The New York Knicks brought the intensity to their Game 2 battle with the Miami Heat, but the end, the Knicks lacked the backcourt balance in their offense and it appears at least one key player lacked some emotional balance at game’s end. TheSportsNotebook recaps the three games from Monday night in the NBA playoffs and looks ahead to three more on Tuesday…
Miami 104 New York 94: The fact the Knicks won the rebounding battle 40-33 tells you they brought the effort, and it was led by Carmelo Anthony who scored 30 and got nine boards to lead the team in both categories. Amare Stoudamire and Tyson Chandler each got seven boards apiece. But Miami was stronger everywhere else. They hit 52 percent from the floor, with Dwayne Wade’s 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting being the biggest reason why. They got some key production from the bench, as both Mike Miller and Shane Battier came out and went 3-of-5 from behind the arc. It left Stoudamire so frustrated that at game’s end he punched through the glass of a fire extinguisher. Conjuring up memories of Yankee pitcher Kevin Brown in 2004, who broke his hand against a wall after a bad start, Stoudamire left the arena with his hand wrapped and his status uncertain for Game 3. Give the Knicks’ key players credit for the effort, but without a good backcourt you can’t play really good team defense and the combination of Wade, plus the surprise three-point bombings from the bench, showed that.
Indiana 93 Orlando 78: Indiana trailed by a point when they finally seemed to figure out they needed to attack the boards. David West ended the game with 11 rebounds. Roy Hibbert finished with 13, although the big center still doesn’t want to assert himself offensive—either that or the team doesn’t him to. Either way, it’s a mistake. But Indiana’s rebounding and defense made up for a bad shooting night. The Magic guards, so productive in the Game 1 upset, combined to shoot less than 30 percent from the floor, and Glen Davis shot just 5-of-16 from his power forward spot.
Oklahoma City 102 Dallas 99: The number that stands out in the team stats is that the Mavericks were 5-of-23 from three-point range and the memory is Dirk Nowitzki getting the ball wide open from three, his team up 97-96. He spotted up, had enough time to evaluate the basketball and maybe sign a few autographs. The launch was sure to be the backbreaker that would give Dallas a road win. Instead it bounced harmlessly off the rim and Oklahoma City prevailed. Kevin Durant didn’t shoot well, but he got to the line repeatedly, where he converted 14-of-16. As valuable as the three-point shot can be, there’s no substitute when you’re not connecting. With Durant, his ability to create activity around him kept him flush with scoring chances. And in the backcourt Russell Westbrook’s 10-of-21 shooting night contrasted sharply with the Maverick trio of Jason Kidd, Delonte West and Jason Terry only making 4 of 15 treys.
Three games go tonight…
*Boston-Atlanta: Rajon Rondo will be suspended for his bumping of a ref at the end of Game 1. As a Celtics fan, the suspension was deserved, and if we lose the series because of it, the person to blame is the player, for letting his team down, and not the league office. Ray Allen is still listed as doubtful with the ankle injury. So it comes down to this—has Atlanta achieved the maturity level necessary to not back down, and make sure to handle a team that will bring an A-grade effort—Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will move heaven and earth to try and even this series—but does not have the talent to win if Atlanta’s ready.
*Philadelphia-Chicago: We already know the Bulls can play well without Derrick Rose, at least against a team like the 76ers. We have to watch for more intangible factors tonight—when the team carried on without their r star during the regular season it was in anticipation of having him rested and healthy right now. How do they respond now?
*LA Clippers-Memphis: Let’s continue our theme of mental response on Tuesday night, from Atlanta to Chicago and now to Memphis. Do the Grizzlies roll over after blowing the 27-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 1 at home? Or do they realize that they can’t get outrebounded again, bring max intensity to even the series and vow to themselves that they can get homecourt advantage back when the series reverts west? The talent is still there. There was no reason to think, in general, that the Clippers couldn’t get one win on the road, while Memphis still won the series. If that’s the Grizzlies’ mindset, they can bounce back. If they feel like they gave a shot at the Finals, this potentially good series can get away early.