The OpinioNation Panel got together to predict the outcome of the NBA Playoffs 2nd Round.
EC – Earnest Christian
JAD – Jabari A. Davis
JW – Jamieson Welsh
JL – Justin Lovett
JD – Joseph Duruaku
(1) Miami Heat vs (5) Chicago Bulls
- EC – The Heat are rested, maybe in my opinion too rested after their bye week feeling clean sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks a week ago. The Bulls meanwhile come into this series like a walking M.A.S.H. unit, victorious over the Brooklyn Nets but not without wear. Luol Deng missed the last 2 games of the Nets series, Joakim Noah has played the last half of the year absolutely banged up, Kirk Hinrich…… the list goes on for the Bulls. Chicago has the heart, the will and the guts. No one will deny that. And you can bet they will play Miami tooth and nail throughout each game of this series. But even if Derrick Rose had an epiphany and decided to make his season debut during this series the reality is Miami is just a much better team playing at an absolute high level and are catching the Bulls at it’s absolute weakest in terms of health. I do think each game WILL be competitive but LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and company will be too much to overcome.
Miami in 5
- JL – The Miami Heat won’t see real competition until the Eastern Conference Finals. Even with that, assuming they don’t suffer any significant injuries, Miami will coast to the Finals. They showed they were the best team over the course of the regular season and they dominated with consistency and defense. They have the best player in the world and arguably the best supporting cast in the NBA. It’s the playoffs, so any team can be beaten but with a seven game series, typically the better team prevails. It will be hard for anyone to beat the Heat four out of seven games, and right now I don’t see a team in the east that is capable of doing that. Here is a bold prediction, the Heat lose three total games in Eastern Conference playoff play.
**Justin’s prediction was turned in before Bulls/Nets Game 7 went to final**
- JW – This is becoming a rivalry. Theres are many story-lines here but at the end of the day one team has the MVP in LeBron James and the other team is missing theirs. As tough as the Bulls are its gonna be tough to beat the Heat. LeBron seems like he’s on a mission and the shorthanded Bulls are in trouble. I love the effort but sometimes effort alone just is not good enough. Miami will win in 6 or less because they’re the most talented team but its gonna be tough.
Miami in 6
- JD – Chicago beating Brooklyn was not surprising to me, they were coached better and Noah’s spectacular game 7 speaks for itself. Unfortunately for Chicago they have to play the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals. With LeBron playing at such a high level it will be difficult for an injured and ill-ridden Bulls team to generate the defensive and offensive intensity to slow down Miami’s production. Like I said, LeBron is playing at an unreal level right now, and I expect key players such as: Ray Allen, Battier, Haslem and The Birdman to bring their usual contributions to the offense.
Miami in 5
(2) New York Knicks vs. (3) Indiana Pacers
- EC – A rivalry renewed. If you’re a basketball fan from the 90′s especially this series is definitely for you. While a lot of folks will point to Heat/Knicks as the hot button rivalry of the 1990′s, one can certainly argue Knicks/Pacers definitely ranked up there as top 3 of the decade. Both teams played series that decided the direction of the Eastern Conference and even Finals berths all the same. Now, while Hall of Fame names like Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing are NOT walking through that door, the 2013 matchup does provide loads of intrigue. Both teams provide polar opposite styles of play. Ultimately the winner of the series will be the team that dictates their style of play. Will it be New York wide open arsenal of dangerous perimeter shooting on top of Carmelo Anthony’s offensive repertoire? Will indiana’s gritty slow down, elite defensive prowess be the difference. I expect this series to go the limit, much like those 1994, and 1995 classic match-ups. Ultimately New York has more play makers than Indiana that can and should make the difference down the stretch. But as I have stated this series can go either way.
New York in 7
- JAD – The Knicks and Pacers split the season series, and it is fitting, as each team had similar paths towards the playoffs. Both teams experienced ups and downs, and each team entered the postseason with a higher level of expectation than they’ve experienced over the past decade. Much like throughout the season, the Knicks relied mightily upon the shoulders of Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith to do a majority of the heavy lifting on offense against Boston. The Pacers, to the contrary, rely upon a more balanced attack offensively, but tend to do most of their damage on the defensive end. Indiana had the second best defense in the league in terms of points surrendered throughout the season (90.7 per game). Roy Hibbert and David West vs. Tyson Chandler and New York’s makeshift front line becomes even more integral, since the Knicks are so reliant upon outside shooting. Unless the Knicks are on fire throughout the series (which is less likely due to the type of perimeter defense the Pacers play), the rebound and 50/50 ball battles could be the determining factor in this series. Ultimately, I think it is going to be too much Melo, but I would love to see Paul George continue his emergence and show that he can do it on the big stage. There are rumors of Amar’e Stoudemire’s potential availability for Game 3 of this series. I’ll be intrigued to see how Coach Woodson integrates Stoudemire back into the mix, and if they can find a way to make it a positive impact.
- JW – A old 1990′s rival renewed which is always great. Both teams are coming off first round series victories in which they played just good enough to win. Not one of these teams in my opinion has digged deep and I think the team that “dies”, wins. I have the Knicks in 6. Their best player Carmelo Anthony is better than than the Pacers guy and their bench is better as a whole. Plus theres just something I don’t trust about Indiana as a team.
New York in 6
- JL – The Knicks are coming off a grind it out type of series with Boston. They now face Indiana, where again, it will be a dog fight. The key to the series won’t be Melo nor Paul George. Instead, it will be the anchors in the paint. Will the Knicks get the Tyson Chandler from game six vs Boston or the Tyson from game one vs Boston. If Hibbert and David West can put their imprint on this series both defensively and offensively, the Knicks will struggle. The Knicks have shown they are battle tested and still carry a lot of momentum, while the Pacers have been up and down since March. Chandler appears to be rounding into form and that could be just the lift the Knicks need.
New York in 7
- JD – I have never been impressed with the Indiana Pacers. They do not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Knicks. I will admit I was not happy with New York’s “dress in black” antics from Game 5 or how they failed to close out the series in games 4 or 5. In my opinion, New York is the better team and they will win this series.
New York in 6.
(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
- EC – Talk about two teams going in different directions……confidence wise anyway. The Thunder, still picking up the pieces from the Russell Westbrook season ending injury survived a near possible Game 7 extended series with the feisty Houston Rockets in round 1. The Memphis Grizzlies meanwhile, after down 0-2 to the Los Angeles Clippers stormed back to win the next 4 games and are in a lot of ways being looked at as a absolute title contender in the Western Conference. Before the playoffs started I did have Memphis meeting and ultimately defeating OKC in 7 but now with a new monkey wrench with Westbrook’s injury and the Thunder still searching for someone to step into his place the Grizzlies are in a lot of people’s eyes the clear favorite in this series. Kevin Durant can still do what he does and carry this team as far as he can but Memphis, who was the #1 ranked defensive team in the league have more than enough to limit the damage he can do now, especially with Durant’s sidekick not available to him this series. This series has the potential to get ugly if Memphis remains focused and with the way the Grizzlies are playing right now it will not shock me in the slightest if they do actually sweep the Thunder but I do see OKC coming out with pride for much of this series.
Memphis in 5
- JAD – As soon as this matchup was made, the first thing I thought of was that Sports Illustrated article from a couple weeks back, where Kevin Durant claimed he was tired of being considered the “second best” at everything. With Russell Westbrook still unavailable, this is Durant’s opportunity to propel himself and his OKC Thunder into a higher echelon. Trouble is, the Memphis Grizzlies are just about the worst possible matchup for an undermanned and unbalanced Thunder team. Besides boasting the best and most efficient C/PF combination remaining in the postseason, the Grizzlies play the type of ball-hawking perimeter defense that can really limit the effectiveness of a jump-shooting team like OKC. Mike Conley has ascended to being in the discussion as one of the best defenders at the point guard position. Tony Allen and Tayshawn Prince are two of the better perimeter defenders in the league, whether on-ball or weakside situations. Marc Gasol is one of the league’s best interior defenders, and even switches and shades on the pick-and-roll with the best of them. Point is, with Westbrook out, I don’t know if OKC has enough playmakers to withstand the type of defensive pressure and intensity the Grizzlies tend to bring. I have no doubts about Durant having the ability to be a special player in difficult situations, but can guys like Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka do enough on a consistent basis to make it a series? I’m not so sure.
Memphis in 6
- JW – This is a series where Westbrook usually goes to work but he’s unavailable. The way Memphis is playing right now I have to roll with them. Durant will get his but the Grizzlies will shut everyone else down. I can see this being a quick series but ultimately I have the Grizzlies in 6. I don’t trust the OKC’s role players especially to be tougher than the Grizzlies.
Memphis in 6
- JL – A lot has changed in two weeks. OKC went from my favorite in the west to me questioning if they could beat Houston if the series was redone without Westbrook. The good news for OKC is they do not have to worry about trying to score 110 points a game to out score their opponent this. Memphis is not the high scoring machine that Houston was. In fact, they are the complete opposite. Instead of trying to out score their opponent, they try to prevent their opponent from scoring all together, and the offense takes care of itself. OKC will struggle because Durant will struggle to score 35-40 points every game. They don’t have a second player they can absolutely rely on. Reggie Jackson had a great first round, but Mike Conley is one of the better man defenders at the point guard position in the league. The difference in the series will be the Grizzlies big men. Gasol and Randolph will eat Ibaka and Perkins alive. More importantly, they will attack the glass and create extra possessions, which is important for a team not known for scoring.
Memphis in 6
- JD – Without their superstar point guard, Oklahoma City will have a difficult time dealing with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder have shown that they struggle without Westbrook in the line up. The duo of Gasol and Randolph, and the absence of Westbrook will prove to be too much for Oklahoma City to overcome.
Memphis in 6
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
- EC – Fun fact: Golden State hasn’t won a game in San Antonio since 1997. Yes, you read that right. Should it be an influence on their upcoming 2013 playoff series? Maybe not. It is hard to tell though if the Spurs are peaking at the right time after their 1st round domination of a injury decimated Laker team but they are currently the West favorite to rep in this year’s Finals (unless you talk to basketball fans residing in Memphis). Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili seem to be relatively healthy and Tim Duncan is having a young man renaissance by having one of his best seasons in recent years. Golden State comes in soaring with confidence after a 6 game shocker over Denver and while most pundits won’t give the Warriors a shot in this series, we have seen stranger things happen. The Warriors will have the find a way to consistently play defense and counter the interior inside of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Ultimately San Antonio’s experience will win out here. The Spurs have been there, done that many times over. The Warriors worse case scenario have to split the first 2 in San Antonio and that to me is a tall order.
San Antonio in 5
- JAD – Had we all not just witnessed that nearly catastrophic 4th quarter collapse in Oracle as the Warriors were taking care of the Nuggets, I’d be a lot more comfortable with potentially giving them a couple/few games in this series. Trouble is, even though Oracle Arena has quietly (or not-so-quietly) become one of the better home crowds in the league, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the few teams that simply don’t care where they play or what the environment is like. With a healthy core (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili), I just don’t know if the Warriors will have enough in this matchup, even with all their youth and inspiring exuberance. The point guard battle between Steph Curry and Tony Parker could be legendary. Trouble is, I have a feeling Coach Popovich will find a way to make Curry feel like a man on a solitary island by strategically taking away or at least limiting the effectiveness of guys like Klay Thompson, Jarret Jack, and Harrison Barnes. The battle in the paint between Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green vs Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter will also be very fun to watch. The biggest question of the series will be whether the Warriors will play enough (consistent) perimeter defense to stop the Spurs from hitting them with waves of 3ptrs from Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, and even Manu Ginobili. If Mark Jackson can devise a plan to chase the the Spurs off the 3pt line while getting his big men to match and exceed the type of effort they provided in the previous round, then we could very well have a series on our hands. Unfortunately, while I see this Warriors team giving all-out effort, I just don’t think they are ready to take out such a disciplined, and experienced (healthy) Spurs team.
San Antonio in 5
- JW – This is gonna be a very interesting series. Old vs young at it’s finest. I ultimately have the Spurs winning in 5 games though. Too much veteran know how, great coaching and the Spurs know how to win in these moments. The Warriors haven’t won in San Antonio since 1997. I expect the Warriors to win Game 3 at Oracle & thats it. I expect several adjustments by Popovich on how to guard Stephen Curry and ultimately contain him.
San Antonio in 5
- JL – San Antonio appears to be healthy, and well rested. That is bad news for the Warriors. On the other hand, the Warriors hold the playoff wild card in Stephen Curry. Even when Curry’s game is disrupted, he can be a game changer in other ways. When defenses commit multiple guys to containing him, it opens up opportunities for guys like Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack and even Harrison Barnes. The Warriors offense as a whole is hard to contain because once they cross half court, Curry is a threat. They are a young team that plays with a ton of energy but they lack experience. On the flip side, the Spurs have a much more cerebral approach to the game. Their greatest asset isn’t Tony Parker. It isn’t Manu Ginobili and it isn’t Tim Duncan. It is head coach, Greg Popovich. In terms of key matchups, it will be interesting to see the matchups between Parker and Curry, as well as Duncan and Bogut. The Warriors youth was exploited many times in the Denver series. Ultimately, they were able to overcome many of their flaws but they cannot repeat those same mistakes against San Antonio. As talented as this Warriors team is, they just don’t have the experience to win this series.
San Antonio in 6
- JD – Led by Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors produced one of the most exciting playoff series fans have witnessed in a long time. They now have a second round date with the San Antonio Spurs. I was not impressed with the way Golden State closed out game 6, late game turnovers has been an issue with the Warriros all season. Mistakes like those will be magnified against a veteran Spurs squad. I believe the Warriors old habits will resurface in the conference semifinals which will ultimately lead to their demise.
Spurs in 5
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