The NBA playoffs continue with game 2 as the NBA finalists from last season try and continue their home domination while a possible contender tries to come back from losing the first one by surprise: The San Antonio Spurs hosting the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets playing the Portland Trail Blazers and the Miami Heat facing off against the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Mavs felt like the first game slipped away from them. They held the lead long enough to almost taste their first win over the Spurs in more than two years. But the difference between the two teams is easy to see. The Mavs rely on the scoring of Ellis and Nowitzki, maybe too much. The Spurs don’t have the one guy who decides everything. It was Tony Parker early on and later Tim Duncan to the rescue. The Spurs keep on finding answers to questions they’re faced with.
So what can the Mavs do to change things? They did an excellent job in keeping the Spurs ineffective from long range, and that should remain their game plan in this one. The other issue is offense and getting either Nowitzki or Ellis to free up. It might take a bit of randomness to it. The Spurs don’t mind challenging teams to try and beat them with jumpers, but picking their spots and moments might prove that tactic to be the wrong one if the Mavs do well early on, opening up opportunities for them later on.
In Houston, the Rockets need to forget about the officials mistakes from the previous game and focus on what they did wrong. More balls to Howard is a good idea – no one on the Blazers can handle him. Less time with Harden dribbling himself to bad situations won’t hurt either, but that is a touchy subject in Houston, and brings in the whole Jeremy Lin debate. It doesn’t matter who dribbles the ball, as long as it doesn’t become a selfish display of offensive abilities.
For Portland, better defending won’t hurt, but they’re probably not capable of that. Aldridge and Lillard are going to need to keep at it, which means big games from them but also trying to avoid foul trouble. The Rockets’ defense is a mess, and creating openings on the perimeter isn’t such a difficult thing to do. As long as the Blazers don’t turn the ball over too much (the Rockets are deadly on the break) and keep Harden off the line, another upset might be something worth preparing for.
In Miami, confidence is high for the champions. The Bobcats gave them trouble and probably will continue to do so in the series, but beating the same team so many times over the last four seasons breeds a certain kind of calm that nothing can get to you. LeBron James has Dwyane Wade playing well, and even though Chris Bosh has been off for the last month or so, it feels like the Bobcats’ best efforts won’t be enough to make this a sensation.
Al Jefferson is a problem for Miami, and Kemba Walker might also become one from time to time. However, unless the Bobcats start creating an offense that helps them hit three-pointers at a much higher rate, their defensive excellence and ability to dominate in the paint won’t be enough against a team that accepts its flaws and simply prefers to show the one they know will hurt them the least.