NBA Play-offs: The Miami Heat showed again last night why they are championship material last night in Chicago as they got down and dirty against the Chicago Bulls to take a 2-1 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final. In the Western Conference semi-final series between the San Antonio and the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs proved once again why they can never be counted out in any series by claiming victory to lead the series 2-1.
Miami Heat – Chicago Bulls, 104-94
In Chicago it was a case of talent finally overcoming brawn as the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls played out a tempestuous NBA play-off game. There is certainly no love lost between the Heat and Bulls players, and this was highlighted before the tip off when no handshakes were exchanged. The bad blood continued onto the court as high tensions caused a scrappy affair, but the Heat’s big players came good at the right time to secure a 104-94 victory to lead the series 2-1.
No team is really going to live with Miami on talent alone, not when the Heat can boast MVP LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. The Bulls have approached this series to get in Miami’s face, make things difficult, and to make the match ups physical. However, that can only carry them so far and eventually Miami clicked and secured the win.
LeBron was in uncharacteristically poor touch when shooting and a shove from Nazr Mohammed kept the 4-time MVP relatively quiet for nearly two quarters, while Mohammad was ejected from the game. LeBron did come good down the stretch and notched up 25-points for the Heat, while a 20 points and 19 rebounds contribution from Chris Bosh ensured that Miami was always one step ahead of their opponents.
The Bulls did well to regroup after the devastating loss in game 2. The 115-78 crumble in game 2 was the worst in franchise play-off history, but this time the Bulls set their stall out early to disrupt the rhythm of their rivals. The loss of Mohammad for the James shove proved decisive as tired legs found their way into the Bulls team as the game went on, especially with the list of injuries the roster is currently suffering.
Chris Bosh highlighted that Miami could also play grind it out Basketball and that championship teams can change styles.
“You can’t win a championship being pretty and shiny,” Bosh said. “You’re going to have to get dirty. You’re going to have to play physical. You’re going to have to dive on the floor. You’re going to have to do things that are extremely tough.
“I think people forget just two years ago we were a half-court, grind-it-out kind of team that was trying to beat you down. Just because we’ve moved to more of a free-flowing offense, we’re more spread a little bit, that doesn’t mean that we are just a run-and-gun team.”
San Antonio Spurs – Golden State Warriors, 102-92
Despite the series being tied at 1-1, the San Antonio Spurs have not been in good form and in fact the Golden State Warriors have been comfortably the better team. However, this is the Spurs, one of the most consistent teams in the league, and typically the Californian franchise has been moving along in typical metronomic fashion. A Tony Parker and Tim Duncan master class brought the Spurs back to form and showed why the team can never be counted out when considering potential NBA champions.
A feisty crowd cheering on the Golden State Warriors would always boost the team enough to keep them in the contest, but for much of the game the Spurs were in control. Tony Parker was in especially devastating form as he logged 32 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds, but the point guard had an interesting game. 25 of his 32 point haul came in the first half, but his contribution meant that the damage was already done and ultimately there was no way back for the Warriors.
This was proven when Tim Duncan aided Parker with his own 23 point and 10 rebound contribution. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich summed up the game when he said.
”We made shots and they (Warriors) didn’t have as good a night shooting the ball, Sometimes it’s as simple as that.”
Just as the Spurs looked to be cruising with a 10-point lead heading into the fourth, the Golden State Warriors respond with 9 points in 2 minutes. The streak put the Warriors within one point at 79-78 in favour of San Antonio, but the chance of overhauling the score was ended quickly when the Spurs went on their own 11 point run, with the Warriors responding with just one point.
The boisterous crowd supported the team until the end, but the Spurs closed out a relatively comfortable victory to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Warriors coach Mark Jackson predicted more of a fight from the Spurs after two lacklustre performances, and so it proved.
”We talked about it, even after winning Game 2, this is going to be a heavyweight championship fight,” Jackson said. ”This is a different animal that we’re going against. They have four future NBA Hall of Famers. They’re not going to lie down.”