Friday night was a night for the favorites. Heading into their conference semifinals, both Miami and San Antonio were, clearly, destined for easy five or six game series against Chicago and Golden State, respectively. But with the way that both supposedly underdog teams played to take early game wins, the destiny of these two iconic franchises was a bit cloudier than expected.
That trajectory changed Friday night, as both the Heat and Spurs took 2-1 series leads.
The Heat found themselves in a slug-fest against Chicago, a game that represents the NBA at its worst. Both Nazr Mohammed and Joakim Noah played the roles of aggressor against LeBron James and Chris Andersen, sending bows and shoves en route to ejections and fouls. Miami would rise above the foul play, though, pulling off a 104-94 win. LeBron led the way with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and was aided by Chris Bosh (20 points, 19 rebounds) and Norris Cole (18 points). Heading into Game 4, Chicago has something to prove. It’s great that they’re coming off as the aggressor here, but if that energy doesn’t translate to better crunch-time defense, this series will be over soon.
Across the country, the Spurs delivered a strong blow against the upstart Golden State Warriors. After watching opposing guards become the storyline in the first two games, Tony Parker came alive with 32 points and five assists to lead his team to victory. Combine Parker’s play with a vintage game from Tim Duncan game (23 points, 10 rebounds) and there’s the recipe for the Spurs success.
For the Warriors, they live and die by the outside shot. The Spurs strong defense led to poor shooting nights from the Warriors’ vaunted backcourt (Steph Curry finished with 16 points on 5-17 shooting; Klay Thompson, 17 points on 7-20 shooting). Needless to say, Golden State needs both of their young stars to finish strong if they want a shot at the Western Conference Finals.