BULLS/HEAT (Game 1): Bulls 96- Heat 91
- Bulls seemingly in control all game were suddenly in trouble after Wade got back to '06 mode late in the 4th. They finally held Miami off to secure Game 1. Not sure how the Bulls should feel about the win. Hinrich was in foul trouble, but so was Shaq & Wade.
- But the Bulls could never pull away from Miami because of their jumpshot-centric offense. They hit well from the field in the 3rd, but they went a little cold in the 4th, and this allowed the Heat to chip away. All this jumpshoting also keeps them off the foul line where they can pick up easy points.
- Noce was a great spark off the bench with 17 pts. He mixes up jumpshot-happy Bulls' offense with his helter-skelter drives. Deng was the man for the Bulls with 33 & 8 on his usual efficient shooting (14/22). He could be the go-to -guy his series since the Heat seem to have no matchup for him. Gordon hepled out with 24, 11, & 7 rbs. But he did mix in some terribly forced shots & a handful of TOs.
-Big Ben did solid job on Shaq pushing him out of deep position & maybe most important selling a couple fouls on Shaq that were dubious. But even more important than Big Ben's defense was rookie Thabo Sefolosha defense on Wade. His length gave Wade fits & really shut down his effective in the mid-part of the game.
- Heat came with the right gameplan to establish Shaq in the low block. And Shaq was pretty dominant early finishing in the painted area. But he eventually was sidetracked by foul trouble, and he really never regained his early game production. And maybe he never should have been in foul trouble since 2 of the fouls were bogus.
- Wade came out pretty effective, but he really hit a wall in the mid-part of the game. A fair amount had to do with Sefolosha's long-limbed defense, but it also looked like Wade was out of gas. He definitely was lacking his normal explosion all game, he was severely lacking on defense. And seemed to have some issues handling the ball. But then he went into '06 mode in the 4th. Hitting crazy shots off the glass & was the key for cutting the game to 1.
- Ant Walker did a pretty solid job--drilled his outside shots, and drew some fouls off the bounce. Although the rest of the supporting cast left a lot to be desired. Their aging vets were non-existant--Payton is done, Ed Jones & Alonzo were unproductive.
- The Heat have to keep trying to pound the ball into Shaq early & often. It might be a good idea that Shaq avoid going for charges. Riley has to figure out the right andedote for Deng. Maybe play Posey more or even go with Haslem or Walker on Deng since you don't have to worry about PJ Brown that much on offense. Bulls need as much Nocioni as they can get because his drives bring much needed variety to the offense.
NETS/RAPS (Game 1): Nets 96- Raps 91
- Nets almost got done in by their patented shaky late-game execution--almost. Thought I was witnessing another NJ late-game collapse but Boci Nachbar stuck a huge 3pter. to stop a Raps' rally & push the game to a 4-point difference.
-Kidd had a tremendous floor game. Led some nice transition plays usually finding Jefferson--one bounce pass in particular that led to a 3-point play had eyes. He helped spark a big 8-0 run in the 3rd after the Raps had a 9-0 run to start the 3rd. What makes Kidd so effective in transition is his rebounding ability which allows him to just get the ball & go in one motion--Kidd had 10 rebs, to go along with 8 pts, 15 assts, 2 stls & only 2 TOs.
- Not too surprised that Vince fell back into "fadeaway jumpshot mode". Vince ended up shooting 5/19, But he did sort of redeem himself by making a few drives late & hit some key free throws. Jefferson took up Carter's slack by emerging as the #1 option--Richard was huge with 28 on 11/21 shooting. He could be the wild card in this series since the Raps SF position is shaky with Garbajosa on the shelf. Wasn't sure how healty RJ would be, but he looked pretty effective in the open floor to me. Boci Nachbar also gave the Nets a huge punch off the bench not only with some timely shooting but with his underrated finishing ability. Thought this guy should have been getting more burn this year after watching him in the Worlds this summer & he has really stepped up all year. What caught me off guard while watching him play for Slovenia was how athletic he was.
- Bosh looked indecisive in his offensive moves all game long. I think this aided the Nets' bigs to challenge his shots easier. The Nets' defense as a whole was pretty good, and were successful with mixing up their looks. Went underneath pick/rolls on Ford, Ford did hit some jumpers (8/13 for 21 pts), but sagging off him is the right formula.
- Only reason that the Raps were close was because of the play of battle-tested Euroleague vets. Ant Parker stroked some huge 3pts. in the 2nd half, and Calderon was the impetus for their 4th quarter run. Parker finished with 16 (4/7 from 3pt.), 9 rebs, & 3 stls. Calderon was super productive in only 21 minutes--13 pts, 8 assts, 1 TO, & 2 big 3pts. Their production should not be surprising since both are no strangers to going deep into playoffs situations oversees--Calderon with the Spanish National Team & Parker leading Maccabi to multiple Euroleague titles.
- In Game 2, the Raps have to get Bosh in good scoring positions, and he has to be more forceful with his moves. Maybe a little more Calderon would do the trick as well--he's just seems to spark the offense better than Ford sometimes. For Nets it's no secret that they will hope that Vince decides to drive the ball with aggression And just keep their focus on being consistent offensively down the stretch.
ROCKETS/JAZZ (Game 1): Rockets 84- Jazz 75
- Rockets were having a hell of a time trying to find their collective shooting touch in the 1st half. While the Jazz were getting plently of looks that they wanted; the Jazz defense was somewhat outplaying the vaunted Rockets' defense in the 1st half. But the fortunes started to reverse in the 2nd half. The Rockets started take over in the 3rd when they started clicking from the outside, especially McGrady. It coincided with their defense locking down Utah--the Jazz were held to 33 pts in the half, & 11 pts in the 3rd.
- I was sort of surprised Yao had 28 pts at game's end. Felt like he was struggling a bit, but he went 12/14 from the line, and that can fool you into thinking he's having a quiet game. Actually he made more of an impression on the defensive end. Intereseting strategy to put Yao on Boozer a lot, but it was a effective move. Boozer was often forced away from the basket & he was having to arc his shot up higher than usual which might have played a factor in an un-Boozer-like 4/17 from the field. Also, the Rockets put the clamps down on Memo as well--the Jazz frontline shot a combined 6/31 overall.
- The only Jazz starter who played well was Deron Williams with 15, 9 rbs, 9 assts, & 3 stls. Like I've mentioned before love his cool demeanor, and the way he runs the Jazz offense. Didn't shoot the long ball well, but he did every else right. Harpring was the only other Jazz of note. Brought his usual toughness of the pine for 14 & 8. One of the more underrated bench players in the league.
- The Jazz have to find a way to get Kirilenko involved. Most importantly, Sloan has to be prepared to put him on TMac because he's his best option. Fisher can't be asked to check him. Put Fisher on Battier, or just plan to play Harpring more to guard Battier. Boozer has to look to use the dribble if Yao continues to check him.
PISTONS/MAGIC (GAME 1): Pistons 100- Magic 92:
- Orlando stuck around all game and made this a lot more intriguing than expected. Who knows, if the Magic didn't miss 18 free throws & turn the ball over 21 times, they might of pulled off a shocker.
- The 21 TOs are not really surprising--the Magic are one of the worst in the NBA. Not surprising the Pistons only turned it over 11 times--best in the NBA at taking care of ball. Shooting 18/36 from the foul line is not really acceptable. The biggest culprit of Orlando's woes, was Dwight. This is not surprising to me since I'm well acquainted with Dwight's foibles with TOs & FTs from my fantasy team; the TOs just got out of hand this year. But you sort of live with it since he brings in the rebs, blocks & shooting %--Dwight had 13, 19 rebs, & 3 blks in Game 1.
- Hedo was the hot hand for the Magic, and was raining tough jumpers all day. And how bout Darko. Darko came out with some fire vs. his old squad. His aggressiveness paid off for 14 pts on 5/6 and a nice presence in the painted area.
- Not really sure I can explain why the Pistons didn't win with ease. I guess letting the Magic shoot 58% from the floor & putting them on the line 36 times was not a good idea. But while watching the game it seemed like Detroit was playing pretty good defense. The Pistons had all starters in double figures, and both Billups & Rip put up 22 pts. Chauncey was his usual steady, heady self--dropped 11 dimes.
- Have to appreciate the effort from Orlando. If they could just cut down on the turnovers maybe they could steal a game or two.