Game 1 was tight at first…until the Heat, as they have done so often this season, took control in the second half.
Part of the reason why Game 1 was a lot closer (at least in the first half) than what many expected was the offensive output of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Brandon Jennings had 18 of the Bucks’ 45 points at halftime and the Ellis-Jennings duo combined for 48 of the Bucks’ 86 points.
- Key #1: Contain Ellis and Jennings — The Monta Ellis and the Brandon Jennings combo is the only hope that the Bucks have of outscoring the Heat. Luc Mbah a Moute has as much chance of scoring in double figures as Sam Cassell has of winning a beauty pageant. LARRY SANDERS! can rebound, block, and tip-dunk. If he’s more than five feet from the basket, he’s an offensive liability. And while Ersan Ilyasova is a decent three point shooter, he only scored two points last game. So the spotlight will be on Mario Chalmers and whether or not he can stop BJ3 in Game 2 after letting BJ3 get by him on multiple occasions in Game 1.
- Key #2: Can the Birdman keep on flying? — LeBron flirted with a triple-double last game. Ray Allen scored 20 points. But the most valuable Heat player had to be the Birdman. His hustle and unselfish play along with his high-flying highlights energizes this Heat team. Birdman’s biggest contribution has been on the glass In Game 1 he had seven rebounds in only 16 minutes of play — no Bucks player had more than six. It’s no coincidence that in the Birdman’s best game (arguably) of the season, the Heat out-rebounded the Bucks 46-31 after being dead last in the NBA in rebounds per game.
- Key #3: Can the Heat cut down on their turnovers? — As LeBron said at the end of Game 1 (and I’m paraphrasing), “the Bucks are long and can force a lot of turnovers, and that is something we have to improve upon in Game 2″. And King James was absolutely right — the Heat had 19 turnovers while the Bucks had only 12. The Heat’s biggest offenders? Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh who were responsible for four turnovers a piece. I attribute these turnovers to a little bit of rustiness (most of the first unit haven’t played significant minutes since The Streak), so after a full game of action and a couple days of practice, I expect that the number of Heat turnovers to go down.
What do you think are the keys to the game? Tweet me your thoughts @jaebradley!