2014 NBA Playoffs

NBA Playoffs 2014: Early Takeaways from Eastern Conference Results

Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) drives to the basket as Charlotte Bobcats' Chris Douglas-Roberts, left, during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bobcats 99-88. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky
Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

The first games are in for the Eastern Conference playoffs, and apparently home-court advantage is a myth this time of year.

The road team won three of the four contests Saturday and Sunday, with the solo victory from a better seed coming in Miami, where the Heat outlasted an overmatched Charlotte Bobcats squad. All that means is we could see a handful of long and exciting series as the momentum swings back and forth between the competing teams.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some early takeaways from the first batch of Eastern Conference playoff games.

 

Chicago Bulls Need a Fourth-Quarter Presence

Nam Y. Huh

The Chicago Bulls controlled the first three quarters of their game against the Washington Wizards and appeared well on their way to a victory when they held a double-digit point lead in the second half.

Then the fourth quarter started.

Washington outscored the Bulls 30-18 in the final 12 minutes, and Nene Hilario finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. Still, it was the lack of an elite, go-to scorer that hurt Chicago’s offense down the stretch when the Wizards’ defense clamped down.

Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald noted that many saw this problem coming:

The Chicago Bulls passed along some postgame quotes from coach Tom Thibodeau in which he blamed the defense in typical Thibs fashion but also acknowledged that his team needs to be better in the fourth quarter:

Look for the Bulls to come out with an extra level of intensity in Game 2 given the stakes. If they lose the first two games at home, they can almost forget about advancing to the next round, and they will respond in kind.

However, Chicago will have a hard time winning this series without a go-to scorer in the fourth quarter. Playoff games often come down to grinding half-court possessions in the final minutes, and the Bulls simply don’t have the one guy to make the one-on-one plays necessary to advance with Derrick Rose watching on the sidelines.

 

Indiana Pacers Have a Matchup Problem Down Low

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 11: Roy Hibbert #55 and David West #21 of the Indiana Pacers look on during the game against the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 11, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

Sure, the Indiana Pacers are the No. 1 seed in the East, but they have themselves a matchup problem in the No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks.

Paul Millsap and Pero Antic are the starting two big men for the Hawks, and both are capable of stretching the floor and hitting from behind the three-point line (they each hit two in Game 1). That forces David West and Roy Hibbert to leave their comfort zone closer to the basket on defense and defend the entire floor.

This is especially important in the case of Hibbert, who is known as a rim protector on the defensive end.

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 24: Paul George #24, Roy Hibbert #55 and David West #21 of the Indiana Pacers in a game against the Sacramento Kings on January 24, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Without Hibbert down low, point guard Jeff Teague eviscerated Indiana for 28 points, much of which came on penetration to the basket, and Atlanta grabbed nine offensive rebounds. It will be difficult for the two Indiana big men to handle these defensive assignments over the course of a long series.

 

Brooklyn Can’t Fast Forward to Miami Yet

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Brooklyn Nets controls the ball in the late stages against the Toronto Raptors in Game One of the NBA Eastern Conference play-off at the Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The N
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It may seem strange to talk about a No. 6 seed possibly overlooking a No. 3 seed, but when it was finalized that the Brooklyn Nets were playing the Toronto Raptors in Round 1, it seemed like everyone wanted to discuss the presumed second-round matchup between Brooklyn and Miami.

After all, the Nets swept the defending champs during the regular season, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have a number of thrilling playoff battles with LeBron James under their belt.

However, it was clear in Game 1 that the Toronto Raptors will hang with the Nets during the course of this series. The Nets won the game 94-87, but it was only after a late charge that they pulled away.

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19:  Greivis Vasquez #21 of the Toronto Raptors breaks around Paul Pierce #34 of the Brooklyn Nets in Game One of the NBA Eastern Conference play-off at the Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Nets defe
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Toronto’s defense will make life difficult for Brooklyn, much like it did in Game 1, if Pierce and company overlook the Raptors.

 

Miami Will Make Quick Work of Charlotte

Lynne Sladky

As if Charlotte didn’t have its back against the wall enough against Miami, superstar Al Jefferson aggravated his foot during the Game 1 loss. He played the majority of the game after leaving for a stretch, but he was also hobbled throughout.

All that means is that James and the rest of the Heat will make even quicker work of the overmatched Bobcats.

Charlotte hasn’t beaten Miami in a single game since James took his talents to South Beach, and it certainly isn’t going to if its one matchup advantage is injured. Throw in the fact that James typically dominates Charlotte (he scored 61 points against the Bobcats in one game this year), and this series will be over quickly.

 

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