Chicago 88, at Indiana 84 (Chicago leads series 3-0)
Offensive Ratings: Chicago 101.4, Indiana 96.8
Let's begin by addressing the Pacers' thuggish play on Thursday. They had to do it. It may be the best way for them to stay close to the Bulls who, for the most part, have refused to retaliate against the muggings dished out by the likes of Jeff Foster and Josh McRoberts. Indiana committed 20 fouls in the game; Foster and McRoberts were tagged with just two each. That doesn't begin to describe what was an ugly string of non-basketball action, where a player brutalizes another player without even a good-faith effort at going for the ball. The officiating crew (who deserve to be called out: Mike Callahan, John Goble and Ken Mauer) let it go on, again and again, without issuing a technical foul, a flagrant foul or kicking anybody out of the game. They could, and should, have employed all three tools to keep the Pacers in hand. Perhaps they were operating under some misguided notion that playoff basketball is somehow different, that there is a separate rulebook for the postseason. There is not and the NBA has spent decades trying to clean-up this kind of nonsense. If that's playoff basketball, you can keep it.
Chicago has escaped three games by the skin of its teeth, but escape they have and the Pacers are squarely in the Bulls' crosshairs. Three-oh is no joke. It's not easy to win the postseason, no matter who you play, unless you come up against a forlorn group who has thrown in the towel as the Hawks did in the second round last season. The Pacers have chosen the opposite tack. They have chosen to fight, both in the literal and figurative sense, and that's to the ever-lasting credit of interim coach Frank Vogel and his players. Chicago will likely finish off Indiana on Saturday. I mean, the Pacers have thrown everything they have into these first three games and as a reward they have only respect. That's nice, but it's also a fickle currency in the rugged landscape of a professional basketball postseason.
On Thursday, the Pacers circled the wagons against the first part of Tom Thibodeau's omnipresent inside-out approach. Chicago shot 19-of-52 (36.5 percent) inside the arc and an incredible 8-of-29 (27.6 percent) in the paint. Derrick Rose was 4-of-18. Carlos Boozer 2-of-10. And, yet, the Bulls took their pounding, made their free throws and shot 9-of-20 from deep against the Pacers' packed-in approach. That allowed Chicago to edge over a point per possession and, most importantly, escape with the win. Luol Deng was fantastic on both ends for the Bulls, with 21 points and six assists. And Kyle Korver shot 4-of-4 in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 12 points, just when the Bulls needed him most.
For all their physical play on defense, the Pacers just were not able carry the same approach over to the other end. Danny Granger is a terrific player, but he's perhaps miscast as a team's centerpiece. As much as he's improved during his time in the NBA, he just hasn't developed the full range of skills you'd like to see in your best player. He's far too jump-shot oriented and has failed to attempt a single free throw in two out of the three games in the series. The Bulls took the three-point shot away for the entire game, as Indiana shot just 1-of-10 from long range. Without a high number of foul shots to offset the overall low shooting percentage, offensive efficiency was impossible for Vogel's squad, despite the 15 offensive rebounds it grabbed. Really, there is nowhere to go from here for the Pacers, and the Bulls are keeping their fingers crossed that they escape this matchup with all of their key pieces intact.
Miami 100, at Philadelphia 94 (Miami leads series 3-0)
Offensive Ratings: Miami 120.7, Philadelphia 113.5
The Sixers have done what they can, but the Heat take it away from you so quickly that it's breathtaking to watch when it comes. Philadelphia was looking great, taking a 68-60 lead on Andre Iguodala's putback dunk midway through the third quarter and one possession later, were a missed short jumper by Jrue Holiday from upping the lead to double digits. Then the Heat flexed its muscle. Dwyane Wade stole the ball from Holliday and fed LeBron James for a short jumper. James stole the ball from Iguodala and fed a dashing Wade for an electrifying two-handed flush. Wade then blocked Jodie Meeks' three-point attempt, resulting in a shot clock violation, and Chris Bosh hit a floater in the lane. Meeks missed again, and Wade dunked home a Joel Anthony miss. Exactly two minutes of court time after Holiday missed the shot that would have put the Sixers up by 10, the game was tied at 68.
The Sixers didn't collapse. Doug Collins' scrappy group did go back in front a couple of times. Philadelphia slowed the pace to a crawl as Collins realized his best shot was to keep the number of possessions to a minimum. The slow tempo and ugly aesthetics masked to a certain degree Miami's ultra-efficient offense. The Heat averaged over 1.2 points per possession, but didn't do it on lights-out shooting. Miami recovered 20 of 43 offensive rebound opportunities, resulting in a 24-15 edge in second-chance points. All eight of Zydrunas Ilgauskas' rebounds came on the offensive end and Wade got six of his 10 boards off Heat misses. That's disappointing for Collins, as his Sixers actually held the edge in transition points and shot 9-of-21 from long range.
The Heat were not a great offensive rebounding team in the regular season and the Sixers weren't a particularly bad defensive rebounding team, but those numbers have been turned on their proverbial ears as Miami has collected 43 offensive boards in three games. It's not a recipe for success for the Heat--those extra chances likely won't be there in the rounds to come. Then again, if the Heat's core trio remains this committed to attacking the rim and the glass they way they have against Philadelphia, who is to say what they can't do?
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Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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