Heat cruise to 2-0 series lead with Game 2 win over Nets

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The Nets didn’t seem to give their all in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Heat, incredulous as that may seem. They appeared to be playing the long game, not expending too much energy with a veteran squad playing a rested opponent, hoping that being judicious with the starters’ minutes would pay dividends later in the series.

In Thursday’s Game 2 matchup, there seemed to be no limitations from Brooklyn’s standpoint. But a dismal game from Deron Williams, along with a balanced Miami attack enabled the Heat to take a 2-0 series lead by posting a 94-82 victory over a Nets team that struggled offensively for the second straight contest.

Brooklyn hung in there through three periods in this one, and solved its problem of allowing Miami to score time and again in the paint, cutting their opponent’s deficit in that area significantly. But Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen both converted big shots late, and the Nets were unable to answer.

Williams finished 0-of-9 from the field, and went scoreless in over 35 minutes of action, but did chip in seven rebounds and six assists. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson combined to shoot 11-of-25 from the field for 26 points, which isn’t going to be nearly enough to take down the defending champs even once.

Brooklyn got its most production from Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson off the bench, who combined for 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting. But they play limited minutes, and for the Nets to be successful, they need Johnson, Williams and Pierce to handle the bulk of the responsibilities offensively.

It was an odd game in terms of its flow, but Allen and Wade were the ones hitting the shots that seemed to be momentum-shifters down the stretch. The Heat closed on a 15-5 run to seal it, with Mario Chalmers and Allen ultimately being the ones who put this game away.

As the series shifts back to Brooklyn, the Nets’ biggest problem is their offense. They’ll need to get Williams back on track, while finding a way to get both Pierce and Johnson more high-percentage looks.

Brooklyn has done an excellent job of keeping Miami from scoring a bunch of easy points in transition, and the Nets have hung in there on the road for at least a half of two consecutive games. Game 3 is now the series for the Nets, and they have the talent to come back and create a challenge. But it appears as though they’ll need every single veteran on the roster to come through with an above-average performance in order to begin to turn things around.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.

Rockets easily overcome James Harden’s horrid shooting night, win Game 2 over Timberwolves

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
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James Harden shot 2-for-18 – the worst field-goal percentage (11%) on so many attempts in a playoff game in nearly a decade and the worst ever in a first-round game.

The Rockets still won by 20 because of their stout defense, a strong supporting star in Chris Paul and Harden’s foul-drawing ability.

Houston’s took a 2-0 series lead with a 102-82 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Game 3 will be Saturday in Minnesota, but the top-seeded Rockets have seized firm control.

Every No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seed to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven first-round series have won it. There’s little reason to believe Houston will become the exception.

The Rockets are no longer as reliant on Harden, the likely MVP who seemed to wear down last postseason.

They buckled down defensively before letting up in a fourth quarter that was entirely garbage time. Houston forced more turnovers (16) than allowed assists (15) and contested shot after shot.

It’s becoming increasingly clear the Timberwolves have no quick solution to the Karl-Anthony Towns problem, and it’s not simply a matter of deciding to feed him more. Yes, he can get favorable post matchups against the Rockets’ switching scheme. But Minnesota lacks quality entry passers. The Timberwolves are also short on shooters and need him to spread the floor – even if that skill is less-helpful after a switch. Towns scored just five points in 24 minutes tonight.

His teammates were barely, if at all, better. The focus has turned to Towns, but this was a far-wider letdown.

On the other hand, Paul (27 points and eight assists) led Houston’s offense. Gerald Green (21 points and 12 rebounds) got hot. Even Harden (7-of-8 on free throws) chipped in thanks to his elite foul-drawing ability.

The Rockets aren’t always the most enjoyable team to watch, and that was the case tonight. Mostly, because they put this game out of reach long before it actually ended.