The first round of the NBA playoffs was something akin to April Madness, and now the calendar has flipped to May and the incredible five Game 7s are in the rearview mirror, basketball fans are ready to do it all over again in Round 2.
It is worth checking out an updated bracket just to keep everything straight, and that can be found right here.
There are two games on the agenda for Tuesday, and here is a look at the broadcast and pertinent information for each:
|Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat||7 p.m.||TNT|
|Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
Tuesday’s Game of the Day: Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat, Game 1
Everyone’s favorite stat in the series between the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat will be the fact that the Nets went 4-0 against LeBron James and Co. during the regular season. At least it will be everyone’s favorite stat until the Heat win a couple of games and set the tone in the series early.
How much stock you put into the regular-season sweep is up to you, especially since Miami seemed to coast a bit during the campaign, but Brooklyn certainly has the talent on paper to make this a series.
The Nets also thrived under pressure in the first round, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
Jason Kidd is the 19th first-year head coach to appear in a Game 7 on the road and the first to win, according to @EliasSports.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 5, 2014
If the Nets hope to replicate their success against Miami in the postseason, they will have to slow the games down and limit the Heat in transition. The following stats are all courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, and they help paint a compelling picture and something of a blueprint for how to at least contain James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Brooklyn held the Heat to nearly 5.5 fewer possessions per game than they registered against all other teams, held them to nearly seven fewer points per 100 possessions and to a mere 8.5 fast-break points and 3.8 second-chance points per game, which is significantly lower than their averages against the rest of the league.
Of course, preventing James and the rest of the Heat from getting out in transition is much easier said than done in the playoffs, but if there is one team that can do it, it may just be the Nets.
Another intriguing subplot in this series is the rivalry between Paul Pierce and James. Tuesday will be the 60th time the two have matched up in the playoffs and regular season combined. Pierce and the Boston Celtics also knocked James out of the playoffs twice when was in Cleveland, once in 2008 en route to Boston's title, and again in 2010 before James became a free agent. However, Pierce is yet to defeat James in a postseason series since he took his talents to South Beach.
There may not be much love lost there, but there is mutual respect, as evidenced by this quote passed along by Ethan J. Skolnick of Turner Sports:
Pierce: "I rank LeBron as 1 of the greatest players 2 ever play the game.... He's the ultimate challenge."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 4, 2014
It’s not much of a leap to say Pierce is past his prime, but look for him to bring just a bit of extra energy to the table for another matchup with James. The fact that the former Celtic is cast in the underdog role now will certainly provide even more motivation.
Despite Brooklyn’s regular-season success and Pierce’s history with James, the Heat will win Game 1.
Who wins Game 1?
The Nets are coming off a grueling seven-game battle with the Toronto Raptors, and asking them to go into Miami against the defending champions 48 hours later will be a bit too demanding. The well-rested Heat will jump on Brooklyn early and ride that momentum to a fairly straightforward win.
James and Wade will be itching to play after so much time off, and the Nets won’t have any consistent answers on the defensive end.
This will still be a tightly fought series because of Brooklyn’s ability to slow the game down against Miami, but the Nets won’t be able to bounce back from the taxing Toronto series quickly enough to steal Game 1 on the road.
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