he can be a great player when he's on. Now we know just had bad he can be when he's off.

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