The Miami Heat from Game 2 was more like the team we saw decimating over a two-month stretch that resulted in 27 consecutive wins.
The Heat from Game 1, however, looked like the team that was busy losing games to the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers early in the regular season.
It’s been a tale of two different teams in the Miami Heat’s semifinals series against the Chicago Bulls thus far. Following an embarrassment in terms of late-game execution in Game 1, the Heat put together arguably the greatest single-game postseason performance in franchise history with a 37-point Game 2 victory.
It was the largest postseason win in Heat history, as well as the largest postseason loss in Bulls’ history.
Nobody doubted that the Heat would have a strong bounceback in Game 2, but a 37-point victory? Over this Chicago team that prides itself on work ethic and defensive effort?
Although the Bulls may seem mediocre at times, they are a team that doesn’t just allow blowout losses to happen. Especially losses where they surrender 115 points and are facing a deficit that’s nearly at the half-century mark.
No, that was pure Miami Heat basketball being exhibited. And then some, really. It was one of the few times this postseason where the Heat have put together an all-around effort that exceeded longer than a quarter’s worth of action.
Against a Bulls’ team that was allowing its regular season opponents to shoot 44 percent on average, the Heat managed 60 percent shooting and were able to score a combined 90 points over the final three quarters.
Even more surprising was the fact that it didn’t take a dominant effort from one member of the Heat. LeBron James scored all 19 of his points in the first half, Ray Allen led all scorers with 21 points (getting to the line ten times) and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for only 28 points on 21 shots.
Six Heat players scored in double-figures. The Heat were also able to finally put together a solid collective effort from beyond the arc, converting 9-of-18, but it was their 54-18 points-in-the-paint advantage that told the story.
And I don’t think I need to get into defense. 78 points on 36 percent shooting should be consistent numbers for this depleted Chicago team against this healthy Miami team.
The Bulls going for 93 points on 44 percent shooting in Game 1, while scoring 35 points in the fourth quarter, is unacceptable on many levels. Those are numbers not to be expected from Chicago anytime soon again.
It’s encouraging that Chicago wasted an otherwise good perimeter night in Game 2, shooting 9-of-23 from beyond the arc, because they are among the league’s worst shooting teams.
The tone was set by LeBron, who was a perfect 6-for-6 in the first quarter; all six shots being taken in the painted area. It was a change for the better from his two-point, 1-of-6 shooting performance in the first half of Game 1.
LeBron looked like a completely different player. He looked involved from the get-go, which is something that isn’t as common as you’d like to see from Miami’s MVP in a postseason setting.
Even if he didn’t end up scoring in the second half, James’ attacking the paint and getting to the line paved the way for Miami’s shooters to get open and for attacks to the rim more prevalent.
Miami was outscored 40-32 in the paint in Game 1. They shot a poor percentage near the rim, and it didn’t help that the Heat shooters weren’t making Chicago pay for packing the paint and leaving the perimeter open.
The Heat only shot 7-of-24 in that game.
Surprising as it may be, but Norris Cole’s increase in minutes could have played a large part in the drastically different outcomes of Games 1 and 2. Cole played 29 minutes in Game 2, the most of any other bench player for Miami, after only playing 17 minutes in Game 1.
Cole was 3-of-4 from the field, hit his one and only three-pointer, and finished with seven points in Game 1. Meanwhile, Game 2 Norris Cole shot 7-of-9, 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, and finished with a postseason-high 18 points and 6 rebounds.
More importantly was Cole, as well as Mario Chalmers, holding Nate Robinson to 11 points on 10 shots after going off for 27 points on 16 shots in Game 1. They lived up to the challenge of holding down one of the league’s hottest players, while also keeping LeBron James off of Nate and on his regular assignment.
Chalmers also had an excellent Game 2, following a poor Game 1 where he scored five points on 1-of-5 shooting. He had 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, nailing two first quarter three-pointers, in a stronger Game 2.
Are the point guards the key to a successful Miami team? It would seem so in this series. The Bulls will continue to play without Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose, leaving a gunner like Nate Robinson, as well as swingmen in Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli, as the primary scorers.
Trust LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to defend Butler and Belinelli. But Cole and Chalmers are going to be key in however many games this series lasts. With Robinson being one of the few Bulls capable of creating their own shot, Norris and Mario are left with the responsibility of forcing him into bad shots–even worse than the one’s he voluntarily takes.
Robinson is 5-of-13 from beyond the arc in Chicago’s first two games against Miami. This has to make the Heat pleased because they realize that Nate is not going to continue to shoot at least 38 percent from beyond the arc in each postseason game.
Although the Bulls are the one who stole home-court advantage, it’s the Heat who is feeling like the winners of the first two games. The 37-point victory was more indicative of how the series is going to turn out, rather than Chicago’s Game 1 victory.
Because Chicago scoring 93 points on 44 percent shooting with the team they have isn’t going to happen again. Because Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli can only make so many wayward shots before they stop falling and the Bulls then become reliant on the likes of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for offense.
The Heat probably won’t score 115 points on 60 percent shooting again this series. Chicago will make adjustments and they’ll probably keep Games 3 and 4 close, since it’s at home and they don’t feel like embarrassing themselves as they did in Game 2.
However, it’s the Heat who have the say in whether or not Chicago embarrasses themselves again; because Miami has this Chicago team figured out.
When the ball is moving (Miami had 29 assists in Game 2 to only 20 in Game 1) and shooters are hitting the shots they’re expected to make (9-of-18 in Game 2 and 7-of-24 in Game 1), the Heat is the team that was expected to win the championship and possibly go undefeated in the postseason.
They’re also reminiscent of the team that won 27 consecutive games. This Miami team is only held back by themselves and nobody else, and they lose to the Bulls because of their own faults and not because Chicago played a better game.
Rust is looking more and more to be the reason why Miami ended up dropping Game 1. Focus is key for this Miami team when they win games. When they’re focusing on successfully defending pick-and-rolls and playing aggressive by getting the ball into the paint, they’re unbeatable.
It’s not up to Chicago if they can do this. This entire championship run falls solely on Miami.