Apr 30, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard George Hill (3) celebrates against the Orlando Magic during the second half of game two in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Orlando 93-78. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Playoffs: First Round - Day 3

Man, there’s some major chokage happening in the playoffs this year. We saw Indiana get smoked at home to Orlando on Saturday, followed by Dallas blowing a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter against OKC; then Memphis dropped the ball against LAC, also blowing a considerable lead that cost them the game on their home court; and tonight, Dallas carried the lead with a minute remaining, but missed another great opportunity to defeat Durantula and his Thunder buddies. Awesome. I love the playoffs.

GAME 1:

Indiana vs. Orlando

Final Score: 93-78 (Indiana)

Series: 1-1

This was the game I expected on Saturday. Coach Frank Vogel righted a lot of wrongs tonight with his Indiana squad, pushed the ball a lot more (22 fast break points compared to Game 1′s five), and also took higher percentage shots underneath the basket, netting 50 total points in the pain (thanks in large part to David West, who finished with 18).

Orlando kept up for two and a half quarters, but then found themselves unable to keep up with Indiana’s attacking offense.

Intriguingly, on paper both teams put up near exact numbers as they did in Game 1. Orlando was only a bucket away from matching their point total (81) on Saturday, and the usual suspects for Indiana (Granger, Hill, George) didn’t necessarily explode out of the gate as they made timely buckets in a 30-13 third quarter that left the deplete Magic lagging behind.

Game two was always going to roll into Indiana’s lap – they’re too good a team to lose in similar fashion – and yet, for the first half the Pacers had a difficult time stopping Orlando’s polished system. I’m curious to see how the Pacers play in Game 3, which usually falls to the home team no matter the current standings. So far Indiana has been able to control the Magic’s shooting, but one of these games those threes are gonna drop. Scary.

 

Game 2

Miami vs. New York

Final Score: 104-94 (Miami)

Series: 2-0 Miami

New York played admirably, but something’s amiss when the story of the night belongs to Amare Stoudemire’s severed hand (which he hurt whilst punching a fire extinguisher … yeah, this guy makes more money than me …). The 6-foot-11 power forward apparently cut his hand after the disappointing loss and will require medical attention. No word on Carmelo’s reaction, although I think he tweeted: funnystuffinlockerroomLOLgoingtomycrib. PEACE!

Despite whatever I may say, Melo had a good game tonight, scoring 30 points off 12-of-26 shooting (outscoring both LeBron and Wade), but collecting just one assist. James, on the other hand, had 19 points and nine assists – which speaks a lot more of his performance than one-note Melo.

The Knicks need to realize they cannot beat the Heat with offense. Miami carries too much firepower. At some point they need to buckle down and play defense. They also need to be more protective of the ball and learn to keep their cool in these rough situations. Oddly enough, I never felt like NY stood a chance tonight – they reminded me of the Jazz against San Antonio, struggling to stay within breathing distance of the prom queen, but ultimately shoved out by the school’s numero uno jock. A lot of NY’s problems stems from lack of team cohesion – too many times it seemed like players were just chucking shots, playing like Kirilenko during his days in Utah (remember watching him roam lifelessly across the court as though disconnected from the team?). NY has to do a better job working Melo into its offense as opposed to leaving the game in his or Stoudemire’s bloody hands (too soon?).

I can see NY picking up a win on their home floor, but it will be a battle. Not to sound like an ESPN commentator kissing LeBron’s already sore-from-too-many-lips-permanantly-fixing-themselves-to-it arse, but he Heat look determined to finish teams off quick this season. I’ll pray for you NY. Basketball gods, have mercy!

 

Game 3:

Dallas vs. OKC

Final Score: 102-99 (OKC)

Series: 2-0 OKC

Dallas again blew a terrific opportunity to take a win out of OKC tonight! Or maybe I”m not giving the Thunder enough credit. [Pauses. Thinks.] No, Dallas blew it – BIG TIME.

The Mavs mounted a huge comeback, trailing by 16 at one point, and took the lead with seven-minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Later in the fourth period, after Vince Carter laid what appeared to be a bank shot over Harden, Dallas (trailing by one) took a 97-96 lead with a minute remaining. Westbrook missed a jumper on the other end, but Dallas squandered the opportunity by throwing the ball to Durant. Fortunately for the Mavs, Westbrook has yet to fully mature and jacked up yet another shot (waiving away Derrick Fisher in the process, so inconsequential is he to this team) that clanked off the back of the iron. A Dallas fast break led to a wide open 3-pointer for Dirk – the man, the myth, the legend – who blew his higher calling and then watched as OKC put the game away at the free throw line.

I’m surprised to see a decent field goal percentage for both teams – 41-percent for Dallas, 45-percent for OKC – because to me it looked like a very ugly basketball game. Both teams clanked shots left and right, refused to run anything resembling an offense and spent far too long running isolation plays. This is why I still don’t see OKC as a legitimate contender: everyone on their team wants to play one-on-one basketball. And so you have Westbrook chucking shots, Durant throwing up wild 3-pointers, and/or Harden gunning for the basket during every offensive possession. Coach Brooks draws up some great schemes out of timeouts, but I think he gives his team too much leeway. You can get away with that style of play against a haphazardly slapped together Mavs team, but against the Spurs? Or Lakers? Or Heat? No chance. (That’s why I can’t stand to watch them. As much as I love Durant, Ibaka and Harden, too many times I see a bunch of kids playing ball in the backyard rather than formidable title contenders. Or am I wrong?)

Dallas carries a little bit of the juice it harbored during last year’s magical championship run. They’ve played well, but play ignorantly down the stretch (too many 3-pointers, not enough clock management). Dirk and Terry remain solid, but Kidd looks worn out. He shot just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc tonight (missing two in a row at one point), and had some costly turnovers down the stretch. Time to retire?

The Mavericks will probably win both games in Dallas to even this series up. Hell, they might even take it, despite their shooting woes. But the vets need to step up, or else Cuban will go ballistic in the off-season and send everybody packing – before turning around and nabbing D-Will.

Whoever wins this series will go onto face LA. I’m not sure either of these teams has a chance against Kobe and his boys – especially with Bynum playing at such a high level. Then again, maybe OKC will learn to play a more structured, organized style of b-ball before the second round? Or maybe Tyson Chandler will realize he made a mistake by fleeing to NY in pursuit of wealth and return to provide defense for Dallas. Or maybe Kidd will stop shooting.

One thing’s for sure: while this series has been a blast to watch, neither team stands a chance at a championship unless they learn to play together.

Tags: Dallas Dirk Durant James Kidd Miami New York Okc Orlando Pacers Playoffs Terry Wade

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