Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 30, 2012 at 9:19 AM
There's no doubt about it:
It's a long and winding road from here to the very end of the NBA Playoffs but you better believe that the Game #1 losers of these first-round series are feeling instant pressure to get a "W" and so we'll check in on their likely Game #2 adjustments in just a moment as we track the Monday/Tuesday games.
First, however, this key reminder:
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Tonight in the Eastern Conference, it's ...
#7 NEW YORK at MIAMI - Heat leads series 1-0
Adjustments: Yeah, the Knicks need to make a few following Saturday's horrific 100-67 loss to the Heat that included the season-ending knee injury to rookie guard Iman Shumpert - a grade A defensive stopper - and the sorry 3-of-15 FG game for Carmelo Anthony who wound up scoring only 11 points in 34 minutes ... certainly not his finest hour as a Knick.
Look for interim head coach Mike Woodson to employ some rare zone defenses to slow down LeBron James who played like the league MVP many folks are claiming he is this year. James poured in 32 points on 10-of-14 FG shooting but - maybe even bigger - he nailed 11-of-14 free throws and New York must steer him away from the center of the paint and lay some old-fashioned "hard fouls" on him or this could be broom city.
Where's Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason when the Knicks need them?
#6 ORLANDO at #3 INDIANA - Magic leads series 1-0
The only real Round One/Game One shocker was Orlando's 81-77 triumph last Saturday night as 9 ½-point pups in Indianapolis but dare we say that if Pacers' star Danny Granger hit those two free throws with 1:14 left in the game instead of missing 'em this series might have a whole different feel to it.
As it is, the Dwight Howard-less Magic is really playing with "house money" here and so that makes Stan Van Gundy's club ultra-dangerous in Game #2 and so expect Orlando to load up on the three-ball - it shot a respectable 9-of-24 from beyond the arc in Game #1 with Jason Richardson's five triples a key stat - while Indiana must shake the cobwebs from the opener and get Granger in gear after his 7-of-20 FG night that was far from his best effort.
If the Pacers get another 6-of-24 FG game from their reserves here than an Orlando side that was a 9-to-1 dog to win this series could be in shock-the-world mode.
Tonight in the Western Conference, it's ...
#7 DALLAS at #2 OKLAHOMA CITY - Thunder leads series 1-0
The $64,000 question here is whether or not the Dallas Mavericks suffer a post-Game #1 hangover after that tantalizing shot by Kevin Durant bounced home for the winning hoop in the thrill-a-minute 99-98 win in the series opener.
Forget for a moment that the Mavs did oh-so-many things right in Game #1 including 20-of-25 FT makes while getting a major bench push from key reserves Jason Terry and Vince Carter (a combined 33 points) to go along with machine-like Dirk Nowitzki (see 25 points in 36 minutes) but if Dallas wants to get even here than it's essential to keep Durant pushed off the wings - remember he shot only 10-of-27 for the game - and they need to harass PG Russell Westbrook who finished Game #1 with 28 points and 5 assists and simply had way too much room to operate.
If Jason Kidd can't handle 'em, than Mavs boss-man Rick Carlisle needs to look elsewhere for defensive help!
On Tuesday in the Eastern Conference, it's ...
#5 BOSTON at #4 ATLANTA - Hawks lead series 1-0
Let's just say that Atlanta was highly insulted that several Boston players acted as if it didn't matter who had the home-court advantage for this best-of-seven series - the Celtics' anonymous quotes that "we'll beat them (the Hawks) anywhere" no doubt riled up Larry Drew's club that dashed out to a 31-18 first-quarter lead and never looked back and now the C's very likely will have to play Game #2 without point guard supreme Rajon Rondo after he was ejected in the final minute of Sunday night's 83-74 loss and than he bumped an official to boot.
If Rondo's not in the Boston lineup here - and remember that ace three-point marksman Ray Allen was a DNP in that Game #1 tilt (see sore right ankle) -- than someone is gonna have to manufacture the 20 points and 11 assists that Rodno registered in the series opener and gotta believe a point-guard-by-committee look will take place with vet Paul Pierce (6 assists in Game #1) forced to be a real stat-sheet stuffer ... or else!
#8 PHILADELPHIA at #1 CHICAGO - Bulls lead series 1-0
Let's not hear any silly talk that Bulls mega-star PG Derrick Rose should not have been in the game when he suffered his season-ending knee injury with 1:20 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Chitowners up by a dozen points - of course he's gonna be playing than as the Bulls look to take a one game-to-none lead but now he's gonzo and so Tom Thibodeau's club needs an all-hands-on-deck approach (as they had for much of this lockout-shortened regular season).
Expect the Bulls to spread the floor a bit more here in Game #2 and rely more on those three-point bombs from the likes of Kyle Korver and Richard Hamilton - they combined for 30 points in Game #1 - plus the real key here continues to be the Chicago defense that stifled Philly and held 'em to 40 percent shooting in Game #1.
And maybe the Sixers don't even hang around here in Game #2 if G Andre Iguodala (11 points in Game #1 on 11 FG tries) remains a complete non-factor.
On Tuesday in the Western Conference, it's ...
#6 DENVER at #3 LOS ANGELES LAKERS - Lakers lead series 1-0
Hey, it's tough to score points when your shots don't ever reach the hoop! The 5-point underdog Denver Nuggets had a rather amazing 15 shots blocked by the LA Lakers in Game #1 - yes, 10 of 'em by C Andrew Bynum who really was the master of the paint - and George Karl's point guard went AWOL too as Ty Lawson was scoreless forever en route to a 3-of-11 FG game for 7 points.
If the normally energetic Lawson doesn't kick things into overdrive here, than the Lakers will "hold serve" again and maybe never have to win a game in the Mile High City in this series.
One note on the Lakers: Can they really count on another 22 assists/11 turnovers game with oft-erratic Ramon Sessions running the point? We shall see.
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