Miami looked dominant on opening day. They came into the season trying to unbalance a defense with speed and aggressiveness, and it worked on Dallas — Miami had 100 possessions, nine more than they averaged last season.
But Boston is a better defensive squad and should prove an interesting preseason test. The two teams meet in Miami at 8 p.m. Tuesday, with the game broadcast on TNT. Which means we get to hear Shaq mumble his thoughts on the Heat.
Pace will be key. Boston is a deliberate team (22nd in the league in pace last year), but they are also a team prone to turnovers that could fuel the Heat’s running game. If Miami runs they will win this game — Boston is a good transition defense team but Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are two of the best open court finishers there are.
Another area to watch is the post. LeBron and Wade went there more often this year and looked good, again creating matchup problems for whomever they play, Sasha Pavlovic (starting for the injured Paul Pierce) would need help on LeBron in the post.
On the other end of the court, the Celtics have talked about getting Kevin Garnett and other Celtics more post touches as well. Against the Knicks on Christmas the Celtics barely went to the post (3.7 percent of possessions ESPNBoston.com reported, down from 12 percent last year). With no real defensive center on the Heat (unlike the Knicks with Tyson Chandler) the Celtics will probe there.
The next question for Boston is will they make the extra pass, can they create open looks against an aggressive and athletic Heat defense? You can’t dribble through the Heat defense forever, but crisp passing would get Celtics enough room to knock down good looks.
There are other questions. Can Chris Bosh bounce back with a good game against Garnett after a lackluster opener? Can Rajon Rondo tear up the Heat’s point guards? How much to the Celtics miss Pierce?
You don’t want to read too much into the second game of the season, but this will give us a view as to where these teams are now. And in a 66-game season every game counts.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.