After the greatest first round in years, Aodán Mitchell preview Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs which start on Monday night.
It has been a historical weekend in the NBA playoffs where we had a record equaling number of game 7s and if it wasn’t for that dagger that ice cold Damian Lillard delivered during the Portland-Houston series, we would be looking at a new record. The dust has hardly settled and we’re moving on to the second round. The games are coming thick and fast and there is no time more exciting than this if you’re an NBA fan. Lets look ahead to what will surely be another set of games that will deliver more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Shall we proceed? Yes indeed!
Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Washington Wizards (5)
This series could come down to where the Pacers’ heads are at. The pacers narrowly scraped by an Atlanta Hawks team who only made the playoffs because the New York Knicks were resorting back to their Isiah Thomas days and destroying themselves from within. Which Pacers team will show up, the one who looked like a guaranteed Eastern Conference Finalist or the team that seemingly had a mental breakdown over the last few months of the season? Will we see the Roy Hibbert of game 5 and 6 who went scoreless against a Hawks team with no real inside presence? Or the Roy Hibbert who went for 13 points, seven boards and five blocks in the crucial game 7? There has been talk of the Pacers ‘flipping the switch’ in that game, but in all honesty if they were going to flip the switch they would have done it a long time ago.
Very little people believed the Wizards would dispatch of the Bulls, especially so easily. The wizards looked like a team against the Bulls, and I mean that in the sense that most thought they’d go as far as John Wall took them however Nene had a huge series as did Bradley Beal against the Bulls. We can’t sleep on the fact that the Wizards are dangerous on the road as The Washington post’s Michael Lee states “The Wizards can also continue their success away from Verizon Center. They finished tied with the best road record in the East in the regular season and swept all three away games in their first-round series against Chicago”.
I’m confident that the Wizards will split the first two games in Indiana with their very good away record and the fact that the Pacers fan base will get on the team very quickly if they fall behind early. However the Pacers most take solace in the fact that NBA champions have gone to 7 games in their first round series and still went on to win all the marbles. The 2008 playoffs were won by the Boston Celtics and the Celtics’ first round opponent? The Atlanta Hawks. The outcome of that first round series? 4-3 Celtics. Though I can’t shy away from the fact that there is something internally wrong with the Indiana Pacers and I believe there will be some sort of bust up between the team, possibly another Evan Turner Lance Stephenson scuffle.
Prediction: Wizards in 7. Even though he has had a fantastic season, John Wall will break out during this series similar to the break out Paul George had during last years’ playoffs.
Miami Heat (2) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)
I don’t blame you if you forgot that Miami were in these playoffs with what has gone on over the first few weeks. We know what we are going to get from the Heat, they’re healthy and they’ve got all their big guns back at the perfect time. Yes the Nets swept the regular season series meetings between these two however we really shouldn’t take that into account. Most of those games were very close and with Dwayne Wade healthy the Nets are in for a tough series.
The classic are they rested or are they rusty debate will start up as the Heat have had a week to heal their various ailments and the Nets just finished off the Toronto Raptors in one of those record equaling 7 game series. There will be some heat here between the two teams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have no love for the Miami Heat and especially LeBron James. There is a so much experience here in this series which will lead to some epic games, I can’t see the Nets getting swept but I think the Heat are ready to plough through Brooklyn and let the other teams left in the playoffs beat each other up while they rest.
Prediction: Miami in 6
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5)
I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought they’d be questioning whether the Spurs were well rested or rusty before the second round began but the Dallas Mavericks through a spanner in the works and took the defending Western Conference Champions to 7 games.
Portland on the other hand dispatched of the Houston Rockets in 6 games though three of those six games went to overtime.
This series will come down to one thing; who hits the most 3 pointers. We are going to get the Lamarcus Aldridge game where he goes off for something crazy like 35 and 10, the Damian Lillard game where again he goes on some sort crazy scoring binge and the Spurs, well the Spurs will do what they do best and have a potent offense with a stingy defense. To win this series the Trail Blazers will need big games from both Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum and the spurs are going to need their bench to do what they did during the regular season and score big. Though here is one crazy stat to consider, since 2008 Portland is 14-7 vs. Spurs.
Prediction: Spurs in 6. Normal business will resume and the Spurs will reach another Western Conference Final.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (3)
This ladies and gentlemen is going to be a fun series to watch. The Thunder went through the ‘grind house’ to get here in which was an incredibly grueling first round series. Would things have been different if Zach Randolph wasn’t missing for the crucial game 7? Perhaps but that’s the NBA and the Thunder advanced. Kevin Durant was, for seemingly the first time in his career, questioned. Talk of him being ‘unreliable’ were raised, I for one think the label of unreliable is harsh but if the Thunder don’t make it through this series then there will be plenty of questions hanging over the Thunder this summer. Will Durant be left on the outside looking in during the final 8 minutes of the fourth quarter? Will Russell Westbrook shoot the Thunder into the finals or out of it?
Regardless of how difficult the Thunder’s first round series was, nothing will compare to the past week the LA Clippers had. They also went to 7 games against the plucky Golden State Warriors but that series was overshadowed by the Donald Sterling saga. The Clippers will struggle to contain Kevin Durant, I don’t think they have any one on the wing who can guard him and I doubt that Durant will shoot as poorly as he did against Memphis against the Clippers. Jamal Crawford could be huge in this series, we saw his instant offense in full flow during the Warriors, though the biggest x-factor in this series will the coaching. Scott Brooks had a tough time drawing up plays against the Grizzlies and was at long stretches out coached by rookie head coach David Joerger. Clippers coach Doc Rivers will have everything scheme set out for his team and will have plan A-Z set in place.
Prediction: Clippers in 7. I can’t help but think that there is something big planned for these Clippers after the Donald Sterling saga.
Aodán Mitchell, Pundit Arena.