Date Posted: June 1, 2011
Print Edition: May 27, 2011
With the 2011 NBA Championship looming and only the final four teams remaining, each squad is leaving it all out on the floor for a chance to play in the NBA Finals. And while physicality has reigned supreme in the Eastern Conference, with the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls exchanging their fair share of elbows and shoves, scoring has been plentiful in the West with the Dallas Mavericks edging out the Oklahoma City Thunder to even the series 1-1.
The finality of game two of the Eastern Conference finals was likened to a battlefield, with both teams taking time off to survey the carnage and strap on a few icepacks before returning to war Sunday night. The physicality of the series and the Bulls’ key to victory was summed up best by Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. “Some way, somehow, we’ve just got to come up with this win no matter how we get it. We’ve just got to have more intensity than them and play way more aggressive.”
While the Miami Heat were able to grind out a win, relying on exceptional rebounding and defensive skills to hold the Chicago Bulls to 29 points in the second half of game two, the teams were only shooting a combined 43 per cent from the field. Not the high number expected from teams vying for a spot in the finals.
In order to win this war of attrition both teams will have to rely on key starters to close, as was the case with the Miami Heat’s star player LeBron James in game two. James, who has played 40 minutes or more in nine out of the last 10 playoff games for the Heat, had nine big points in the closing quarter of Miami’s 85-75 victory. Both squads have been allotted four days rest, which should be enough time to heal, as any number of small or big plays could make a difference in Sunday nights’ game.
On to the Western Conference where Dallas Maverick’s star Dirk Nowitzki had an atrocious start to the night, missing 10 of his first 14 shots. However, he still managed to contribute to the Maverick’s 93-87 game three victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Scoring problems plagued both teams, with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant struggling consistently on shots, managing just seven of 22 in the game. Durant, who was the NBA scoring champion this past season, ended up with 24 points and 12 rebounds. While Dallas acquired a 22-point lead going into the fourth quarter, the team was not about to enter cruise control, having already given up a 23-point lead against Portland in the first round of the playoffs.
Although the Thunder made every attempt to compensate for their dismal first quarter, in which they turned the ball over seven times, in the end it was not enough and Dallas was able to go up 2-1 in the series. Along with the sloppy ball play that lead to several steals and blocks, Oklahoma City struggled most from behind the three-point line, having missed their first 16 three-point shots. If they are to have any chance at tying up the series, the field-goal area is a part of their game that will need definite improvement.