2014 NBA Playoffs: Recapping Wednesday, April 23 1st-Round Action
There are three games left to play on Wednesday evening before the NBA playoff teams switch venues for Game 3.
Here's what Tuesday's slate of games looks like:
- Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat: 7 p.m. ET, TNT (Heat lead series, 1-0)
- Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs: 8 p.m. ET, NBA TV (Spurs lead series, 1-0)
- Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT (Blazers lead series, 1-0)
Coming into Wednesday, four of the five playoff series were tied at a game apiece. Dallas made that five by crushing the Spurs in Game 2.
But Miami bucked the trend by defeating Charlotte, 101-97, and Portland capped off the night by beating the Rockets for the second time in their own building. They joined the Washington Wizards as the only teams with a 2-0 series lead.
East: No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats vs. No. 2 Miami Heat
Miami Heat 101, Charlotte Bobcats 97—Miami leads series, 2-0
The Miami Heat held off a furious charge from the Charlotte Bobcats to take Game 2 on Wednesday night, 101-97.
Much of the pre-game speculation centered around the health and effectiveness of Bobcats big man Al Jefferson, who is suffering from plantar fasciitis.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel writer Ira Winderman gauged Jefferson's fitness as he warmed up with Bobcats assistant coach Patrick Ewing: "Al Jefferson showed in pregame warmup sessions he's better than Patrick Ewing. Of course, Ewing is 51."
Unfortunately for Bobcats fans, Jefferson couldn't even make it through the first quarter before heading back to the locker room.
"He said it felt like it ripped a little bit more," coach Steve Clifford said of Jefferson's foot injury, per ESPN.
Jefferson did come back in the second quarter, but he was largely ineffective, scoring just six points in the first half on 3-of-10 shooting.
The Heat, meanwhile, put 57 points on the tough Bobcats' D in the first half thanks to a typically dominant performance from LeBron James (18 points) and an atypically dominant performance from Mario Chalmers (11 points).
Just when Jefferson and the Bobcats seemed finished, however, they stormed back in the third quarter, closing the gap to seven. The Charlotte big man played one of the guttiest quarters of basketball in recent history, with 10 points and six rebounds in 11 minutes.
The Bobcats gave Miami everything it could handle late in the fourth quarter, but the Heat managed to hold on. Chris Douglas-Roberts had a chance to bring Charlotte even, but bricked a late three-pointer. A rough foul from Josh McRoberts put James on the line, but he missed a free throw, and Miami turned the ball over on the following possession.
Down four, Charlotte's Kemba Walker hit a miraculous three to put the pressure on Miami. But James hit two free throws, and the Heat defense suffocated Charlotte on the final play of the game.
LeBron James, Heat: 32 PTS, 6 REB, 8 AST, 4 STL
Dwyane Wade, Heat: 15 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST
Chris Bosh, Heat: 20 PTS, 5 REB
Al Jefferson, Bobcats: 18 PTS, 13 REB
Kemba Walker, Bobcats: 16 PTS, 3 REB, 8 AST
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: 22 PTS, 10 REB, 2 AST
The series will shift to Charlotte for Game 3 on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Miami will be looking to close out this series as soon as possible to get their veterans—particularly Dwyane Wade—some much needed rest. Losing even one game in Charlotte would likely be viewed as a disappointment.
As for the Bobcats, they should head home with their heads held high. The injury to Jefferson ended whatever faint hopes they had of making this a real series, but the underdog Bobcats still went toe-to-toe with the defending champs on their home court for two games. Hopefully the fans in Charlotte give their boys a standing ovation, regardless of the final result.
West: No. 8 Dallas Mavericks vs. No. 1 San Antonio Spurs
Dallas Mavericks 113, San Antonio Spurs 92—Series tied, 1-1
The Dallas Mavericks put their late-game collapse in Game 1 behind them, throttling the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, 113-92.
Dallas may have been one of the poorer defensive teams in the league during the regular season (ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency, per Basketball-Reference), but it turned up the heat on San Antonio on Wednesday right from the outset.
The Mavericks forced the Spurs into their sloppiest half in quite a long time, per ESPN Stats & Info: "The Spurs already have 15 turnovers tonight. That's their most in the first half of a game in the last 5 seasons, including playoffs."
Offensively, Dallas relied on an unlikely scoring source in Shawn Marion. The veteran forward, who averaged 10.4 points per game during the regular season, chipped in 13 points in the first half, tying Monta Ellis for the team lead.
But the Spurs closed the second quarter on a 10-0 run, shrinking a 15-point lead to five at the break. The fans in San Antonio had to be feeling good about their team's chances of taking the game in the second half.
The Mavericks did not let that happen. Point guard Jose Calderon caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 12 points and dishing three assists. Spurs sixth man Manu Ginobili tried to keep pace, with 10 third-quarter points, but San Antonio continued to cough up the ball and Dallas kept taking advantage.
By the fourth quarter, the Mavericks held a 20-point lead on San Antonio. Any hopes for another miraculous late-game comeback were dashed when coach Gregg Popovich removed his starters with more than five minutes remaining.
Manu Ginobili, Spurs: 27 PTS, 4 AST, 6 TO
Tony Parker, Spurs: 12 PTS, 3 AST, 3 TO
Tim Duncan, Spurs: 11 PTS, 7 REB
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks: 16 PTS, 5 REB
Monta Ellis, Mavericks: 21 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST
Shawn Marion, Mavericks: 20 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 3 STL
The series will shift to Dallas for Game 3 on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
The Mavericks have to be feeling good about themselves right now. Not only did they reclaim home-court advantage, but they did so despite star forward Dirk Nowitzki shooting 33 percent from the field in the series' first two games.
Of course, Dallas will need more from its undisputed MVP throughout the rest of the series if it is to continue shocking the basketball world.
The veteran Spurs will not panic, of course, but should they? Dallas has been the better team for seven of the eight quarters of this series.
The good news for San Antonio fans is that the Spurs will not be intimidated by playing on the road—they took both games played in Dallas this season.
West: No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers at No. 4 Houston Rockets
Portland Trail Blazers 112, Houston Rockets 105—Portland leads series, 2-0
Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 43 points to lead his team to its second straight road win over the Houston Rockets.
The first half of this game was a titanic clash of big men between Houston's Dwight Howard and Aldridge. They may not defend each other—Howard plays center and gets his points at the rim, Aldridge is a power forward, and gets most of his point via the jumper—but they carried their respective teams.
Howard drew first blood with an amazing 19 first-quarter points as the Rockets opened up a nine-point lead. He showed off the total package, even chipped in a gorgeous dish to a wide-open Patrick Beverley for a three-pointer.
But the Blazers were able to draw even by halftime thanks to the efforts of Aldridge, who had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting at the break.
Portland took a six-point lead in the third quarter as Howard went ice-cold (one point, 0-of-2 shooting). Aldridge continued to decimate the Rockets, with another 16 points in the frame.
Portland looked to have the game well in hand in the fourth quarter, leading 102-93 with three minutes remaining. But Aldridge seemed to run out of gas, missing two jumpers and turning the ball over, and Houston closed the deficit to four.
Unfortunately for the hometown fans, Houston cracked under the pressure, committing a flurry of mental mistakes in the final minute. They forgot to pick up Wesley Matthews, leading to an uncontested layup. They fouled Damian Lillard (87.1 free-throw percentage) unnecessarily. And they freelanced a brutal offensive possession which ended in a James Harden charge.
Dwight Howard, Rockets: 32 PTS, 14 REB
James Harden, Rockets: 18 PTS, 3 REB, 4 AST, 6 PF
Chandler Parsons, Rockets: 15 PTS, 7 REB
LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers 43 PTS, 8 REB
Damian Lillard, Blazers: 18 PTS, 8 REB, 11 AST
The series will shift to Portland for Game 3 on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
The Rockets will need to find some way to slow down Aldridge, who is having a historic series. Per ESPN Stats & Info, he is the third player in NBA history to score 40 points in back-to-back road playoff games, joining Michael Jordan and Tracy McGrady.
In his postgame interview with TNT, Aldridge declared "We're always the underdog." They will need to keep that attitude when they return to Portland. The Rockets are still an incredibly talented team, and the Blazers will want to play with the same kind of precision and intensity they showed in the first two games if it wants to continue its success.