Heat 104, Knicks 94 (Heat lead 2-0)
- The biggest story from this game is of course Amare Stoudemire’s outrageously stupid fight that he picked with an encased fire extinguisher (maybe he wanted to extinguish the Heat?) but that obscures the fact that the Knicks have looked hapless in the first two games with him and that he hasn’t really been a viable contributor to their cause this season–take last night, for example, when he was getting beaten for a rebound what seemed like every minute. Healthy and assertive 6’11″ power forwards grab more rebounds than Amare’s seven last night (in 41 minutes) and 7.8 RPG season average. Charles Barkley, who is listed at 6’5″, averaged 11.7 rebounds per game in his career.
- LeBron James is a freight train. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a profession athlete with his combination of size, speed, and strength–it’s like he was created in a lab. It’s frightening for the other team when he gets that first step in the lane. Poll: is it better to concede an uncontested dunk or to give up an And-1 out of stubborn principle?
In these two games, LeBron has had a look of focus and intensity about him that we haven’t quite seen before in his career, the Jordanesque killer instinct that everybody has been clamoring for.
Here’s an example: In one recent game, Wade was walking to the bench for a time-out. Halfway there, he was met by James. For the next 45 seconds, James was in his teammate’s ear about something. He did all the talking. Wade did all the nodding.
A year ago, such a display probably wouldn’t have happened where 20,000 people could see.
“Obviously, last year we kind of got cheated a little bit out of the greatness of LeBron as a vocal leader,” Wade said. “He had so much going on, so much in his mind that he was just trying to show everybody with his play and his toughness.
“But this year, especially of late, we’ve all been getting the vocal player, the intelligent player that LeBron is. His IQ of the game is second to none. So you listen. Especially me.”
- In the Miami Herald, Linda Robertson writes that the difference in the series can be explained by stars’ chemistry:
The postseason has just begun, but it seems the Heat is applying critical lessons learned in last year’s NBA Finals against Dallas, when the better team won. The Mavericks had synergy, the Heat had stars. This time around, the Heat is playing in harmony. The Knicks are mired in cacophony. Heat players, part of a big, happy family, gave credit to each other. New York’s Amare Stoudemire, acting like a petulant child, lost his cool, punched a fire extinguisher and cut his left hand.
- In the NY Post, Mike Vaccarro laments:
If he wants to go and curse a blue streak in the showers, he can scream himself hoarse. Mad at Melo? Yell at Melo. Mad at the Heat? Well, playing worth a damn might help his mood. Throwing a left cross at a pane of glass? That’s idiocy. Yet that’s what Stoudemire — the Knicks’ self-professed soul, their leader — did. He wound up gushing blood and needing stitches, getting his left hand bandaged up and leaving the arena with his arm in a sling.
Yeah. The season was a goner anyway, the idea of the Knicks winning four out of five from the Heat an absurd notion. In the moments before the final buzzer and the second just after maybe you could still harbor hope that at least the Knicks could end a postseason drought that now extends 12 games across 11 years and two days.
Pacers 93, Magic 78 (Series tied 1-1)
- In the Orlando Sentinel, Mike Bianchi finds a positive in the Magic’s loss: the play and leadership of Glen Davis:
Did you ever imagine that this boulder would also turn into a builder – a team builder? Yes, you read that correctly. Davis, the man who was suspended earlier this year for getting into a verbal altercation with Coach Stan Van Gundy and fined for flipping off fans, has become one of the Magic’s most visible team leaders.
The man plays hurt. The man plays hard. After badly spraining his ankle last week, he played a team-high 41 minutes in Game 1 and team-high 38-minutes in Game 2. He’s also the one who came up with the playoff mantra – “We All We Got” – that has become a rallying cry for Magic players and fans alike.
- In the Indianapolis Star, Bob Kravitz notes that a flip switched in the Pacers’ mentality in last night’s third quarter:
Come the third quarter, though, the Pacers rediscovered themselves, rediscovered the blue-collar mentality that made them seem like such a prohibitive favorite in the first place.
At one point late in the third quarter, the Pacers had outrebounded the Magic 15-1 and scored 13 second-chance points. They finished the quarter with a 16-4 advantage, eight offensive rebounds, 13 second-chance points and outscored Orlando 30-13. That’s not about coaching and X’s and O’s. It’s about hard work and passion and commitment to pushing the ball.
Thunder 102, Mavericks 99 (Thunder lead 2-0)
- For the second straight game, the Mavericks had a chance to break serve on the road and for the second straight game they fell just short. Shots like Dirk Nowitzki’s wide open 3 that would have put the Mavs up four with less than two minutes to go or Jason Terry’s two contested 3′s in the final seconds that would have tied the game are the differences between winning championships and losing series. Down 2-0, the Mavs have put themselves into a deep hole, needing to win four out of five against a Thunder team that appears to be alone in the NBA’s elite echelon with the Spurs and the Heat. It’s not an insurmountable task but it’s close.
- Unfortunately for the Mavs, their missing piece looks to be what they thought they would get this season out of Lamar Odom. If they had gotten anywhere close to his 2010-11 averages of 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game that his post presence was supposed to give them, the complexion of this series would likely be different. Odom’s inability to work out for the Mavericks is a stark reminder that professional athletes are fallible human beings, not interchangeable robotic parts.
- In the Oklahoman, Berry Tramel highlights a key stat:
On Dallas’ final five possessions, the Mavs scored just once — a virtual uncontested layup by Jason Terry that OKC was glad to give up, since it protected a three-point lead and forced the Mavs to play the foul game. On this night, that was a loser for Dallas. The Thunder made 37 of 39 foul shots, with its final four points coming from James Harden at the line in the final 25.5 seconds.
- On ESPNDallas, Jean-Jacques Taylor writes about what the Mavs must improve upon:
1. Catastrophic turnovers: You could say the Mavs lost this game during a seven-minute stretch spanning the end of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter, when Oklahoma City turned a 24-23 deficit into a 46-30 lead. They did it by converting a plethora of Mavs’ turnovers into transition baskets. Oklahoma City turned 16 turnovers into 21 points. No way the Mavs can win like that because Oklahoma City is a younger, faster and quicker team. Letting them score in transition, especially considering the haphazard nature of their half-court offense is disastrous.
2. Containing Kevin Durant: Shawn Marion has done a phenomenal job guarding Durant by contesting every shot he takes and making it tough for him to get to his sweet spots on the court. Durant was only 5-of-17 in Game 2 but still scored 26 points because he made 14 of 16 free throws. Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, has made only 15 of 44 shots in the series. It’s a testament to his skill level that he’s still getting his points, but imagine what trouble the Mavs will have on the night he goes off — and he will have at least one good shooting night in this series.
3. X-Factors are no factors: Based on the regular season, there was plenty of reason to believe Brandon Wright or Rodrigue Beaubois could have an impact on the Mavs’ series with Oklahoma City. Well, it hasn’t happened and there’s no indication it will. They played a combined 10 minutes — five each — and totaled one point and one rebound.