In the first round, the top two seeds in the Spurs and Thunder made quick work of their opponents while both Los Angeles organizations were pushed to the brink of elimination. All in all, it set up for two beautiful second-round match ups.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #5 Los Angeles Clippers
San Antonio came barreling down the stretch at the end of the season with a 10 game winning streak and their momentum continued right into the first round as they fanned Utah in four games. Tony Parker averaged 21 ppg while the timeless veteran, Timmy-D, held it down inside, averaging 14 and 8 a night - not prime Duncan numbers, but they will suffice if the role players continue to play the way they have. Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson, Daniel Green, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, and Dejuan Blair all had at least one game in double figures verse Utah and can all play solid defense. Manu Gi-nose-bleed was not a huge factor in the series but I expect him to be against the Clipz.
Lob City is coming of its first playoff series win since 2006, but there was nothing easy about it. Pushed to a game seven on the road, CP3 and the Clipz bench were able to grind out the victory over a very gritty Grizzie squad. CP3, who earned Bro of the Day honors during the series, showed why he was so sought after this offseason, averaging 20 ppg along with 7 dimes, 5 boards, and 2 steals despite being hobbled due to injuries. Blake Griffin, also slowed, due to a left knee injury, was the only other Clipper to average double figures with 18 points and 6 boards a game.
LA role players dominated the Grizzlies in the final game, scoring the first 20 points of the 4th quarter, and if their success continues, so will the organization's. Nicky Young, Mo Williams aka John Legend and Reggie Evans all showed flashes of brilliance while Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan remained consistent enough.
San Antonio won two of three against the Clippers this season with each game surpassing 200 points. CP3 and Mo Williams each had to drop 30+ in order for the Clippers to get the one win. The Spurs have been able to rest this past week, while the Clippers had to battle it out back and forth across the country. With nagging injuries to their stars and just a 48 hour turn around before the start of the semifinals, the Clippers will not be able to keep up with the Spurs' deep roster. The new-look Clippers were quite the high-flying extravaganza this season, but the Spurs are the winning extravaganza.
Pictures of CP3 flying past TP9 will be few and far between coming down the stretch in this series.
San Antonio in 6.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #3 Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA could not have asked for a better storyline. Just over two weeks after Metta World Peace threw the elbow H(e)ard round the world, the Lakers and the Thunder are set to go at it with a spot in the Western Conference Finals on the line - not to mention the NBA’s top two leading scorers are going head-to-head and Derek Fisher is once again opposing the organization he has spent years with.
The Thunder came into this postseason looking to make a statement, and that they did, administering quick work of the reigning champion Dallas Mavericks with a first-round, four-game sweep in Big D. Three-time reigning scoring champion, Durantula, averaged 26 points, 7 boards and 3 assists per game while Westbrook (who alongside Deron Williams was one of just two point guards to finish top ten in NBA scoring this year) was not far behind with 22 – 3 – 4. James Harden, fresh off earning Sixth Man of the Year honors, averaged 18 points, 5 boards and 4 steals off the bench while Serge Ibaka, the NBA's leading shot-blocker, registered 11 points, 6 boards and 3 no-nos a night. OKC also owned the fast break, forcing turnovers for easy transition baskets in all four games. This is by far the most talented team in the Western Conference and if they continue to play well on both sides of the ball, the rest of the NBA is in for one hell of a ride.
But where stats fail to succeed, drama fills the void, and no team has more drama around it than the Lake Show. World Peace’s elbow, Kobe’s stomach problems, Bynum’s immaturity and Gasol’s lack of intensity made for one dramatic first-round series with a Nuggets team that most thought would've been handled in five games. Due to all the aforementioned issues, the Purple and Gold were pushed to a seven-game series before closing out George Karl and the Association. Granted, it took some tough love from Kobe, but that is what leader’s do, push others to make them better.
The Thunder took two of three from the Lakers this season with the two wins coming quite convincingly. The Lakers front court in Bynum and Gasol stepped up in the lone win against OKC and they will have to do so in this series if they hope to keep Kobe's shot at a sixth title alive.
Kobe and Durant will pretty much cancel each other out, so the series lies in the hands of the other players until the final shot of the game. This match up is the exactly what OKC wanted after knocking off last year’s champz, as the Western Conference has run through LA for quite some time. Kobe and Durant will each hit a game winner this series, but the Thunder are just too young and too talented to not close the curtain on the Lake Show.
The 6th Man of the Year, the top scoring PG, the Scoring Champion, Young Jeezy's Doppelganger and Serge I-BLOCK-a will get it done in 6 games.
By Adam Maher
I had no idea the NBA would start the Eastern Conference Semifinals before the first round was all settled out West. Having said that, I completely dropped the ball on writing my predictionz before Boston took Game 1 over Philly at home and Miami handled the Pacers in South Beach.
Here's what I expect to happen going forward.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Indiana Pacers
You might've heard that Miami has a few things going for them. Obviously LeBron James is the best player in the world (Kevin Durant shakes his head...Doodle Jump?) and Dwyane Wade is straight up disgusting at basketball. On top of that, Miami does not have Mike Bibby on their team anymore, which will work wonders for their chances. But it's not what Miami has that will take this series all the way to a Game 7 buzzer beater, it's what they don't have: Chris Bosh, a legitimate a low-post presence and depth.
Countless times we've seen LeBron and D-Wade fail to find open looks in the fourth quarter, only to be bailed out by 17-footers from their very own version of Angus T. Jones. Now that he's sidelined due to what I think is much more serious than what the NBA is telling us, who is going to provide the extra ppg spark for the Heat late in games? Don't tell me you expect Mike Miller to win you an NBA title from 3-point land. And God-forbid the thought that Wade goes down in the second quarter of Game 3.
Shane Battier is no Metta World Peace, Mike Miller is nobody and LeBron James is a proven choke artist. The Heat's big men are all career-long underachievers aside from the fortunately-placed Joel Anthony and for the most part have seen minimal minutes this season, and absolutely none of them have star power.
The Pacers on the other hand, came into the postseason the most well-balanced offense in the league. Throw in Indiana's intangibles: Paul George is playing beyond his years; Danny Granger is in the prime of his career; first-time All-Star, 7-2 Roy Hibbert is going hard in the paint; Tyler HansBRO will be the largest and most annoying mosquito the Miami Heat deal with this postseason and is ready to kill somebody via three weeks of malaria, bed-ridden torture; Darren Collison has been topping his regular season averages; and, perhaps most importantly, head coach Frank Vogel closed the regular season with a snazzy NBA Coach of the Month Award in April.
Having rode the jocks of Indiana harder than Lord Tyrion Lannister rides Shae the funny whore, I have to go with my gut. The Heat should have ridded themselves of Mike Miller to go along with Bibby when they had the chance.
Sorry, Bron-Bron, but the Pacers will overcome their Game 1 loss and BEAT the HEAT in 7.
#4 Boston Celtics vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers
Anyone who read Spencer's and my first round predictionz knows how much I like this Philly team. Banking on the fact that D-Rose would get injured (though I'd never wish injury upon anyone) I actually picked Chicago to lose in the correct amount of games. Mind you, nobody on ESPN.com picked Philly to win (well, technically I was quoted on ESPN.com that week, so perhaps that's a false statement - horn tooters unite).
Boston won Game 1 by a point on a Rajon Rondo jump shot. Remember what his jumper looked like four years ago? Sheesh, Rondo has improved. And, incredibly, Avery Bradley, who Bill Simmons said was his "favorite Celtic in years" two weeks ago has all but filled the void of the first-to-show-serious-signs-of-wear-and-tear Big 3er, Ray Allen. Garnett is making shots, Paul Piece is spitting truer jumpers than "A Few Good Men" and Doc Rivers is once again the best coach left in the playoffs (meh, Pop's got him beat - but Gregg's out West so we'll save that for later *hint*.) Plain and simple, this Boston team is truly incredible, and much, much, much, much, much better than the Rose/Noah-less Bulls team that Philly beat last week.
I've got tremendous respect for Philly as a professional basketball team, and I'm truly thankful that they made me look like a genius in my own mind last week, but I'm not convinced they'll continue to win. If the 76ers can secure a big man to fill the Elton Brand/Spencer Hawes mess they have going on this offseason, I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the Eastern Conference Finals next year.
So, after a full season of hating on Boston for not rebounding and being old, I'm proud to say I'll be swallowing my words (there you go, Teddy Dobbin).
Boston in 6