Two more conference semifinal games in the NBA Playoffs on Thursday night. We’ve got a preview for both match ups, as well as a quick video recap of what happened last game. You can find all that below. Previews courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Brooklyn Nets @ Miami Heat
Tip off @ 5:00 p.m. MST
Heat lead series 1-0
Recap of last game
Dwyane Wade knows the Brooklyn Nets will have something up their collective sleeves.
He’s just not sure what.
And there’s the challenge of the playoffs. Miami knows Brooklyn will be tweaking something – maybe lots of somethings – before the teams meet Thursday night in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, with the Heat holding a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
”The biggest thing we’re going to have to do is make adjustments to their adjustments, and do it fast,” Wade said Wednesday after the Heat practiced. ”They’re going to come out, obviously, having seen some things that worked that maybe they didn’t do much and we have to come out and make adjustments to that.”
The Heat had all the answers in Game 1, shooting 57 percent, getting 22 points from LeBron James to lead a balanced scoring effort and pulling away in the second half for a 107-86 win. After going 0-4 against Brooklyn in the regular season, Miami led virtually the entire way and scored 61 points after halftime.
The margin looked comfortable. Talk of said margin made Heat coach Erik Spoelstra seem decidedly uncomfortable.
”They’re a veteran-enough group, Brooklyn, to know that the final score doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs,” Spoelstra said. ”It’s a long series. Throw that one away, you still have another opportunity to do what you came for. We had very good urgency and focus coming into that same game. We cannot have a letdown.”
Spoelstra’s right, of course, in that Brooklyn can get what it came for by winning Game 2 – for that would give the Nets home-court advantage and quickly change the complexion of the matchup.
For that to happen, Brooklyn needs to fix quite a bit. But this isn’t the first time the Nets are having their resiliency tested.
Having short memories when things go wrong is typically paramount to a team’s success, and the Nets have shown a propensity for forgetting troubled times quickly. They were 10-21 on Jan. 1, then went 34-17 to close the regular season. Plus, in games immediately following a loss of 15 points or more, Brooklyn has gone 12-4.
The margin in Game 1: 21 points.
And while Nets coach Jason Kidd was a player on the last team to beat the Heat in a playoff matchup – Dallas rallied from down 1-0 to win the 2011 Finals – it’s obvious that Game 2 looms large, especially since neither James nor Wade have ever lost a series after going up 2-0.
”We’ve been tested, beginning of the season, middle of the season, late in the season and in the first round,” said Kidd, whose team has gone 5-8 since finishing off its four-game regular-season sweep of the Heat. ”It’s nothing new to us. Hopefully we can draw from that experience and help us find a way to win Game 2.”
There were elements of Game 1 that Brooklyn probably liked, such as keeping James in some sort of scoring check, keeping him and Wade mostly off the line (they combined to shoot only two free throws all night) and finishing the evening with only 13 turnovers. But Brooklyn also allowed five Miami players to reach double figures, and that was big.
”That hurt,” Nets guard Joe Johnson said. ”Defensively, that’s not us, man. We can’t let the other guys around LeBron and Wade have 15, 17 points. To beat this team, you can’t allow that.”
Johnson and Deron Williams combined to make 14 of 21 shots for the Nets. Everyone else on Brooklyn’s roster went 19 of 49 from the floor, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were just 3-for-10 for eight points.
”Game 2′s going to be entirely different from Game 1, with all the adjustments and what-not,” Miami forward Shane Battier said. ”If you’ve been around the block long enough, you understand that. What we took away from those four games in the regular season was we didn’t play with much energy. We tried to be cool about it. You don’t win in the playoffs by being cool. You win in the playoffs by being tough and playing with energy.”
NOTES: Heat F Chris Andersen, who left Game 1 with a right knee contusion, insisted he would play Thursday. Spoelstra said he’s not deciding until then, though. … James, on Game 2 and how Brooklyn will almost certainly be desperate to avoid an 0-2 hole: ”We understand what type of aggression they’re going to come with.” … The Nets haven’t shot 50 percent in 12 of their last 13 games.
Portland Trail Blazers @ San Antonio Spurs
Tip off @ 7:30 p.m. MST
Spurs lead series 1-0
Recap from last game
It took all of four minutes for the playoff-tested San Antonio Spurs to deliver a message to the up-and-coming Portland Trail Blazers.
Tony Parker was on the attack, the Spurs defense was swarming and it was 10-2 before the Blazers even knew what hit them. The onslaught kept coming in that first quarter, which made one thing abundantly clear to the new kids on the block from the Northwest – they’re not in Houston anymore.
After feasting on the Rockets’ porous perimeter defense in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Blazers appeared to be caught off guard when they stepped up in class to face the Spurs in Game 1 of the semifinals, their first appearance beyond the first round since 2000.
”That,” said Damian Lillard, Portland’s 23-year-old point guard, ”is a championship team.”
The Spurs led by 13 after the first quarter and 26 at halftime. By the time Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest of the Blazers got their bearings, it was too late and the Spurs cruised to a 116-92 victory.
What the Blazers learned in Game 1 is that all those uncontested 3-pointers that were there for the taking against the Rockets, all those free passes to the basket in transition that helped them erase big deficits in the blink of an eye, are going to be much harder to come by against the Spurs.
San Antonio limited Portland to 37.8 percent shooting and just four 3-pointers while forcing 20 turnovers. Lillard was 6 for 15, Nicolas Batum was 3 for 12 and Wesley Matthews had a quiet 2-for-6 night while spending a lot of energy chasing Parker around.
”Most of the guys on our team haven’t even been in the second round and they’ve won championships,” said Aldridge, one of the most experienced Blazers who had 32 points and 14 rebounds. ”They’ve been here. I think they definitely came out and they let us know how it’s going to be. I think every guy on the team understands that.”
Game 2 is Thursday night in San Antonio, and if the Blazers are going to make this a series, they have to regroup quickly and respond against a much better opponent than the one they faced in the first round.
”The key tomorrow is just match their energy,” Parker said after practice Wednesday. ”They’re going to come back and they’re going to be very motivated. The way we handle the win, that’s going to make the difference for us.”
Even more encouraging for the Spurs was the return to form of a bench unit that has been one of the team’s strengths all season long. Marco Belinelli scored 11 points total in the seven-game win over the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, but contributed 19 against the Blazers. Aron Baynes had 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting with seven rebounds and was outscoring both Lillard and Aldridge at one point early in the game.
”They did a great job for us,” coach Gregg Popovich said. ”They helped us sustain the energy. They executed well at both ends of the court. Obviously pretty pleased with them.”
The Blazers actually outscored the Spurs in the second half, which may help as they plan for Game 2. After taking the Spurs’ biggest punches in the first half and early into the third quarter, they were able to recover a bit and show they can compete.
They still lost by 24 points and never threatened to get back in the game, but they were looking for any shreds of positivity they can get.
”A welcome to San Antonio,” Aldridge called it. ”I think a lot of guys got taken back, but I thought guys bounced back in the second half and that shows how we’re going to be next game. I thought the second half was much better for us and I think that’s how we’ll start the game next game.”