What’ve we learned about the four remaining teams in the NBA conference Championships? It’s going to be a dogfight. While the Bulls after game one looked like they may sweep the Heat, LeBron stepped up big time last night and Miami’s savior may have been Udonis Haslem. It’s clear that the Heat only have two players whom they can count on.
Bosh is a one dimensional player who the Bulls have eliminated, but Haslem gives them toughness in the paint with rebounding, physical play and mid-range scoring. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has to hope that the rest of the Heat bench will be inspired by the play of Haslem. The question is how long Wade, James and Haslem can carry the load of Bibby, Chalmers, Miller and Bosh. Bosh may reemerge with the presence of Haslem, it seemed to be a chemistry issue with Haslem being in the lineup with new undefined roles.
The Bulls received a wakeup call that this will be a battle. Derek Rose is the truth, but the Heat did a good job defending him last night. All season the weakness of the Bulls, if you can call it that, was the inconsistency of the Bulls role players. Deng, Boozer and Noah played lights out in game one combining for 44 points.
Game two was a different story they combined for just 29 points and this may be the key to this series. The Bulls will win the rebounding game, but if they are to beat the Heat, they will have to continue to dominate the offensive boards and second chance points. They shot 43% in game one and 34% from the field in game two as a team, and you know that Rose will not have another 7-23 night the rest of the series. Shooting percentage and offensive boards may determine this series.
The story of the Western conference finals seems to be Dirk Nowitzki and the Thunders ability to guard JJ Barea. So much talk of not being able to stop Dirk and no one has yet, but when I look at his game, yes he is a tough to almost impossible guard. But if you know he’s going to fade why not play it and go to the right hand, he fades because he can’t elevate.
Most players are right handed and try to distract or block with the right hand, but a player who can use the left and pressure the shooting hand would seem to cause some distraction to his shot. I thought James Harden could be the answer given the fact that his is left handed, but he is too short to be effective and drew 2 quick fouls trying to guard him.
The other thing, as great a shooter as Dirk is I find it hard to believe that he can continue to shoot at such a high percentage, everyone has an off night or an average night. The other obstacle and I think the dagger for OKC was JJ, they had no one to guard him and he was having his way the other night scoring 21 points. Russell Westbrook seems to be the only Thunder player with the quickness to guard him and by the time he was inserted back into the game the damage was done. I would back off and make him shot the 3 ball rather than allowing him to drive the lane.
That being said, the Thunder was still in the game late down by 5 with minutes to play. Westbrook had probably as bad a night shooting as he will ever have and the Mavs defense smothered everyone else except Durant (40pts). Although Dallas is content to play zone until the Thunder heat up from the outside, OKC will have to take the ball to the basket to get the Dallas bigs in foul trouble in order to win game two tonight.
Jason Terry and the rest of the Mavs can create and get their own shots. I am assuming the plan will be to double Dirk and get the ball out of his hands to prevent him from going to the charity stripe 24 times, and make everyone else beat you. I would put the pressure on Jason Kidd, you can’t leave Terry or Stojakovic, Kidd has just become a scoring threat, so I would let him take 10 3 pointers and live with the result rather than allowing Dirk and Terry kill you.
One thing’s for sure these playoffs are some of the most intriguing in recent years. I’ll be glued to the tube to see how the Thunder respond and more important, how Dirk will respond after a record setting game one.
~ Seth Joyner ~