After suffering losses in game one on their home floor, the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers will set out Wednesday to avenge the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks respectively, and tie up the series before they hit the road for games three and four.
Just one day after losing to the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center, Bulls guard Derrick Rose was named the NBA MVP as well as the Player of the Year by the Sporting News. Rose is the youngest MVP in NBA history, and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was also named the NBA's Coach of the Year.
All of those accolades added up to the best record in the NBA, and a five game series win over the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Still, the Bulls have looked very flat in their first six playoff games, and are 4-2 through the process. They are not playing the same type of basketball they played even in the final two games of the regular season, and it has been worrisome for Bulls fans.
The good news is, while Rose appeared to injure his ankle in game one, he practiced the next day and X-rays were negative, so that is a good sign for Bulls. So why is this team struggling? Well, part of it has been that in their two losses so far in the playoffs, the opposing team has shot lights out from the field, even when the Bulls were playing their best defense. The Bulls have also struggled with turnovers, which is pretty much the opposite of what they did in the regular season.
Are the nerves starting to build up for this young Bulls team? We will see on Wednesday night when they host the Atlanta Hawks in a virtual must-win game.
The Los Angeles Lakers lost their home opener in round two to the upstart Dallas Mavericks, who are proving the depth of the Western Conference is certainly for real. Dirk Nowitzki was magical, as well as his usual clutch self for the Mavs.
The Lakers had poor defensive matchups on Dirk, who was absolutely dominant. Not even the playoff prowess of Kobe Bryant could stop Nowitzki and the Mavs, who like the Hawks, had a great night shooting and were surprisingly potent on the interior.
For game two, the Lakers are going to need to really establish a frontcourt presence, both offensively and defensively. The offense should run through Bynum and Gasol for the first half at least, and the Lakers need to slow down the pace of the Mavs, and the toughest aspect may be cooling off Jason Terry. The Lakers might need to use Kobe Bryant to defend Terry as long as he is in the game, because he has really stepped up his game this season when more is on the line.
Memphis and Oklahoma City both came back to earth for game two, at least in terms of what we expected for this series. This is another high-flying, extremely athletic couple of teams, and the Thunder were just too good on Tuesday night as they tied the series at one game apiece.
Kevin Durant is clearly the best scorer in the NBA, but it's not like he takes inadvertent jump shots and shoots a low percentage--this guy is clutch, and one of the best pure shooters in the NBA.
Memphis needs to continue to push the pace with the Thunder, and they might need to get into a scoring bout. If that's the case, it's going to be very difficult to bet against the Thunder, who have scoring options all over the place.
The Boston Celtics continue to show their age, and may be welcoming the Miami HEAT to the highest level of the NBA stage in front of a national audience. What I mean by that is that the HEAT are absolutely dismantling the Celtics, making them look old, and showing who the real "Big Three" are now. The Celtics have rings, and I have been very critical of the HEAT throughout this whole process, but they are finally playing complementary basketball, something I have not seen all year.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are the clear leaders of this team, and if they keep up this kind of pace offensively and defensively, they are going to be tough to beat throughout. They are gelling at the exact right time, and are up 2-0 as a result against the Boston Celtics.