It wasn't pretty. And, in some ways, it was just a replay of Game One in terms of Miami's offensive effectiveness. But, thanks to a stifling Heat defense, and Chicago's 3 of 20 performance from behind the arc (after a 10 of 21 performance in the opener), the stars from South Beach have knotted the Eastern Conference championships at one game apiece.
The first half was sluggish thanks to the refs putting all the marquee stars in danger of foul trouble right off the bat. That's what fans want to see! But, you can understand officials wanting to influence early physicality to keep things from getting out hand in a hotly contested series. To their credit, they did swallow their whistles in the second half.
And, THAT resulted in a "pick your poison" kind of ugliness if you're a fan.
*The first half never got any rhythm going because of the constant stoppages, and the need for coaches to substitute for guys who had picked up two early fouls.
*The second half saw both defenses put up bruising brick walls in the paint, leading to a 14-10 fourth quarter that was an exercise in offensive futility until LeBron James stepped up and nailed some critical shots in the final minutes.
4:26: LeBron makes a trey (76-73 Miami)
3:15: LeBron makes a 14-footer (78-73 Miami)
1:31: LeBron makes a 4-foot put back off his own miss (82-75 Miami)
0:47: LeBron makes a 20-footer (84-75 coffin nail)
That's nine clutch points for LeBron. THE HEAT ONLY SCORED FIVE OTHER POINTS THE WHOLE FOURTH QUARTER!
I've talked a couple of times about the dramatic difference between watching the Dallas Mavericks play, then watching an Eastern Conference game the next night. The lack of flow in the East gets more noticeable the deeper we get into the playoffs.
Let's run the numbers before going any further... (the expanded box his here)
MIAMI 85, CHICAGO 75
2-point pct: Miami 53%, Chicago 40%
3-pointers: Miami 3/13, Chicago 3/20
Rebounds: Miami 45, Chicago 41
Turnovers: Miami 15, Chicago 10
1's and 2's: Miami 76, Chicago 66
Similarities to Game One:
Miami scored 82 in the opener, 85 here (with both games having 85 possessions)
Miami shot 47% from the field in both games
Miami lost turnovers 16-9, then 15-10
Miami only made 3 treys in each game
Miami held Chicago to 42% on deuces, then 40%
Differences from Game One:
Chicago lost 21 points on treys (of the 28 total they lost)
Chicago was outrebounded 45-41 after winning 45-33
Chicago was an awful 16 of 26 on FT's after making 17 of 20
Chicago was outscored on 1's and 2's 76-66 after a 73-all tie
Those are the team issues. The single most prominent individual player issue was that Miami slowed down Derrick Rose. He was 7 of 23 from the field, and 0 of 3 on treys.
The second biggest thing to me was holding Luol Deng to 5 of 15 from the field, and 1 of 7 on treys. That set up a comparison with the "big two" and "big three" that went Miami's way dramatically this time around.
James and Wade: 53 points on 20 of 37 shooting
Rose and Deng: 34 points on 12 of 28 shooting
James, Wade, and Bosh: 63 points on 24 of 47 shooting
Rose, Deng, and Boozer: 41 points on 15 of 38 shooting
Blowout city. The Miami stars were largely neutralized in Chicago's four wins over the Heat this year. That allowed the Chicago bench to be the difference-maker. Difficult to make up THAT big a difference tonight when there aren't many scorers on the bench.
It's also important to note that this wasn't "Ghidorah" the three-headed monster doing all the heavy lifting for the Heat. They FINALLY got some help. You regulars have been monitoring the percentages the last several games with us. Note how some have dropped tonight:
James, Wade, and Bosh did:
74% of the scoring
67% of the shooting
60% of the rebounding
50% of the assisting
Udonis Haslem made his presence felt with 13 points and 5 rebounds. Mike Miller added 7 rebounds.
I'm not sure what to make of the contributions of Haslem and Miller. It sure felt at the time like it was a big deal that somebody outside the big three was finally doing something. And, Haslem in particular was almost crowned as Mr. America after the game. On TNT, Charles Barkley called him the "X factor" that turned the game around. There was certainly a consensus growing that Haslem's presence could turn the series around too.
The problem with that shows up in the plus/minuses. Remember, Miami won by 10 points.
Game Two Plus/Minuses:
Bosh: +22 points (-12 without him)
Wade: +19 points (-9 without him)
James: +8 points (+2 without him)
Miller: -11 points (+21 without him)
Haslem -11 points (+21 without him)
So, the "X-factor" saw his team get outscored by 11 points when he was on the floor for 23 minutes. Then, he watched them outscore the Bulls by 21 points when he was on the bench??!!
This can be a goofy stat in the short term. And, maybe Bosh, Wade, and James had more energy to produce because of the "on floor rest break" they were getting thanks to Haslem when he was in the game. Then their production increased significantly when Haslem sat back down.
Or, maybe, Haslem was messing up some defensive rotations in a way the untrained eye didn't see because nobody was really paying attention at the time. It will take more of a sample size to get it pegged properly. The truth very likely falls between "-11" and "turned the series around." Miami fans are hoping it ends up registering much closer to the latter.
I was going to write up something about Kyle Korver the other night. But, it didn't really matter because Chicago won by 21 points. No reason to talk about a non-factor in a blowout. Tonight, Korver's sustained shooting slump became very important. He was 1 of 5 on three-pointers, and 1 of 7 for the game...on a night where Chicago desperately needed scoring help off the bench.
Here are Korver's recent games, picking it up with Game Four of the Indiana series.
Kyle Korver From the Field:
3 of 8 in G4 of Indiana
5 of 14 in G5 of Indiana
3 of 7 in G1 of Atlanta
1 of 9 in G2 of Atlanta
4 of 6 in G3 of Atlanta (rare good game!)
1 of 8 in G4 of Atlanta
0 of 0 in G5 of Atlanta
3 of 7 in G6 of Atlanta
1 of 3 in G1 of Miami
1 of 7 in G2 of Miami
Korver is 6 of 25 in his last five games, which is 24% from the field. He's supposed to be a great shooter! The ONLY reason he's on the floor is to shoot!
In Korver's Last 10 Games:
He's 22 of 69 shooting for a woeful 32%
He has only 6 rebounds in 145 minutes of action
He's a defensive weak link that they have to hide
You can get away with having Kyle Korver on the floor vs. lesser opponents like Indiana and Atlanta. If he's not going to make any shots, he's just KILLING you against somebody like Miami.
What's happening? Well, it might just be a slump. What seems clear to the naked eye though is that he's not getting many open, unrushed looks. He's quickly forcing up shots that aren't there because he's "supposed to shoot." During the regular season, against defensive intensity that comes and goes...Korver can make treys and help you out. In the playoffs, against opponents who KNOW he's only in there to make treys...they have his defender stay close as much as possible.
He's not a "great" shooter when guarded. He's being guarded.
Game Three won't be played until Sunday, which means we'll watch two Dallas-Oklahoma City games before enjoying this series again. Back with you late Thursday with numbers and notes from Game Two in the Metroplex...