2011 NBA Playoffs: A Look at Each Second-Round Series After 2 Games
Generally, in the NBA you have an idea of how a series is going to go after two games. There are only so many adjustments that can be made, and after two games, most coaches have adjusted as much as they intend to.
It's the reason that only three teams have won a best of seven series after losing the first two games.
The Lakers and Celtics hope to become teams four and five to come back after being down two games to none, while the Thunder and Bulls hope to reclaim home court advantage on the road against teams that have yet to lose at home in these playoffs.
The Bulls and Thunder, both of whom lost Game 1 at home, face only slightly better odds as the team that wins Game 1 of a series wins the series 78 percent of the time, but the Bulls were 11 games above .500 on the road during the regular season, and the Thunder were nine games above .500.
Each team also won a game on the road in Round 1.
The Mavericks have looked like the best team in the second round going to Los Angeles and beating the Lakers twice, which hasn't happened in quite a few years. In doing so, the Mavericks have made the Lakers look desperate and old, just like the Grizzlies did to the Spurs in the first round, and they have to feel confident that they can sweep this series.
The Hawks and Grizzlies hope that the clock doesn't strike midnight on their "cinderella" runs, more Memphis than Atlanta, and each needs to return to Game 1 form as they go home and try to forget Game 2.
The Heat did what they were supposed to do in Games 1 and 2, but now the series shifts to Boston, and everything changes in Boston.
Here's a closer look at each series.
The Heat Have the Celtics Right Where They Want Them.
The Celtics have filled the airwaves with all of the rhetoric and cliches they can since going down 0-2 to the Heat. Yes, the Heat only did what they were supposed to do in winning Games 1 and 2, but what the Celtics aren't saying is that they gave the Heat their best shot and the Heat rather easily won the first two games.
You could especially see in Game 2 that the Celtics desperately wanted to win to even the series. But they were unable to impose their will on the Heat, and they resorted to trying to draw silly fouls and taking bad shots after completely coming apart in Game 1.
Is Shaq really the difference? I doubt it.
The fact is, the Celtics are getting everything they want offensively. They're just missing shots, while Wade and James are doing whatever they want on offense and taking advantage of the Celtics miscues to find wide open jump shooters.
Will Shaq help protect the paint? Possibly a little, but his real impact will come on the boards as he will protect against those offensive rebounds the Heat seem to be getting.
The Celtics have complained loudly about the free-throw discrepancy, and it is a legitimate complaint as they were out-shot 32-18 in Game 1 and 34-22 in Game 2. Only two other teams have shot more than 30 free throws in the second round, the Grizzlies and Thunder in Game 2 of their series, and no team enjoys a bigger discrepancy in free-throw attempts than the Heat who shoot an average of 13 more free throws through two games.
The next closest advantage in free throws attempted is five...by the Atlanta Hawks. The Mavericks have actually been out-shot at the free-throw line by the Lakers.
That is an absurd number, to be sure, but many of those are the Celtics playing dumb or taking cheap shots at the Heat trying to bait them in to something stupid and the Heat have resisted the urge to retaliate.
Let's not fool ourselves, though, you figure that discrepancy ends on Saturday, and you have to wonder how the Heat will react to not getting those ticky-tack touch fouls called that they got in the first two games, and if the steady parade of trips to the free-throw line for the Heat ends, how do they compensate?
They aren't shooting particularly well in the series, and it will be interesting to see if they avoid reacting the way the Celtics did if the shots aren't going down, and they aren't getting the benefit of the free points they've been getting through two games.
The key is to remember that the pressure is all on the Celtics. The worst thing that can happen to the Heat is they go back home after the next two games tied. Neither of these games counts for more than one, and after they are done the Heat go back home.
If the Heat forget that, they risk giving the Celtics their confidence back going in to Game 5.
This Is Not Last Year's Lakers Team
Suddenly the Lakers look like the Lakers of four years ago, with Kobe having to take 20 or 30 shots for the Lakers to even have a chance. What's worse is that the Mavericks are shooting 45 percent from the field while the Lakers are at 39 percent.
Dirk Nowitzki has yet to even be slowed down as he's gotten whatever he wants whenever he wants it. Neither Andrew Bynum nor Pau Gasol can get anything down low. The Laker bench is terrible with Lamar Odom and Steve Blake combining to shoot 8-of-28 (and only Odom has made a shot), and no one on the Laker bench has hit a shot from three point land.
Worst of all, the franchise killer, Ron Artest is out of control.
You have to wonder about Phil Jackson's reasons for having Artest on the court in the final seconds of a blowout, especially when you consider that nothing good ever happens in those scenarios.
Now the Lakers are down 2-0 going to Dallas, and they have yet to show that they are capable of beating the Mavericks anywhere, but especially not in the Dallas's home stadium. You've heard the cliche's from them too, as well as all of the analysts, who tell you that the Lakers are champions not to fall asleep on them, but those were last year's Lakers. This year's Lakers look old, slow and uncaring...like the Spurs in Round 1.
Someone asked if the Grizzlies upset of San Antonio was the end of an era for them, and I find it strange that no one is asking the same questions of the Lakers. Not since the Spurs swept Los Angeles out of the playoffs in 1999 has a team won consecutive games in L.A. (though the Pistons came close in the 2003 NBA Finals), and is there really any reason to believe that won't be happening again?
The most interesting thing is the Mavericks playing defense. If I would have told you at the beginning of the series that one team would impose it's will inside, control the rebounds and have an unstoppable superstar scoring at will, you would have said Lakers but you, and I, would have been wrong.
Dallas has controlled the last six quarters of basketball, and you begin to understand why Mark Cuban, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion called Tyson Chandler the MVP of the Mavericks.
If you're the Lakers you have to go back to the basics, take it one game at a time. That's Game 3, and in Game 3, they need the bench to show up and contribute, which could be difficult if Odom starts since he is the bench scoring in L.A.
They need Gasol and Bynum to be the best post combination in the NBA, and they need Kobe to be able to rest instead of take 27 shots again.
If they don't get those things, they'll be down 3-0.
Jamal Crawford Is Wrong, the Hawks Are Not OK.
After Game 2, a game the Hawks lost by 13, Jamal Crawford told reporters that if they had just seen the Bulls best then they were OK.
Well they haven't seen the Bulls best, and they aren't OK.
The Hawks are a good team with great players, but they won Game 1 because they shot 51 percent from the field, including 12-of-18 and 34 points from Joe Johnson, and out-rebounded the Bulls by one.
Most of those shots were bad shots taken early in the clock or with hands in their faces. When they go in, especially in the playoffs, you tend to forget they are bad shots. When they don't, like with three minutes to go in Game 2, and you've just cut the Bulls 14-point lead to six, they tend to stand out more.
In Game 1 the Hawks out hustled the Bulls on the boards, which is more about the Bulls being lethargic than Atlanta hustling. The Hawks haven't really done anything to beat the Bulls. They played sloppy offense and passive defense on the perimeter, their trademark throughout the season.
Their shooters were just able to compensate by hitting terrible shots. So Jamal Crawford's statement was right, he was just the wrong person saying it.
Derrick Rose should have said it after Game 1.
The Hawks aren't going to shoot 50 percent from the field four out of seven games against the Bulls, and they aren't going to out hustle the Bulls again. They need to play smart, take good shots, aggressively get to the rim and play physical.
That isn't what they did in Game 1. The truth is that the Hawks played their best game already.
If you're a Bulls fan, you have to wonder if Rose isn't hurt more than he's letting on. He seems tentative going to the basket, like he did after Dwight Howard injured him twice last season.
He's done a very good job of finding the hot hand and keeping his teammates involved, but he needs to be able to convert at the rim, which he hasn't been doing through two games.
You have to feel good about Joakim Noah against Josh Smith though. Smith and Noah are each team's emotional leader, and Smith is prone to getting out of the game early if you can frustrate him. Noah spent all of Game 2 under Smith's skin, and you figure it could be the start of a trend if Larry Drew continues to start Josh Smith at power forward.
By the way, Bulls fan, that Smith-Noah matchup is only available because Carlos Boozer is on the court. Boozer draws the better interior defender because he is the better scorer, and the constant attention he garners inside is what frees Noah up to be a general menace to the Hawks front line.
I know you expected 21-10 from him, but watch the game through different eyes, and you'll actually see that Boozer is doing what he got paid for, drawing double teams in the post. Sure, it would be nice if he scored a few more, but the important thing is freeing Noah up, which he is doing.
The bottom line is that the Hawks need to make adjustments despite going home tied.
The Thunder Need to Find a Way for Westbrook and Durant to Coexist
The Grizzlies have been my favorite team to watch so far in the playoffs as they are just so fundamentally sound. They play excellent defense on the perimeter with Tony Allen and Shane Battier, and Zach Randolph has been unstoppable.
They are averaging 9.5 steals per game and seven blocks against a very efficient Thunder team, and they are forcing the issue and getting to the free-throw line 31 times a game. Those are the recipes for success, and through two games they've played perfectly, with the exception of a few too many turnovers in Game 2.
The key is Kevin Durant. No one can really stop him. No one except Russell Westbrook that is.
Watching these two play all season, I've thought two things. The first is that Westbrook's penetrating ability and abilities on defense are the perfect compliment for Durant. The second is that Westbrook needs to stop freezing Durant out of the offense in late game situations.
For the Thunder, Durant is key, and as he goes so go the Thunder. Westbrook, as the point guard, is the only player that can stop Durant, and he does quite frequently. It's like watching the Lakers in the final season of the Kobe-Shaq era when Kobe would be a ball stopper for large portions of the game, then sulk and pout and refuse to shoot when he got called out for it.
In Game 1, Westbrook shot 2-for-7 in the fourth quarter, taking more shots than Durant and largely missing down the stretch. Game 2, 1-for-4, still out shooting Durant. That is not the recipe for success.
Yes they won Game 2, but that was more James Harden and Eric Maynor off the bench doing that, and at times you could see Westbrook seem to lob easy passes in Durant's direction as if he didn't care.
It makes me wonder how long this relationship can last, and whether the Thunder shouldn't look to move Westbrook out of town.
For Memphis, despite their fantastic defense, they cannot survive games that Randolph scores less than 25, which could be a problem as the series goes on. Kendrick Perkins is a big, physical defender, and the more Randolph goes to the post, the more of a beating he will take.
You wonder if Randolph can handle that kind of seven-game series or if he won't start looking to move away from the basket where he is less effective. Despite Randolph's size, you figure that the longer this series goes, the better it is for the Thunder as most of Marc Gasol's scoring comes because Randolph garners so much attention, so he isn't likely to take too much pressure off of Randolph.
This is the series to watch as the others seem to be pretty straight forward.
Second Round After Game 2 Predictions
After two games it seems that most of the series are easy to project.
Bulls in six: I said five to start the series, but I wasn't expecting the Hawks to win Game 1. That will add momentum that will enable the Hawks to get one of the weekend games, but they haven't done anything to show they can consistently beat the Bulls defense and not beat themselves.
Basically, if the shots aren't falling they are in trouble, because they aren't going to stop taking the bad ones and look for the good ones.
Dallas in six: I'll be honest, I really want to say that Dallas sweeps, and I don't see the Lakers winning two games in the series, but I suppose I have to factor that Heart of a Champion nonsense.
Personally, I think the Mavericks will be done with this series early next week. The Lakers need to stop worrying about Dirk and stop everyone else.
Heat and Celtics go to seven: It's difficult to say the Heat win the series at this point, but having Game 7 at home will be an advantage for them.
As I said, it seems unlikely that the Heat will enjoy such a large free-throw advantage in Boston, which may lead to them losing their cool as Wade has become one of the biggest whiners in the league, and James has always looked sideways at officials when he doesn't get calls.
It will be interesting to see how Shaq helps, or not, but this one is too close to call. If Boston wins the next two, you figure they will have gained all of the confidence they lost in Games 1 & 2.
Thunder in seven: I think the Game 3 winner wins this series. If Memphis wins, they will be invincible in Game 4. If the Thunder win, they will have taken back home court, and that will just extend the series, which benefits the Thunder.
This series is way to close to call, however, and I won't be surprised either way. I'll definitely be watching though.
You should probably watch too.