NBA Playoffs: Chris Bosh leads Heat to Game 1 win over the Sixers

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It wasn’t easy for the Miami Heat from the opening tip, and they made it perhaps more difficult than necessary down the stretch. But when all was said and done, Miami pulled away with a well-earned 97-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the 2011 playoffs.

And in a game where Philadelphia held LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in check by limiting them to a combined 10 of 27 shooting, it was Chris Bosh who helped provide the consistency the team needed to come away with this win — at least after the first quarter.

The Sixers came out aggressive and hot to start the contest, with Elton Brand leading the way down low. Brand scored 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting to help his team jump out to a 14-point first quarter lead, but Bosh adjusted, and limited him to just six points the rest of the way.

“I just tried to front him in the post, work him off the block a little bit,” Bosh said of his defensive adjustment. “I just kind of wanted to take that away, take away his easy touches. There were a couple times where they caught me off guard and he ducked in, and that was my mistake. But after that I was just conscious of it and aware of it, I just knew that eventually he was going to try to move into his sweet spot, so I just wanted to have some resistance.”

The Heat went to a zone defense for a stretch in the second quarter, which also helped limit Brand and the Sixers’ ability to get easy scoring inside. That spark sent Miami on a huge 16-2 run, one that put them up by seven late in the second period, and put the game in their hands.

“We did a poor job in the beginning of the game starting out with our man to man defense, and we just wanted to show them something different,” Bosh said. “We got two or three or four stops, and we just wanted to stick with it.

“I think that gave us some momentum into our man (defense), and that’s our bread and butter; that’s what we work on. That got us going and gave us a lot more confidence the rest of the game.”

That confidence lasted almost all of the third quarter, as Miami built its lead as high as 16 points — thanks to 10 points in the period from Bosh. But the Sixers wouldn’t quit, and got 12 points off the bench from Thaddeus Young in the final period, along with two critical back-to-back three pointers from Jrue Holiday that helped bring Philadelphia back to within a single point with 2:23 remaining. But that’s as close as the Sixers were able to get, thanks to the aggressive play from Wade and James down the stretch that resulted in either tough makes or trips to the free throw line that enabled Miami to seal it.

But none of it would have been possible without the solid and consistent play from Bosh, who was big for much of the game while James and Wade struggled at times offensively. Bosh, however, wasn’t willing to take too much credit afterward.

“I don’t read too much into too many games,” Bosh said. “It’s one of many; we expect to make a long run. Me personally, I don’t want to put too much on it because I just want to go out there and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

James, though, had no problem summing up Bosh’s impact on this one, and did so with a much grander statement.

“CB’s the most important player on our team,” James said. “He brought it. It was great to see.”

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.