The jitters are gone, the Game 1 celebrations and recriminations are faded and filed away, and the matchup adjustments born of hours of film review have been meticulously plotted. It's the second dance of the first round of the playoffs, with four games on tap, from Beantown to Hollywood and down to the desert and peach tree territory. Let's survey the landscape.
Way too many brain cells were sacrificed scheming up mismatches that mostly backfired in the series opener, won by the Hawks 102-92. Already missing their 7-foot anchor
Meanwhile, Hawks' coach
Tonight's assignments would seem to be pretty simple: Milwaukee has to move the ball and Atlanta has to play hard for 48 minutes. The athletic Hawks will be coming with traps and double-teams on Jennings, who shot a paltry 37 percent from the field during the regular season and isn't likely to duplicate his 14-of-25 shooting from Game 1. He and
As for the Hawks, after dominating the Bucks early, they stopped attacking the paint on offense and stood around on defense long enough to allow Milwaukee to cut a 22-point lead down to seven. For a team that demands to be taken seriously as a legitimate contender, they are the opposite of gritty, and won't be genuinely respected until that changes.
This is an atonement game for many of the frontcourt players on both teams. Not
For the Heat, a trio of bigs has to put the ball in the hole after
Overall, this frontcourt threesome finished 9-of-30 from the field with each held to a single-digit point total. If that doesn't dramatically improve against the Celtics without K.G., the Heat are toast.
No more writing off the Trail Blazers. Their 105-100 road victory over the Suns in the series opener was no fluke. Playoff-style basketball is in the Blazers' DNA. They pounce on turnovers, looking for fast-break points, but otherwise play at the league's slowest pace, in half-court sets that emphasize their length and intelligence. Their ownership has deep pockets and their front office is ahead of the curve on advanced statistics, which is how, and why, Portland made a deal at the All-Star break, grabbing
Camby -- like the injured
They are Trail Blazers by nature, and both came into this series brimming with confidence that has been contagious throughout the roster.
For Phoenix, this is obviously a must-win. That means
Just as he was overly criticized as an imperfect fit in the Lakers' system during the regular season,
More than likely, Durant will improve his accuracy and thus his point total tonight, through no additional fault of Artest's. To maintain their dominance and sense of inevitability over this series, the Lakers have to do a better job of containing
It should be an exciting end to a marathon evening of games that should satiate even the most die-hard hoops junkie.