The first round of the NBA Playoffs had some great moments. Two series in the Western Conference went to Game 7, and both Los Angeles teams won those games. The Clippers and Grizzlies played a very unique series in which many strange records were broken. For example, in Game 3, the Clippers shot 43% (13-30) from the free throw line, and they still manged to win the game. And in Game 6, the Grizzlies had 13 more turnovers than the Clippers, yet Memphis won that game.
The Eastern Conference picture changed dramatically when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 against the 76ers. Without Rose the Bulls can’t compete with the Heat, and it would have been very difficult for them to make the NBA Finals. But then Joakim Noah sprained his ankle in Game 3, and the Bulls blew a big lead after he left that game. The Bulls obviously are not the same team without those players, and the 76ers became the second 8th seed in two years to knock off the top team in the conference.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Season Series: 76ers won 2-1
Key Player: Rajon Rondo
The Celtics are easily the better team in this series, but they are also a much older team too. Boston barely pulled out the first game in this series and as the series continues they will only wear down more. If Rondo continues to get triple-doubles it will be very difficult for the Sixers to win, but the Sixers defense is great and will be able to slow him down in some games. Keep an eye on Evan Turner, who is playing the best he has all season. He can cause some match up problems for Boston. Road wins will be hard to come by in this series, and I think that this series will go 6 or 7 games. The Sixers will not want the series to go to 7 because it will be almost impossible for them to win Game 7 in Boston.
Prediction: Sixers win in 6 games.
(2) Miami Heat vs. (3) Indiana Pacers
Season Series: Heat won 3-1
Key Player: Roy Hibbert
The Pacers are the biggest threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference, and it is because of their size. The weakness in Miami is their big men, and that is exactly what Indiana has in David West and Roy Hibbert. Now that Chris Bosh may be out for an extended amount of time, as the result of his MRI caused Miami to declare him out indefinitely, the Heat could be in trouble with all of the size and depth that Indiana has down low. Hibbert is a great defender, but with Wade and James driving so much to the basket, he will have to avoid foul trouble in this series. But the biggest factor in this series is experience. Even though LeBron has not won an NBA Championship, he has been there twice. Wade has also been there twice, and he has won one title. These two will be just too much for the Pacers to handle. I expect all of the games to be tightly contested, and even though the series may not be that long, the quality of the games will be very high.
Prediction: Miami wins in 5.
Western Conference Semifinals
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
Season Series: Spurs won 2-1
Key Player: Tony Parker
How happy were the Spurs as they watched the Clippers defeat the Grizzlies in Game 7 on Sunday? The Grizzlies defeated the Spurs last year in the first round when Memphis was the 8th seed, and I am sure that the Spurs probably weren’t looking forward to playing the Griz again. So now they have the Clippers in the second round. The Spurs have had a lot of rest since their last game against the Utah Jazz, but that isn’t always bad. The Spurs are an older team, and the more they can rest guys like Ginobili and Duncan, the better I think they are as a team. The Spurs lost to the Clippers once in the regular season, but Tony Parker was not in that game. In that game Chris Paul had 36 points, and Mo Williams also added 33 points. Parker has arguably been playing as well as any point guard in the league, and it will be very fun to watch him and Chris Paul against each other. If the two point guards cancel each other out, this series will be a joke, and possibly even a sweep. And if the Clippers are losing by 26 at any time during a game, don’t expect the Spurs to blow that game like the Grizzlies did in Game 1 last series. The Spurs are just too good, and the Clippers are just not physical enough. I hope I don’t see Blake Griffin crying every time down the court, because this is playoff basketball. Griffin is accustomed to receiving every call, and his “superstar” status does grant him a lot of calls, and it especially gave him a lot of calls in the last series. But he is not going to get those calls against the Spurs, and it will be a very long series for him.
Prediction: It may be a long series for Griffin, but not for the Clippers. Spurs win in 5 games.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (3) Los Angeles Lakers
Season Series: Thunder won 2-1
Key Player: Russell Westbrook
This is the series to watch in this round. You have the top two scorers in the league in Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, as well as Metta World Peace playing against James Harden again, and Derek Fisher playing against his old team. Kobe is running out of time for that 6th title, and this may be his best opportunity. Bynum is healthy, Metta World Peace is still a great defender, and if Pau Gasol can play like he did in Game 7 against the Nuggets it will be difficult for them to lose. But looking back at the series against the Nuggets, Ty Lawson completely destroyed the Lakers’ defense and Ty Lawson is not on the same level as Russell Westbrook. Sessions will have trouble covering Westbrook, and World Peace will struggle with Durant.
Prediction: Oklahoma City in 6.