LA Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks (Dal leads 2-0)
1) A Phil Jackson team has been down 0-2 in seven previous best-of-seven series according to Elias Sports Bureau, and they came back to win two of those. In those two instances, however (Lakers-Spurs in 2004, Bulls-Knicks in 1993), Jackson’s team was returning home for Game Three. No such luck this year.
2) The aging Lakers continue to have trouble at the end of games, especially against more dynamic players and teams. In these two contests with Dallas, LA has been outscored in the final periods by a total of 15 points in losses by 2 and 12 points. They were outscored by 11 in the final periods of their two losses to New Orleans. In their 5-game losing streak in April, the Lakers were tied or had a lead going into the fourth quarter of three of those contests. Before that, they were outscored in the fourth in their 6-point loss to Miami, in their 5-point loss to Cleveland, and by 13 in the second half of a 9-point loss to Dallas in January, the last time these two clubs met in the regular season.
OKC Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies (tied 1-1)
1) The big story during the Grizzlies’ unexpected run into Round Two has been the exceptionally strong play of post men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. In Game Two, however, the Thunder were very physical with the pair, which included applying a ton of pressure on Z-Bo every time he touched the ball. The result was that neither player surpassed 15 points or 10 rebounds, only the 9th time that’s happened this season (regular season and post-season combined) when they’ve both played. In addition, it was only the third time it’s happened when each has seen the floor for at least 30 minutes, and their 76 combined minutes of burn Tuesday was the most they’ve logged while both being held in check like the Thunder did in the 111-102 win.
2) Despite everything they bring to Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have a combined -15 plus/minus through two games against Memphis. In the Game One loss, they were -6 (RW) and -10 (KD), and in the Game Two win, they were 0 (RW) and +1 (KD). For comparison’s sake, James Harden is -5, Serge Ibaka is -1, Nick Collison is +1, Eric Maynor is +2, Thabo Sefolosha is +6, and Daequan Cook is +10. The only Thunder player to have a worse plus/minus than either All-Star is Kendrick Perkins at -15. How could that be? Although Durant has shot well in the series (49% FG, 5-for-7 from deep), Westbrook has been pedestrian (42% FG), neither has been consistent on the glass, together they have 15 turnovers and 15 assists, and it’s not like Westbrook—the better defender of the two—has been slowing down Memphis’ Mike Conley (39 points, 54% FG, 3-for-7 from deep, 15 assists to only 4 turnovers). During the regular season, the duo had only the team's 6th best plus/minus for a player pair despite playing by far the largest amount of minutes together.
Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks (tied 1-1)
1) Derrick Rose is certainly not the MVP of the Bulls this series, no matter how often SportsCenter hypes his 20-10 performances. He has 49 points on 54 shots, which is terrible, and is shooting an abysmal 39% (21-for-54) through two. His 3-for-15 from deep and 4-for-6 from the free throw line aren’t much better. Neither is 11 turnovers to go with his 20 assists, a very poor rate for a point guard. And he’s arguably the Bulls’ worst defender in the starting lineup (certainly on the perimeter), which is especially bad since this is a team that hangs its hat on defense.
2) As you would expect from a jump shooting team that doesn’t rebound well or get the ball inside very much, the Hawks’ offense has been very inconsistent against the Bulls. Joe Johnson had 34 points on 18 shots in Game One, then 16 on 15 shots in Two. Jamal Crawford had 22 points on 16 shots in One, then 11 on 10 shots in Two. Al Horford, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Jeff Teague have all teased us with some good plays here and there, but none of them look like they’re ready to really take it to this Chicago defense. Against Orlando’s small, slow perimeter defenders, Atlanta was able to have a little more consistency on their jumpers, but Chicago excels at challenging shots in the half court, and the Hawks have responded about as expected with “all over the place” production. Can they steal another game with that style of play? Sure. Can they steal this series with that style of play? No.
Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics (Mia leads 2-0)
1) The Celtics’ shooting woes in Miami should not be a surprise to anyone. The C’s shot only 43% in Games One and Two. Although Boston lead the entire NBA with a 49% field goal percentage during the regular season, they’re facing a Heat squad that gave up a league second-best 43% during the year (and league third-best 48% eFG%), and that only surrendered 45% to the Celtics a few weeks ago when Miami spanked them by 23. In the first two weeks of the season when Miami was playing together for the first time (remember that Wade missed the preseason), Boston shot a cumulative 50% in two close wins over the Heat. Those days are long gone.
2) A big part of Miami’s defense that’s helping to keep Boston’s shooting percentage down is their shot blocking. Through two games, the Heat have rejected 17 shots against only 5 by Boston. Reserve center Joel Anthony has 5 so far, 6-feet-2 point guard Mike Bibby had 2 in Game 2 (as many as the entire Celtics’ squad), and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James each had 2 in Game 1. Despite having the 11th slowest pace during the regular season, Miami still finished with the 9th most blocks; only Charlotte and Chicago compared similarly. In the playoffs, Miami is averaging 6.9 blocks per game (3rd best of 16 teams) – Boston, only 4.2 (12th).