No one thought that the 1st round would be as good as it was. 5 out of the 8 series came down to game 7s, which I think is the first time ever in NBA history (Saturday was the first time 3 game 7s was played in one day). There was only one sweep, Heat over the Bobcats, but even that seemed like a tough series for the Heat. Some people are claiming that the NBA was rigged so it could be this many 7 game series (especially with the atrocious officiating) but I just see some quality basketball being played. Now that we are heading into the conference semi-finals, lets take a look at each series.
Pacers vs Wizards
Season Series, Pacers 3-1
The Pacers managed to get things together and crept pass the Hawks in 7 games but now they must get ready for a Wizards team who is playing some great basketball right now. Wizards right now look like the 2nd best team in the East behind the Heat, mainly because they have been balanced all over the court. They have a two headed monster in the front court with Nene and Gortat and a two headed monster in the back court with Wall and Beal, two things the Pacers struggled in 7 games with the Hawks.
I see match up problems all over the place for the Pacers, especially in the backcourt. Jeff Teague became a household name in the 1st round simply because the Pacers guards could not stop him. And last time I checked John Wall was a better player than Teague, who averaged 19 a game against the Pacers. The Pacers throughout the season was known to be one of the best defensive teams in the league but the Hawks managed to score 100 points on them twice, losing both games
Even though they did get past the Hawks, I'm still not sold on the Pacers. They still don't look like a team with good chemistry and moral, plus Hibbert still looks awful. Maybe a new series will wake him up from the abyss but I'm not sure if he is ready for the physical battle he is about to endure with Nene and Gortat. Paul George and David West will have to carry them through this round, along with Lance Stephenson. If PG24 can completely abuse Trevor Ariza, then I like the Pacers chances, other than that, I see the Wiz Kids moving on. izards win Series 4-2
Clippers vs. Thunder
Season series, Tied 2-2
I am very excited for this series because both teams have very high expectations. Who ever lose this series will go through some major changes this off-season. As of now though, I expect a great back and fourth series, similar to both of their series in the 1st round. The biggest match up in my opinion will be Chris Paul vs Russell Westbrook. You always hear these two names in the "Best Point guard" debate and rightfully so, but now we truly get to see who is the best between these two. Westbrook is the more athletic of the two but CP3 has the mental. As a point guard, CP3 will make better decision than Russell. I think both are good scorers, some may give the edge to Russell but I think CP3 is a very underrated scorer.
Defensively, these two teams aren't great but they'll play enough to win the game, The Clippers are the worst of the two but they have stepped it up as the season grew longer. I expect this series to come down to who will make the most defensive plays because both can score. Kevin Durant will have a field day against the Clippers forwards, since they have no one that can slow him down. Matt Barnes will be the one to play KD the most but unless Danny Granger makes an appearance this series, Barnes will be by his self. Can Barnes frustrate KD like Tony Allen did? It all depends on whether or not Barnes can be physical without getting into foul trouble.
The front court is where the Clippers can win this series. We already know about Blake Griffin improvements but DeAndre Jordan has became one of the best centers in the league in just 1 series. Jordan was a dominant force against the Warriors, doing a great job of controlling the paint on both sides of the ball. With Perkins being completely ineffective on the offensive end, Jordan has another opportunity to once again control the paint and give the Clipper a big advantage in this series. Like I said, I think this series will come down to whoever can make the most defensive plays, but keep an eye on that battle in the paint. Thunder win series 4-3
Heat vs Nets
Season series, Nets 4-0
This is the most intriguing series in this round for me. The Heat are in many people's mind, the best team in the league, and if they are the best, what do you call the team that they have yet to beat this season? The Nets have defeated the Heat all four times this year by a total of 12 points, 3 games by only 1 point. It's easy to say that the Nets have the Heat number but it's hard to figure out why. All four games could have gone either way but the Nets seemed to always finished.
The Heat only had D-Wade for 2 of those games and he averages 23 for both games, while LeBron averages 27 for all 4. Even though the Nets have been mediocre all season, they seem to play at the top of their game against the Heat, which is great. Of course the Heat are the favorites but will that season sweep effect them mentally. It shouldn't but you never know in the NBA Playoffs. The Nets had a struggle with the Raptors' energy while the Heat were resting, so that may be a factor but at this point everyone is tired. I don't see many mismatches on either side, it's pretty much even, another reason why this will be an epic series.
LeBron will matchup against Paul Pierce one more and I'm sure he is not excited about that. In the playoff's, Paul Pierce has made LeBron life a living hell, until he got to Miami. On the Heat's second trip to the Finals in 2012, LeBron had one of the best playoff performances ever against Paul and the Celtics in the Eastern conference finals but that was 7 game series that included a lot of back n forth between these two. I expect another great battle between these two and even though Paul Pierce looked old and rundown against the Raptors, don't expect him to look like that against Bronny, this is more personal. I'm going to go against the grain on this one and run with the underdogs Nets win series 4-2 ( If it goes to 7 games Heat will win).
Spurs vs Blazers
Season Series, Tied 2-2
After the Heat and Nets series, this is also another intriguing match up for different reasons. I see this as more of a Past vs Future matchup because both have great players at the same positions. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have been a dynamic duo for 12 seasons now, claiming 3 championships. You can't name another Guard-Forward duo that has been better than those two in that time frame. This series though, they will be looking in the mirror because the Blazers has a point guard and Power forward that together can easily take over the league one day. Damian Lillard and Lamarcus Aldridge have only been together for 2 years now but the chemistry resembles 6 years.
Parker-Duncan vs Lillard-Aldridge will easily be the biggest story of the series but I'm curious to how the Blazers will answer on the defensive end. Against the Rockets, the Blazers could get away with not playing defense because the Rockets didn't play any either. Going bucket for bucket actually helped them win that series. The Spurs are not going to play that game with them. Spurs are going to make stops, Spurs are going to make defensive adjustments, and their going to force you to take bad shots. Can the Blazers do the same? Some people are asking "Can the Spurs keep up offensively?" and I think they proved that in their series with the Mavs, especially in game 7.
I think this will be a very entertaining series, mainly because of the matchups. Even the matchup between Robin Lopez and Tiago Splitter in the paint will be intriguing. Which scrap guy will get the most scraps? The only thing that won't be debatble is the coaching. The Spurs have one of the greatest ever on their side. I don't know what coach Pop has in mind to stop Lillard & Aldridge and I don't know if it will work, but as long as he is coaching, it's hard to go against him. Spurs win series 4-2