After a first half feeling out process that saw the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat knotted at 48-all in Game One of their Eastern Conference championship series, the Bulls EXPLODED in the last two quarters on the way to a 103-82 rout...
Chicago dominated so many categories that it's hard to know where the begin.
*Three-Pointers: Chicago won this category 10-3, with the final victory margin representing the +21 points the Bulls netted from behind the arc. It's not fair to say this was the only thing that mattered though. Chicago attempted 21 treys, Miami only 8. The Heat were trying to emphasize inside scoring, hoping to garner enough points there to make up for a lack of long range production.
*Turnovers: But, that DIDN'T work because Miami turned the ball over 16 times! Chicago only lost the ball nine times themselves. That represents a Chicago blowout in this statistical category as well.
*Rebounds: And, it ALSO didn't work because Miami was getting killed on the boards. When they missed, they only grabbed 19% of their offensive rebound opportunities (6 of 32). On the other end of the court, Chicago had an offensive rebound rate of 41% (19 of 46).
*Second Chance Points: The board dominance for the Bulls led to a 31-8 slaughter in second-chance points. Amazing that a team can win three-point scoring 30-9, and win second-chance points 31-8. That's outside and inside. WHAT'S LEFT?!
What was left was basically Chris Bosh having a huge game inside for Miami with baskets that didn't matter. He erased the 1 for 18 regular season nightmare on this floor with a 12 for 18 gem. But, those were baskets Chicago was willing to allow as long as they kept LeBron James and Dwyane Wade under control. They did.
This leads us to the two-way and three-way battles I wanted to spotlight during the series. Hopefully, NOW, the world doesn't see Luol Deng as a defensive specialist who occasionally shoots...or the Bulls as a one-man team with Derrick Rose leading a bunch of stiffs.
Rose + Deng: 49 points
James + Wade: 33 points
Whoa! Now, this is far from a best expecation for the series. Deng won't go 4 of 6 on treys every game. Rose was 3 for 7 himself, and he's been known to do worse. Also, James and Wade deferred some to Bosh because he was scoring so easily. Chicago would be okay in this series if Rose and Deng can just hold their own in the matchup. They did a lot more than that tonight.
Rose, Deng + Boozer: 63 points
James, Wade + Bosh: 63 points
Dead heat for Ghidorah, even after you factor in Bosh's big night. Chicago has a much better bench, so Miami's three-headed monster has to do much better than this (unless somebody like James Jones or Mario Chalmers starts lighting it up).
It's only one game...and it's only a home favorite holding serve. Sometimes the first game of a series has little resemblance to the remaining games (Atlanta beat Chicago in a series opener by a dozen, Memphis beat Oklahoma City by 13 on the road, Dallas only beat the Lakers by two in a series opener when they would win the next three games by 54 points). Miami has plenty of time to regroup.
Of concern for the Heat:
*They're only 1-3-1 on the road at the end of regulation in the playoffs so far. They split with Philadelphia (a borderline playoff caliber team). They lost and went overtime with banged up Boston. Now, a loss here. If healthy Chicago is a lot better than banged up Boston, then it may be a lot more difficult for Miami to win a road game than many had been thinking.
*Nobody on the bench seems ready to step up. Some are capable of stepping up. Nobody's won the trust of the big three. Ghidorah took 50 of the team's 68 shots this evening. Hey, I forgot to do my percentage rundown!
James, Wade, and Bosh
Scored 77% of Miami's points
Took 74% of Miami's shots
Earned 82% of Miami's assists
Attempted 93% of Miami's free throws
Committed 63% of Miami's turnovers
Committed 40% of Miami's fouls
Still mostly a three-man team. Everyone else's job is to help commit fouls.
Let's run those same numbers for Chicago...
Rose, Deng, and Boozer
Scored 61% of Chicago's points
Took 66% of Chicago's shots
Earned 43% of Chicago's assists
Attempted 65% of Chicago's free throws
Committed 56% of Chicago's turnovers
Committed 31% of Chicago's fouls
It's not a three-man team. Running those numbers helped me notice that Chicago had 23 assists as a team even though point guard Rose only had six (great teamwork!)...and Chicago only committed 13 personal fouls on the night. The refs may not be as friendly in future games. But, the Bulls really did back off a bit when Bosh was in close figuring they can live with allowing a basket. No reason to give him a chance for a 3-point play and stick a personal foul on one of their bigs.
*Chicago's energy level is likely to matter the whole way. Possibly the key to this series long term is who gets tired first. Does Derrick Rose wear down trying to do too much...reducing his impact in later games? Or, does Miami's three-headed monster wear down from trying to win 3-on-9 or 3-on-10? Chicago's cavalry made it 3-on-10 tonight...which is a very good sign for the Bulls' hopes in this series.
*Miami falls to 0-4 this season against Chicago, failing to truly impress at any time.
Miami can take solace in knowing:
*LeBron James isn't going to go 5 of 15 from the floor in every game.
*Chicago isn't going to go 10 of 21 on treys in every game.
*They're going to get more calls in future games, meaning a lot more than 15 free throw attempts most nights.
Is that enough to make up for a 21-point deficit? Four times in six games?! That's a stiff challenge to be sure. A quantum of solace. A quandry from concerns.
But, it's only one game. Summarizing points we've already discussed...
CHICAGO 103, MIAMI 82
2-point pct: Miami 48%, Chicago 42%
3-pointers: Miami 3/8, Chicago 10/21
Free Throws: Miami 15/15, Chicago 17/20
Rebounds: Miami 33, Chicago 45
Turnovers: Miami 16, Chicago 9
1's and 2's: Miami 73, Chicago 73
Game Two isn't until Wednesday because Oprah needs the building for a couple of days. Miami's hopes for a championship this year may hinge on those next 48 minutes of game action.
In earlier playoff action Sunday...
OKLAHOMA CITY 105, MEMPHIS 90
2-point pct: Memphis 41%, OKC 53%
3-pointers: Memphis 5/15, OKC 11/28
1's and 2's: Memphis 75, OKC 72
No need to go into all the categories. Once it was clear that Russell Westbrook was finally going to get out of the way of Kevin Durant, the stage was set for a comfortable Oklahoma City win.
Westbrook only took 12 shots (shooting a disappointing 4 of 12 for 33%). Durant took 25 shots on his way to 39 points. Durant started attacking the basket again (mysteriously missing from Game Six, which we theorized was from fatigue). Back in form today, his ratio was 16-9 on two-point attempts to trey attempts. He also added nine points from the free throw line because of that aggression.
To Westbrook's tremendous credit...he channeled his energy and passion into rebounding and assists. This led to a triple double that may have been a bit overhyped. Well, let's say it this way. Westbrook's 14 assists were huge, because it meant he was getting out of the way and helping everyone else score. HUGE! His 10 rebounds were also very big coming from the point guard position. Six of those were on offense...and many seemed big at the moment...giving OKC an extra chance to score when a basket was needed. Scoring 14 points on 4 of 12 shooting was barely worth talking about.
Earning a "triple double" was trivia. His dynamic complementary role was much more worthy of celebration in my view. Rings matter more than trivia. Westbrook today looked like a player who had moved closer to trusting his teammates and grasping the moment.
Also worth noting for OKC:
*James Harden was 6 of 10 from the field, and had a +24 in plus/minus in a 15-point win.
*Nick Collison off the bench put a roadblock in front of Zach Randolph. Joe Treutlein has been tweeting often about Collison's criminally overlooked impact on this team (and I'll cop to a misdemeanor myself). Collison was +26 in plus/minus in 33 minutes today.
*Only Durant and Westbrook played 35 minutes or more, which gives the team a fighting chance to have its legs Tuesday night in the series opener at Dallas.
There are no games Monday. I'll try to have a preview up for OKC/Dallas by Monday evening just in case there are readers who are considering continuing their karma by commenting...