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NBA Playoffs Liveblog: Contrasting Conferences

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Welcome back again everybody! If you missed any of yesterday’s action, make sure to check out my recap of all four games. Now on to day two of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs!

Mark Travis - 6:40 PM ET

Fun first quarter in Chicago. Both teams were surprisingly competent offensively and John Wall and Nene have helped control things early on as the Wizards have opened up a two point lead.

Mark Travis - 6:16 PM ET

Nice start to the game for the Wizards, who get a couple of Nene scores on a pick-and-roll and a post-up. Nene is the difference maker for Washington. His combination of defensive savvy, scoring touch and cunning passing makes him one of the few players in the league that can put a ton of pressure on Chicago’s defensive scheme. It will be fun watching John Wall compete against a defense geared to stop players of his ilk, and getting him on the move to the basket is going to be a priority for the Wizards.

Mark Travis - 4:57 PM ET

Charlotte competed hard, and we can expect that from them for the rest of this series, but Miami is just more talented and more fluid offensively. Kudos to Steve Clifford for bringing his team into Miami and having them play like they thought they had a chance. That’s not an easy sell against the back-to-back champs and a player that dropped 61 points on them earlier this season. Al Jefferson was a warrior, playing on one leg for most of the game and dominating Miami anyways. This was a fun game despite the large margin and I look forward to watching the rest of this series.

Next up we have the Wizards and Bulls, another pair of teams that will play a grind-it-out kind of series. I’ve enjoyed watching the Wizards play all season long and this series should be really fun for everybody that enjoys the little things about basketball – the pick-and-roll coverages, defensive rotations and off-ball movement – rather than just the stars. John Wall in his first playoff series is going to be compelling TV and I think he’ll help lead the Wizards to the second round in six games. See you back in here in one hour for tipoff.

Mark Travis - 4:21 PM ET

The Heat regained some of their rhythm to close out that quarter, getting their lead back up to seven, which is where it was at the half. You have to admire the fight that Charlotte has shown, but their offense can’t keep up with Miami’s, even when the Heat are having a hard time scoring themselves against the Bobcats’ tremendous defense.

Mark Travis - 3:56 PM ET

Charlotte comes out of the lockerroom on an 8-0 run. This is exactly the kind of start that they needed in order to keep this game close throughout.

Mark Travis - 3:33 PM ET

Gary Neal and Kemba Walker nail a pair of big threes to get Charlotte back within seven at the break. That’s big for the Bobcats after the Heat had seized all of the momentum. Miami recovered from a slow start with one of their patented runs, and Charlotte helps ignite those stretches with their inept offense. If they miss a couple of baskets in a row and allow the Heat to get out on the break, things start changing very quickly. The Bobcats have to come out of the lockerroom ready to defend and they have to hope Al Jefferson is ready and able to carry them offensively for the next 24 minutes.

Mark Travis - 3:29 PM ET

The Heat have erupted on a 19-2 run, stifling Charlotte’s offense while getting out on the break for some transition baskets and getting LeBron to the foulline by getting him the ball in the post. Charlotte has to prevent these kinds of explosions if they want to have any chance of winning a game against the Heat, much less as series.

Mark Travis - 3:15 PM ET

Charlotte continues to grind defensively. They are forcing the Heat into some tough looks. Their offense isn’t much better, but they’ll always have Al Jefferson on the block as a decent fallback option in this series. Miami doesn’t have anybody with the strength to keep him from getting deep downlow and he has a number of easy baskets at the rim so far in this game.

Mark Travis - 2:45 PM ET

The Heat have had an incredibly sluggish start to his game offensively, but that’s not a fluke. The Bobcats are really tuned in defensively. Steve Clifford is one of my favorite coaches in the league. He’s got a great scheme and his players compete for him. Enjoy watching Charlotte play even if they struggle offensively and don’t have a true superstar.

Mark Travis - 2:34 PM ET

Perfect timing for the Spurs-Mavs to finish up, as Bobcats-Heat just tipped on ABC. I’ll have more on the last game in my recap for the Caller-Times, which I will link to in my recap of today’s action later on this evening. I expect the Heat to take down the Bobcats in five games, though the Bobcats play strong enough defense to make each game interesting.

Mark Travis - 2:20 PM ET

10-0 run by the Spurs behind six points by Tim Duncan, who has a game high 26 points. The Mavericks offense has hit a roadblock and vintage Dirk hasn’t been there to bail them out. Spurs have a chance to close this here.

Mark Travis - 2:14 PM ET

The Mavericks opened up a 10-point lead on the Spurs, but a couple of scores by Tim Duncan on the block have it back down to six. The Spurs just aren’t in the same flow that we are used to seeing from them and they are instead relying on isolations and post-ups for Duncan. Duncan’s got a couple of baskets to go, but they’ll need to swing the ball from side to side to get better looks down the stretch. Dallas has done that all game long with their pick-and-roll attack, and Harris continues to find good looks for himself and his teammates. This should be a fun seven minutes.

Mark Travis - 2:01 PM ET

The Spurs get a couple of baskets in a row and hold the Mavs to some contested mid-range jumpers during the final minutes of the third, and the game is tied up at 65 as we head into the fourth. Duncan has returned to the bench and looks ready to check back into the game whenever Pop calls on him, which is great news for the Spurs. If Dallas is going to pull this one out, they’re going to need Dirk to have a vintage Dirk performance in the fourth. He’s only got 7 points on 2-of-8 shooting to this point. It’s a miracle that Dallas is even in this one given that, but Harris and Ellis have done a nice job picking up the slack. If I’m San Antonio, I start running a ton of pick-and-rolls with Ginobili because Dallas hasn’t been as good against him as they have been against Parker.

Mark Travis - 1:51 PM ET

Devin Harris continues his run of impressive shotmaking for the Mavs, knocking down a pair of mid-range jumpers to give Dallas a four point lead. Meanwhile, Monta Ellis ran into a Tim Duncan screen on the other end, bumping into his knee. Duncan went to the bench, but since it was a contact injury, it doesn’t seem to be too bad.

Mark Travis - 1:42 PM ET

The Mavericks have continued to play well to start the second half. Calderon has gotten a better feel offensively, Monta Ellis is competing on both ends and the Mavs are still leading despite Dirk still being quiet. They’ve also played well defensively, forcing the Spurs into post-ups for Tim Duncan.

Mark Travis - 1:21 PM ET

Tremendous second quarter for the Mavericks. They took a nine-point deficit and turned it into a one point halftime lead. Devin Harris changed the complexion of the game, knocking down a trio of threes while attacking the paint and breaking down San Antonio’s defense. He’s had a few lay-ups and a couple of lobs to Wright off his drives and he’s helped the Mavericks overcome Tony Parker’s torrid start. It’s crazy to think that the Mavs could be up by one on the road with Dirk having just five points, but Harris’ play has helped make it so.

On the other end, the unusual strategy of switching on all of Parker’s pick-and-roll has worked to an extent. Parker has blown by his man and gotten into the paint often, but it does take the Spurs out of their element a bit. It breaks up their rhythm and forces Parker to pull the ball out and isolate. It has worked, but if Parker doesn’t get into the paint, it forces the Spurs to take uncommon shots. So, in a way, Dallas is baiting the Spurs to have Parker attack them one-on-one without getting any motion going, which means no open threes off of breakdowns for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. That’s why San Antonio only hit two threes in the first half, both by Manu Ginobili.

The Mavericks have given themselves a shot in this game despite being at a massive disadvantage by pulling a wacky strategy out of their hats against Parker. The result has been Parker going off for 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, but nobody else has really gotten going for a team that thrives on beating you collectively rather than individually.

Mark Travis - 1:02 PM ET

With Harris on the bench Monta Ellis has begun having success against the Spurs defense out of pick-and-rolls, and the Mavs are competing much better defensively than they were at the start of the game.

Mark Travis - 12:52 PM ET

The two major storylines for both teams – Tony Parker for the Spurs and that bench unit for the Mavs – are going back and forth in this one. Dallas has played great basketball since this unit has been on the floor, but with Parker back in the game he continues to go right at the rim and not even Devin Harris, Dallas’ best defensive guard, can slow him down. Fun action so far.

Mark Travis - 12:48 PM ET

12-0 run for the Mavs going back to Harris’ three near the end of the first quarter. Not surprisingly, the run came with that special second unit on the floor for Dallas. Harris has worked the pick-and-roll well and the Spurs’ defense is stretched thanks to Dirk. Good work by Dallas.

Mark Travis - 12:40 PM ET

The Mavericks struggled on both ends in that quarter. They couldn’t contain Parker off the dribble, lost the big when Ginobili operated the pick-and-roll and only managed 12 points on the other end. Dallas will have to rely heavily on their second unit with Dirk at the power forward to get some offense going. The reserve unit of Harris, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder Dirk and Brandan Wright has done great with their spread pick-and-roll attack and Carlisle is going to that unit now.

Mark Travis - 12:22 PM ET

We’ve seen an interesting strategy from Carlisle in the early going. He has his bigs switching on most Parker pick-and-rolls, and Parker is feasting on Dalembert by blowing by and getting right to the rim. As I said in my preview of this series, nobody on the perimeter can prevent Parker from getting into the paint, and once he’s there the Mavs don’t have any rim protection. On the other end, Dallas has gotten OK looks but the Spurs are doing a good job of getting a hand up to contest.

Mark Travis - 12:02 PM ET

We are about to get started in San Antonio with Spurs-Mavs. This series should be entertaining because of all of the offensive talent on the floor, but as I said in my preview for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, this series should be over quickly. That said, it’s starting way too soon according to Gregg Popovich.

Mark Travis - 3:27 AM ET

Hello everybody! Today we have another quadruple header across TNT with one ABC game mixed in during the afternoon. Two series from each conference will kick off today and they couldn’t be any more different. The Spurs and The Mavericks and Blazers and Rockets are going to put up a ton of points while getting up and down the floor at a quick tempo while the Bulls and Wizards and Heat and Bobcats are likely to play in lower scoring, slower paced games. I love all kinds of basketball, but if you’re a fan of any style in particular, there’s something for you on this glorious Easter Sunday. Check back later today as we get started with Spurs-Mavericks at noon.

Mark Travis is a 22-year old sportswriter that is currently majoring in Sports Media at Oklahoma State University. He started his own website, But The Game Is On, in 2008 as an outlet for his praise of Michael Crabtree and has since been credentialed by major organizations like the NBA, NFL, MLB, Nike and Team USA Basketball. He also covered the past two NBA Finals for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.