Debate: Warriors-Spurs, Bulls-Heat
The Golden State Warriors pulled even with the Spurs, while the Heat destroyed the Bulls on Wednesday night. Our 5-on-5 crew breaks down the two series.
1. Was the Warriors' win or Heat's blowout more surprising?
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Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: It seemed fairly certain that the Heat would even up the series heading to Chicago, but no one anticipates 37-point victories. Miami gave Chicago its worst playoff loss in franchise history. This Bulls team plays with so much pride and intensity, even when they're overmatched, they find ways to keep games competitive. But last night was an unmitigated trouncing.
Chris Palmer, ESPN Insider: It's close but I'll say the Warriors' win was more surprising in that they didn't crumble down the stretch. They withstood a run. They hit shots. They grew up. Their newfound maturity and composure was as important as the win itself.
Ramona Shelburne, ESPNLosAngeles.com: After seeing the way the Warriors bounced back against the Nuggets after dropping Game 1 and losing David Lee in that series, I actually expected Golden State to have a game like this Wednesday. Mark Jackson's team seems to play its best when expectations are the lowest. I thought the Heat would rally to win Game 2, but not like they did. Wow. That was one of the most uncompetitive games of the playoffs. And it's rather shocking that it came against the Bulls, who've morphed into America's team in these playoffs, with their never-say-die attitude.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue And Gold: The Warriors' win. The Heat were primed for a big win after the wake-up call Game 1 provided. Meanwhile, the Warriors not only overcame a tough Spurs team on the road, but did so by bouncing back after a heartbreaking Game 1, while also controlling the game for nearly the entire 48 minutes.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: The GSW win surprised me. Stephen Curry played badly and the Warriors beat the Spurs in San Antonio. Klay Thompson scored 29 points in a half? The Spurs shot 5-for-21 from distance? It's incredible that we're one Manu shot from Golden State taking this series 2-0 into East Oakland.
2. Stephen Curry or LeBron James: Who's more fun to watch right now?
Chau: Curry. Between his slight frame, his injury history and all the ridiculous shots he has made so far, it feels as though we're just riding along on a fairy tale that will soon reach its endpoint. Physically, LeBron looks engineered to last -- so does his team. Curry's future doesn't seem as secure, so we'll celebrate his success while we can.
Palmer: Curry. Every day he does something new. Now that he's on center stage he's being showered with superlatives, yet somehow still seems underrated. His game is just so unusual. It's an absolute joy to watch. Of course, LeBron is a singular talent, but despite his greatness there are no real surprises from him on a nightly basis. He can still thrill but we've seen everything he can do and we've seen it for years.
Shelburne: Curry. Curry. Curry. Outside of Nate Robinson, he has been the breakout star of these playoffs. And he just seems to get better every game. This is no knock on LeBron, who is at the top of his game and dominating opponents. But I've seen that movie before. Watching Curry become a star is must-see TV.
Soriano: Curry. Nothing against LeBron, whose dominance is always great to watch. But there's a newness and fresh feeling to what Curry is doing as a small guard who does most of his damage on incredible outside shooting mixed with dazzling passes.
Strauss: LeBron. I hate to go hipster, but we've known about Curry for a while out here in the Bay. You guys are late to the party. Curry has been raining fire since the All-Star break, ratcheting up the 3-point attempts while maintaining efficiency. Steph's is a show I never miss, and I'm happy to see it in the playoffs, but LeBron James is the gold standard. Taking his skill for granted, even momentarily, just feels like an unforgivable sin. James is the best basketball player of his generation. That's pretty fun to behold.
3. Fact or Fiction: Taj Gibson should be suspended for Game 2 outburst.
Chau: Fiction. Gibson's expletive-laden tantrum was inexcusable and a blatant show of disrespect to a fellow human being, but given the humiliating situation and the heightened tensions of the playoffs, I'm not sure it's an offense worth suspension. Slap him with a hefty fine, but let him play. This series needs as many available bodies as possible.
Palmer: Fiction. His getting tossed was adequate punishment. He'll be a little lighter in the wallet, too. The Bulls lost their cool but this game was hijacked by official Scott Foster, who has made a career of handing out quick techs and losing control of the situation. Yes, this was an extremely difficult game to officiate, but it wasn't exactly a banner night for the officiating crew.
Shelburne: Fiction. But that's mostly because I'm not a great lip reader. Gibson and Joakim Noah lost it in Game 2. They said bad things, they did bad things, and basically seemed to want to get kicked out. I don't condone that type of behavior, but I get it. And I don't like suspensions for losing your cool. To me, suspensions in the playoffs should be for violent plays, and Gibson's outburst didn't rise to that level.
Soriano: Fiction. Gibson obviously lost his cool and deserves the fines that are coming his way for his technical fouls and ejection. However, he didn't make contact with a ref and didn't escalate a physical altercation on the floor. He was upset and yelled some things he shouldn't have. That's not suspension-worthy.
Strauss: Fact, but only if Mario Chalmers is suspended for his cheap shot on Joakim Noah. While I realize that smaller players are policed differently, slashing at Noah's neck warrants some punishment. I'm generally anti-suspension and anti-punishment in general, but the cheap shots need to be quelled somehow.
4. Warriors or Spurs: Who wins the series, and in how many games?
Chau: Warriors in six. The series has had elements of the tortoise and the hare, with the Warriors going on huge scoring runs and the Spurs finding ways to claw back. But the Spurs have serious matchup issues with the Warriors, and they need their aging backcourt to keep up with the Warriors'. That hasn't been the case thus far.
Palmer: Warriors in six. Everybody prides themselves on sticking with their original picks. And yes, I said Spurs in 7 before it started. But hey, I say when you're more informed, make a better pick. Games 1 and 2 informed us that, save for the late-game collapse Monday, this has been a one-sided series with lots of bad mismatches for the Spurs. In both games the Dubs have had an 18-point lead. That pretty much sums up the series for me.
Shelburne: I'm still taking the Spurs, but I really don't know why. In Duncan we trust? I'm usually far too cautious with upset picks. I hold on to favorites far too long. But San Antonio is not your average favorite. The Spurs just have too many guys who know how to win, and the best coach in the business in Gregg Popovich, for me to jump off that bandwagon already. I'm not confident, but I'll roll with the Spurs in six or seven for now.
Soriano: Spurs in six. The Warriors are clearly playing well and proving to be a tough out. However, the Spurs are more than capable of winning on the road and claiming three of the next four games by making some key adjustments and getting some help from a Warriors team that can still be shaky closing games.
Strauss: I picked Spurs in five, and I'm sticking with that prediction against mounting evidence. Sure, Tim Duncan looks incapable of challenging Curry's 3-pointer off high screens, but Spurs in five. Sure, Klay Thompson is killing Tony Parker to the point where they put Parker on Harrison Barnes, but Spurs in five. Sure, Manu Ginobili is moving like a Eurostepping zombie, but Spurs in five. Spurs in five.
5. Heat or Bulls: Who wins the series, and in how many games?
Chau: Heat in six. The Bulls might have enough to take one of their home games, but the Heat are just too overwhelming to predict a Bulls series upset with any confidence. Obviously some of this rides on Derrick Rose and the endless will-he-won't-he saga, but assuming he doesn't make a return, this is still Miami's series to lose.
Palmer: Heat in six. The Bulls showed a ton of heart snagging a win in Game 1, but the reasons that the Heat are better remain the same as they were before the series started. Chicago's roster is held together with Band-Aids. The Bulls are just simply outmatched. They're supposed to lose this series and they will. But I'll appreciate every ounce of heart they show. It's been real.
Shelburne: Heat in five. Chicago has no business being in this series, let alone being competitive. The Bulls are too injured and too mismatched, right? I mean, on paper, Miami should've swept this one. I was stunned Chicago took Game 1. Now that the Heat have blown the Bulls out in Game 2, the universe has fallen back into a normal order. Right? Ah, who am I kidding? As long as Thibs is still the coach and Joakim is still Joakim, it's crazy to cast the Bulls aside. I still think Miami wins, but this is going to be a bruising series.
Soriano: Heat in five. The Bulls will continue to play hard and give the Heat issues with their execution on both ends. But the talent discrepancy between the two teams is real and while the Bulls can hang with the Heat for stretches, I don't see this motivated Heat team losing another game this series.
Strauss: Heat in six. I thought Miami would have an easier time (as in, "sweep"), but six games feels safe now. Teams often bounce back from big playoff losses, and the Bulls will be absolutely dogged at home. It's hard to believe we'll go three consecutive games without another defense-always Chicago win. OK, perhaps not hard to believe, but that's how I see it playing out.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Chris Palmer is an ESPN Insider. Ramona Shelburne covers the NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com Ethan Sherwood Strauss contributes to ESPN Insider. Danny Chau and Darius Soriano contribute to the TrueHoop Network.
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