There seems to be a stark difference between the two sets of conference semifinals. Game 2 between the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat is similar to the one that happens on the same day, with the Portland Trail Blazers also trying to bounce back from rough loss in the opening encounter against the San Antonio Spurs.
Before the series between the Heat and the Nets began, most of the talk was how the Nets have a hold and advantage over Miami, beating them four times in the regular season. Maybe it had a lot to do with luck – three wins by one point, another by overtime. The Nets have the ability to rise to the challenge once in a while but with games every two days? We saw the cracks against the Raptors, and maybe there’s a much bigger problem against a better team.
The Heat shot 57% from the field and LeBron James didn’t have to take charge of things, doing too much. The Nets had problems matching the speed and aggression from the Miami Heat, and have usually followed big losses (15 points or more) with another disappointing result, going 2-14 this season in these situation. They’ll play differently for sure, probably trying to force James to do things on his own a bit more instead of getting everyone involved, but the outcome has a lot more to do with Miami than it does with how much the Nets change from the series opener.
And the same goes for the Blazers. They might have some tricks up their sleeve to make life a bit difficult for the Spurs, but the better team is in control. San Antonio had an answer to everything that worked so well for the Blazers in the first round against the Rockets. From making life difficult for LaMarcus Aldridge to frustrating Damian Lillard on both ends of the floor. The Blazers had nothing of their usual go-to stuff work against a team that feels much better facing a young, inexperienced team after a very frustrating series against the Mavs.
There’s been talk about matching energy and intensity, but it comes down to other things. Right execution, smart execution, and quick execution. The Blazers need to learn from what the Mavs did on defense, which made it difficult for Parker to weave his way through defenders en route to 33 points in the opening game, and take away the 3-point shot. If Parker is the only threat, and there’s no openings for him to dump off the ball to, maybe the Blazers can start feeling good about their defense and get some transition and fast break offense going, which didn’t happen at all in the first game.