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May 4, 2011
Playoff Prospectus
A Time to Worry

by Kevin Pelton

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at Miami 102, Boston 91 (Miami leads 2-0)
Pace: 86.2
Offensive Ratings: Miami 119.6, Boston 104.5

It's not time for the Boston Celtics to panic, but it is time for them to worry. Through two games, the Celtics have yet to show any area of clear superiority to the Miami Heat. In Tuesday's Game Two, Boston was all set up to steal a crucial win on the road. For once, the Celtics bench came through with an effective performance, allowing Boston to tie the game at 80 with 7:09 to play in regulation. The remainder of the game would be dominated by the Heat, as Miami followed with a 14-0 run to remove any drama in the closing minutes.

During the game-turning stretch, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took over, scoring 10 of the Heat's 14 points--seven for James and three for Wade, who also assisted on Mario Chalmers' three-pointer. A Chris Bosh free throw accounted for the other score. All night long, James and Wade got what they wanted. After relying on long two-pointers in Game One, they were much more active inside this time around. Wade made five of his nine shot attempts in the painted area and James scored 10 baskets from 12 feet or closer, attempting 14 such shots. So the fact that neither player was on from longer range (they combined to shoot 7-of-22 from at least 15 feet) wasn't really an issue. Wade also turned his forays to the basket into 13 free throw attempts; Bosh had 11 more and James eight as Miami attempted 36 free throws to Boston's 22.

Beyond that, the Heat controlled the offensive glass, securing 12 offensive rebounds in 40 opportunities (a 30.0 percent offensive rebound rate), and took excellent care of the basketball. Add up all three factors and a return to earth in terms of shooting (Miami's effective field-goal percentage dropped from 53.7 percent to 50.0 percent) did not stop from the Heat improving on its Game One Offensive Rating and torching the Celtics for nearly 120 points per 100 possessions.

For Boston, Rajon Rondo was the only member of the Big Four who was really on his game. That made it all the more curious that Doc Rivers rode Delonte West so long in the fourth quarter. Rondo did not return until the 5:46 mark, by which point Miami was already eight points into the 14-0 run. Rondo probably would not have changed things, but it looked like a case where Rivers rode his reserve too long. On a night where Paul Pierce attempted just 11 shots after missing time due to a foot injury, Kevin Garnett could not find the stroke from outside (2-of-9 on shots from 16-23 feet) and Ray Allen was blanketed defensively, the Celtics needed Rondo.

Really, this was a game that flipped the status-quo scripts for both teams. Boston's bench totaled 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting, providing offensive punch that has been missing throughout the playoffs. But despite Zydrunas Ilgauskas throwing up a -4 for old time's sake, the Heat's struggling starters generally outplayed their Celtics peers. Boston has yet to slow down James and Wade or find a consistent offensive rhythm. The Celtics now have three days off to try to figure things out as they head home with little margin for error.

at Oklahoma City 111, Memphis 102 (Series tied 1-1)
Pace: 92.4
Offensive Ratings: Oklahoma City 121.0, Memphis 109.6

There was probably no beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night the way Oklahoma City shot the ball. Led by the red-hot Eric Maynor, the Thunder knocked down eight three-pointers in 14 attempts and made better than half of its two-point attempts, meaning that occasionally sloppy ballhandling could not keep the Oklahoma City offense from reaching juggernaut levels.

In terms of the remaining five games of this series, the more important developments were at the other end of the floor, where the Thunder pulled a defensive 180 in the paint. After getting overpowered by Zach Randolph in Game One, Oklahoma City was the aggressor defensively, bodying Randolph away from the basket and daring him to put the ball on the floor rather than shoot effortless midrange attempts. The immediate effect was obvious.

With a mix of Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins checking Randolph, the Thunder held the Memphis Grizzlies' star to 2-of-13 shooting. The sacrifice the Thunder is making is conceding fouls, and Randolph did make 11 free throws in 12 attempts, but nonetheless his efficiency (15 points on 19 shooting possessions) was dramatically down from Game One (34 on 26). Oklahoma City also shut down Marc Gasol, who scored seven of his 13 points at the free throw line and missed six of his nine shot attempts.

Guards Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo were able to pick up much of the offensive slack. Mayo's 11 points in the last 6:30 of the third quarter helped keep Memphis close. Conley was strong all night and dropped a pair of threes as part of a futile rally in the final period. Still, the Thunder would gladly exchange a few extra buckets by Conley and Mayo to shut down the paint like they did Tuesday night.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were their usual selves, with Durant exploding for eight points in less than four minutes when Sam Young briefly switched on to him defensively. However, it was the Oklahoma City bench that really boosted the offense. James Harden, quiet in these playoffs, broke out with 11 free throws in as many attempts en route to 21 points and five assists. Maynor was pulling up from anywhere short of Tulsa, making three long triples and six of his seven shot attempts to add 15 points himself. That performance won't likely recur, but it was enough to even up this series going to Memphis.

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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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