The 2011 NBA Playoffs may be just one day old, but we’ve already learned a lot of valuable information.
The Chicago Bulls trailed for all but one minute but used a 16-1 run at the end of the ballgame to take Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers.
MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose had 39 points to pace the Bulls, and Luol Deng added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough and Darren Collison showed they weren’t going away, though. Those three players caused fits all afternoon for the hometown Bulls, but it just wasn’t enough against the league’s best team.
What did we learn? The Bulls are going to be vulnerable against a more quality opponent. The Pacers won just 37 games this season, and yet, they dominated almost every part of today’s game. Things simply won’t be the same when the Bulls face a much tougher opposition in the second round and a potential meeting with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
All-Star caliber forward Carlos Boozer was nowhere to be found, and Joakim Noah managed just 10 points inside against Roy Hibbert. Chicago’s too talented to lose to this mediocre Pacers’ bunch, but buyers beware for those thinking the Bulls are bringing a title back to the Windy City.
The 76ers held their own, but The Big Three (LeBron, Wade and Bosh scored 63 points) were way too talented and experienced for the young Philly squad.
The veteran Elton Brand played a nice game for the visitors, and until the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech-product Thaddeus Young struggled, shooting just 5-for-16 until hitting some acrobatic shots. Late surges against the Heat have been common this season, and today was nothing different.
The 76ers cut the lead to one point at 88-87 but could never get over the hump. LeBron and Wade weren’t exceptional today, but they got some solid contributions from Zydrunas Illgauskas and James Jones to put the No. 2-seeded Heat up 1-0 in the best of seven series.
What did we learn? The Heat can beat you in a lot of different ways. Even when they aren’t hitting their outside shots (4-for-17 today), they are playing tough defense and scoring the ball off the dribble and inside the paint. They also outrebounded the 76ers 52-39.
That being said, another late-game collapse shows that maybe this isn’t a fluke. The difference was at the free-throw line, where the 76ers attempted just 15 to the Heat’s 39. In any case, the Heat got a much-needed first “W” in their quest for a championship with the Big Three onboard.
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