Sports

Schmeelk: LeBron James And Co. Turning On The Heat

Dwyane Wade #3, LeBron James #6 and Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat celebrate after they won 85-75 against the Chicago Bulls in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 18, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Dwyane Wade #3, LeBron James #6 and Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat celebrate after they won 85-75 against the Chicago Bulls in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 18, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

By John Schmeelk
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In the first contest, we saw how the Bulls were going to win games in this series. In Game 2, we saw how the Heat will. The difference was stark and sets the stage for how the rest of this series will go.

The Heat, for the most part, fixed their problems on the boards. The Bulls still grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, but the Heat outrebounded them by four overall. Chicago only managed six more second-chance points than Miami (18-12). Miami also got to the line more, shooting 24 free throws, as opposed to just 15 in Game 1.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both played well, something Chicago can’t allow if they want to win this series. Both shot 50% and combined for 53 points. Finally, Miami found a decent front court player in Udonis Haslem to compliment Chris Bosh. The fact he was able to play so well after being out for so long was amazing and could be a series changer. These were keys for Miami heading into Game 2 and they delivered on most of them.

But the primary theme for this game was the Bulls’ inability to score. With Derrick Rose shooting a paltry 7-23, the Bulls just couldn’t find points.

Luol Deng struggled with just 15 points on 5-15 shooting. Carlos Boozer was just 3-10 with seven points. Throughout the playoffs, when the Bulls have lost, it’s been because of scoring woes. Miami is doing an excellent job of contesting and not fouling Rose when he gets into the paint. He found his teammates, like Boozer, for some layups, but they couldn’t convert many point-blank opportunities.

Lost in Miami’s superstar trio hype is this fact: They are an excellent defensive team.

Miami knows that stopping Rose is priority one, two and three for them. Someone else on the Bulls has to step up and put the ball in the hoop. If it isn’t Boozer or Deng, then it needs to be Kyle Korver. He had a number of wide open looks in Game 2 and couldn’t get anything to fall. The Bulls need a perimeter shooter to stretch the defense and make the Heat think twice about collapsing on Rose.

The Bulls’ defense was fine. Giving up 85 points to the Heat is perfectly respectable. The Heat only scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls only scored 10.

75 total points in any NBA playoff game is unacceptable. If the Bulls’ offense doesn’t get in gear, Miami will be in great position to win this series.

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The Thunder will have to attempt their own turnaround in Game 2, and it will come down to how they handle Dirk Nowitzki.

The Thunder personnel is what it is, so they’re going to have to change so their strategy. Scott Brooks can be stubborn about not double teaming people, but one has to think he will start sending help early in Game 2 if Dirk shows signs of getting hot. If he does decide to stick with man to man defense, the Thunder have to front Dirk, force him to catch the ball over the top or catch the ball near the three point line.

The Thunder have to make someone other than Dirk beat them.

The Mavericks have their own issues with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

I would expect the Mavs to use a lot more of the zone they played in Game 1. Durant’s shooting can force them out of it, but the Mavericks have to take that chance. Expect Westbrook to be a lot more aggressive, perhaps even to a fault considering how poorly he played in Game 1.

Like the Thunder, the Mavericks still have no real matchup for either guy so the zone is probably the way to go. If those guys make jumpers and the Mavericks lose that way they’ll have to deal with it. There might be more starpower in Bulls-Heat, but this series will truly come down to Nowitzki, Durant and Westbrook.

You can follow me on twitter throughout the NBA playoffs at: twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk

What’s your prediction for Heat-Bulls? What about Thunder-Mavs? Let Schmeelk know below…