Winners and Losers from Wednesday Night's Wild Playoff Action
The Miami Heat put on a show for the ages, while the Golden State Warriors exorcised some long-standing demons in a thrilling night of postseason hoops that evened the playing field in two conference semifinals.
It's hard to trump a 37-point playoff victory, but it's even harder to shake a 16-year-old monkey off your back.
The Warriors were finally able to snap a 30-game losing streak in San Antonio with a 100-91 win over the Spurs at the AT&T Center, while the Heat cruised to one of the most decisive victories in playoff history. Their 115-78 rout of the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 not only evened up their Eastern Conference semifinal series, but it also sent both clubs into the history books.
Miami just set two playoff records: worst loss margin in Bulls franchise history, and largest win margin in Heat franchise history (37 pts).— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 9, 2013
Miami's Big Three came to life, while the Warriors guards gave a bit of credence to Mark Jackson's tremendous praise of his perimeter shooters.
With games resuming Friday for these four clubs, there's no time to waste to identify Wednesday night's biggest winners and losers.
Winner: Miami's Second-Half Effort
With a 13-3 run carrying them into halftime with a comfortable but not quite commanding 55-41 lead, the Heat recognized the importance of a strong third-quarter start.
Chris Bosh, who suffered through a rough first half with four points on 1-of-4 shooting, opened the second half by splitting a pair of free throws. Mario Chalmers knocked down a jumper on the next trip, and LeBron James' beautiful alley-oop to Dwyane Wade capped a quick 5-0 run to give the Heat a 19-point edge.
It may not sound like much, but those conversions were exactly what the Bosh-Chalmers-Wade trio needed. The three combined for Miami's first 22 points of the second half as the lead ballooned to 26.
Things only got better from that point. The Heat lead grew as high as 46 points before the battle of the clean-up crews wrapped it up, leaving a final margin of 37 points on the scoreboard.
Miami shot 23-of-37 (62.2 percent) en route to a dominant 60-37 second-half advantage.
Loser: Spurs Shooters
The Spurs narrowly avoided defeat in Game 1 with some clutch shooting and a series of unfortunate events by the Warriors.
They had the chance to steal another victory late in Game 2, but San Antonio's gunslingers fired nothing but blanks when it mattered most.
Manu Ginobili, who appeared to be hitting his stride with back-to-back jumpers midway through the fourth, ended three of the next four empty Spurs possessions. He missed a three that could have made it a five-point game with 3:42 left, was whistled for a charge on San Antonio's next trip, then misfired on a jumper two possessions later.
Danny Green, who knocked down a pair of clutch triples in San Antonio's win, missed eight of his 12 field-goal attempts (including a layup in the final 90 seconds) and four of six tries from long range. Kawhi Leonard failed to connect on any of his three perimeter looks. As a team, the Spurs shot just 5-of-21 from downtown.
San Antonio established an interior presence, getting 40 of its 91 points inside the paint. But it's easy to collapse defenders when there are no shooters to keep them honest.
Winner: Miami Reserve Guards
A 37-point advantage tends to inflate the production of second-teamers, but the masterful performances of Ray Allen and Norris Cole were the reason Miami raced out to such a wide margin—not the byproduct of it.
With James stuck manning a one-man operation in the starting five for most of the first half, Allen entered the contest and provided instant support for the league MVP. James poured in 16 of Miami's first 32 points, with Allen accounting for seven others.
Cole saved his scoring touch for a little later in the contest, but he found a way to tip the scales in Miami's favor over the last 75 seconds of the first half. Nate Robinson's triple made it an eight-point game with 2:10 left before intermission, but Cole answered with a pair of his own, retaking the momentum for Miami as the teams headed to the locker room.
Their final box scores were perhaps slightly affected by the wide margin, but 39 points on a 12-of-16 shooting night only highlights the efficiency of their attack.
Loser: Carlos Boozer
Tom Thibodeau knows how desperately his team needs a go-to scorer. With no Derrick Rose or Luol Deng, even the most optimistic Bulls fans knew that Nate Robinson could only carry the scoring torch for so long.
So Thibodeau looked past Carlos Boozer's defensive deficiencies, searching for some semblance of the player who once averaged at least 19.5 points per game three times over a four-year stretch earlier in his career.
It's time for coach Thibs to look elsewhere.
Boozer not only looks incapable of handling any offensive duties (he managed only eight points on a 3-of-9 shooting night), but the $75-million man looks more and more like an amnesty candidate than anything else.
And when his offense isn't clicking, what else is he bringing to the table? Certainly not rebounds—he pulled down only four in 24 minutes (or the same amount that Chalmers managed in 19 minutes).
He's never been an intimidating defensive presence near the basket, which was precisely what Chicago needed as Miami poured in 56 points in the paint.
Boozer lost a lot of playing time to Taj Gibson in Game 1, and he made that decision look justified with his woeful effort in Game 2.
Winner: Road Warriors
A 30-game losing streak in a single city is bad enough. But it is exponentially harder to overlook after watching that team come so close to shaking its road woes only to see the same result with a woeful fourth-quarter showing.
The Warriors said all of the right things after blowing a 16-point lead with under five minutes left in Game 1, but fans couldn't help but wonder about the residual effects of such a crushing defeat.
Golden State didn't solve its fourth-quarter struggles (the Warriors managed just 17 points in the final 12 minutes), but it did enough defensively to keep this game from becoming further fodder for the basketball pundits that had questioned the team's ability to close games.
Save for a meaningless Cory Joseph jumper on San Antonio's final possession, the Warriors held the Spurs scoreless over the final four minutes of the contest. Granted, the Dubs managed only five points over that same stretch (all five coming from Stephen Curry), but this is a team that has preached winning with its defense all season.
That's what keyed its victory on Wednesday night.
Loser: Chicago's Composure
This was exactly the kind of game the Bulls wanted. At least, that's probably what they thought before Game 2 took place.
The physical play in Game 2 tested the limits of the officials and pushed well beyond them at times. The two teams committed 51 personal fouls, nine technical fouls and, for good measure, one flagrant.
A lopsided scoreboard didn't help matters, but it had to be disconcerting for Bulls fans to see both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson jettisoned to the locker room with early fourth-quarter ejections.
Tom Thibodeau's team likes to scrap and test the physical and mental toughness of opponents. The Bulls hit, but the Heat hit back harder and far more frequently.
The result was a horrendous showing in all aspects of the game. Chicago allowed Miami to shoot 60.0 percent from the field for the game, and the Bulls managed just 35.5 percent on the other end.
Winner: Klay Thompson
A Warriors guard erupted for 34 points in a team-high 47 minutes, hitting 13-of-26 shots from the field and 8-of-9 three-point attempts.
Had to be Stephen Curry, right?
Wrong. His backcourt mate, Klay Thompson, unleashed an offensive barrage from the perimeter, shaking off two weeks of shooting struggles in the process.
Thompson entered the contest having hit just five of his last 28 three-point attempts (with no makes to show for his 10 tries over the last two games), then surpassed that total before the second quarter finished. He poured in 29 points in the first half, burying 7-of-8 attempts from outside.
But he was hardly a one-half performer. The 6'7" shooting guard tracked down a game-high 14 rebounds and padded his stat line with three thefts. Most importantly, he helped keep Tony Parker's production in check (20 points, 7-of-17 shooting, three turnovers).
Curry's been the media darling of this postseason, and he's got the gaudy numbers to back up that status. That said, Thompson's built for these kind of game-changing performances too, and he has given Mark Jackson a reliable defender on the perimeter.