As a basketball player, I always grew up dreaming of playing on the biggest stages and in the loudest of environments. My first NBA playoff game was just that.
I've always loved playing in those type of high-stakes situations. Every possession is so intense, the crowd is so loud and everyone on the floor is locked in at all times. The older guys on the team were telling me what it would be like to play in the playoffs for the first time, but it was even more intense than they described. Every detail of every play matters so much. If you blink and let a team go on a 6-0 run in the second quarter it could be the difference in the game. There's not much room for error when you're in a seven-game series. Particularly against the two-time defending champions.
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Every second of Game 1 felt like it was in overtime to me. Every possession felt so big. You're always on the spot. The 82-game regular season is such a grind and sometimes you'll play four games in five nights and someone on your team won't have their best in one of those games. But everyone on your entire team needs to be playing at a high level to win a playoff game, especially against a team as talented as Miami. If you don't have all five guys on the floor fresh and playing hard, you're in trouble. Coach (Steve) Clifford and the staff have done a good job preparing us and Big Al (Jefferson), Kemba (Walker) and Gary Neal have played in big games and given us advice, too.
It's not as shocking to be on the same floor as the Heat as it used to be when I first came into the league at the beginning of this year. We played them four times during the season and now once in the postseason and playoffs, so it feels pretty normal now. Once you get past the first few minutes of the first preseason game, the awe starts to wear off and you have to treat LeBron James just like just another player.
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We were with Miami the whole game in Game 1, but just made a few too many mistakes to win. Leading into Game 2 on Wednesday, we've been trying to correct a couple of things that went wrong, particularly cutting down on turnovers. They scored off a lot of those turnovers and turned them into fast-break points and we can't afford those types of mistakes.
Miami is so different because they will put four shooters on the floor, including at the four, which is where I usually play. They'll put LeBron James or Shane Battier or Rashard Lewis there and put Chris Bosh at the five. Other times, they'll switch it up and put Bosh at the four and bring in Chris 'Birdman' Andersen. That's a lot of different looks for me to prepare for. It's tough for bigs like me to play against those spot-up shooters because we're not used to running out to the perimeter and closing out. You don't have a lot of room for error against Miami.
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Playing on the biggest stage this spring is an awesome experience. The two tournaments are different, but the NBA playoffs does have the some of the same kind of buzz as the NCAA tournament, which I played in last year with Indiana. I'll watch the other playoff games at night just like the fans. The end of Oklahoma City-Memphis on Monday was pretty crazy.
We're hoping to cut down on our mistakes in Game 2 and make some adjustments. We're looking forward to bringing playoff basketball back to Charlotte for our fans. I was talking to some guys who were here the last time the Bobcats were in the playoffs (2009-10) and they said it was some of the best atmospheres they'd ever seen. I'm looking forward to playing in more big games like that.
<em>As told to Matt Dollinger of SI.com</em>.