1. Wade Pushes Sixers To Brink Of Elimination
PHILADELPHIA -- Following the natural order of things, the Miami Heat's first postseason stress test arrived right on schedule in their first road game on Thursday night.
The theme from "Rocky" blared, while the familiar boos returned. The favorites were down by nine points in the first couple of minutes and eventually by eight midway through the third quarter. Conveniently and strategically, the Heat have been built and primed for these moments.
Dwyane Wade sensed it, knowing that the role of facilitator in migraine recovery wouldn't do as it had the first two games in Miami. So he did what the Heat are counting on from him on a regular basis in this playoff run: He played like a superstar.
With a clearer head, an altered game plan and a sense of urgency, Wade guided the Heat to a 100-94 Game 3 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. With Miami now up 3-0, the win virtually ended the major suspense in this first-round series.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh both played significant roles -- the Heat rarely win if all three aren't seriously contributing -- but Game 3 truly was Wade's notice of arrival in the postseason. Feeling 100 percent after a migraine had limited him earlier in the series, Wade scored 32 badly needed points with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Like so many of his big playoff games in the past, Wade did it by relentlessly attacking the basket, putting pressure on the Sixers' defense and the officials. He ended up getting what he wanted, eight baskets within three feet of the rim and 12 trips to the foul line.
"Philly has been extremely committed to getting the ball out of his hands, and for two games he distributed," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Tonight was different. He understood we needed something a little more, his aggressive attack mentality."
As with any underdog down 0-2 in a series, the Sixers and their fans knew Game 3 was pretty much the last shot to make it a true series. The Sixers played that way from the start, getting their oft-maligned offense going early and shooting 60 percent in the first quarter with emotion sparked by the sellout crowd at Wells Fargo Center.
With his team down by as many as 10 points, Wade seemed to sense it was time for him to act like the captain. He scored 12 points in a pivotal second quarter that, in reality, quashed the Sixers' hopes. All of it came as he flew at the rim.
At one point he recoiled in pain when he jammed his left shoulder, the one he dislocated four years ago, trying to battle through a double-team on a drive. But he didn't leave the game; he just kept on attacking even if there were huge ice bags waiting for him on the bench. Compared to the migraine that started coming on in Game 1 and sent him to his bed for 24 straight hours before Game 2, that little painful flashback was nothing.
"My body felt better tonight," Wade said. "My game felt better."
The game plan was better for him as well. After the Sixers had limited him to a degree in the first two games with double-teams to force the ball from his hands, the Heat used Wade less as a ball handler and more as an attacker in Game 3.
Getting involved in sets with James and Bosh, Wade was able to get the ball on the move instead of initiating the play. The result was the Sixers' reacting to Wade's attacks instead of setting up for them.
"More opportunities presented themselves, I was a little more aggressive at times," Wade said. "I was able to get the ball on the move and not so much in the pick-and-roll, and that helped out a little."
Those maneuvers made an impact all over the court. With Wade able to get to the rim repeatedly without having to worry about double-teams, the Sixers were constantly forced to challenge shots at the rim and draw their big men out of position. They made Wade miss quite a few times, but it had a penalty.
Again and again, Heat centers and forwards were all alone to get offensive rebounds. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had eight, and the Heat ended up with 24 second-chance points.
James scored 24 points with 15 rebounds -- he did the damage at the defensive end, collecting 14 Sixers misses -- and Bosh added 19 points and six rebounds. Together, that was enough to break the Sixers, despite standout efforts from Jrue Holiday (20 points) and Elton Brand (21).
When Wade or James is so engaged, the Sixers have trouble keeping up offensively. They shot only 37 percent after the first quarter. Andre Iguodala, who has struggled scoring for the entire series, had 10 assists but scored just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. He's now 7-of-25 shooting in the series.
In a sign of what the Heat think of Iguodala's offense at the moment, Spoelstra had James Jones defend him in the later stages of the fourth quarter with top defenders Wade and James assigned elsewhere.
For the second time in the series, Sixers coach Doug Collins lamented the free throw differential, as Miami shot 30 to the Sixers' 19. He pointed out that Bosh, James and Wade combined to play more than 120 collective minutes but were called for just two fouls.
Collins' objections came off as half-hearted, though. The veteran coach knew that his team had run into Wade on one of "those" nights.
"I think Dwyane Wade can get a good shot whenever he wants to, he has that kind of ability," Collins said. "He was in the attack mode from moment one."
2. Even On An Off Night, Rose Awes
INDIANAPOLIS -- Twenty minutes after the smoke cleared, Brian Scalabrine sat at the laptop that feeds the projector in the visitors locker room at Conseco Fieldhouse.
He had to see the play again.
From his seat on the bench, Scalabrine has seen Derrick Rose do a lot of amazing things on the basketball court, but he had to go to the tape to rewatch Rose's final shot, the split-the-blue-and-gold-sea, left-handed layup with less than 18 seconds left that gave the Bulls the lead for good. With that momentum, Chicago outslugged the Pacers with an 88-84 win that put the Bulls up 3-0 in the first-round playoff series.
In an ugly game, leave it to Rose to add some color.
3. Daily Dime Live
Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network bloggers and fans gave their in-game opinions on all topics throughout Thursday's slate of NBA playoff talk in Daily Dime Live.
4. Blazers Hold Off Mavericks
For the first time this series, the Dallas Mavericks didn't dominate the fourth quarter.
The Portland Trail Blazers, energized by a rowdy Rose Garden crowd, stretched their lead from three to double figures in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter and fought off the Mavs down the stretch for their first win of the series.
A terrific shooting performance by Jason Terry, who hit 10 of 13 shots en route to scoring 29 points, kept the Mavs in the game. But Terry, considered one of the West's best closers, faded in the fourth quarter, scoring only three points in the final frame.
Dirk Nowitzki had nine of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, but that wasn't enough.
5. Extreme Behavior
Thaddeus Young, Sixers: Young's play off the bench this season is one of the reasons he was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, but in Philly's biggest game, he went 1-for-8 from the floor, finishing with just four points.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"The whole time, I was just thinking I'll go to the hole. It was tough the whole night the way they were playing, but at that time, I saw space and went for it."
-- Bulls guard Derrick Rose on his winning shot against the Pacers with 17.8 seconds left
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Heat Reaction: Miami vs. Philly
In the first half, Chris Bosh couldn't hit from the elbow, couldn't hit from close range and couldn't hit from the stripe. But Bosh persevered, regained his confidence and continued to attack off the bounce. Philly didn't make it easy, choosing to slide a weakside defender toward him. Defensively, the WrestleMania exhibition between Bosh and Elton Brand continued -- with mixed results.
8. Dream Performance
9. Lakers' Succeed With Defense
ESPN Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES -- Every NBA playoff series comes down to the adjustments. The changes made from game to game in these best-of-seven showdowns seemingly grow to become almost living, breathing things.
The Los Angeles Lakers, the heavy favorites as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and trailing the seventh-seeded New Orleans Hornets 1-0 to start their first round series, didn't want to wait until they were on their last breath to make a major move.
"It made us feisty," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of the change on Thursday before his team headed to the airport to fly to New Orleans for Game 3. "There was a real aggression that went into the game."
The 32-year-old Bryant often went chest-to-chest with the 25-year-old Paul, picking up the point guard full court and using his 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame to pound on the 6-foot, 175-pound Paul.