With all teams having played the first four games of their second round series, I thought this was a good time to update these playoffs and talk about some of my thoughts on the second round so far. I will also talk about how the series could possibly relate to the Brooklyn Nets.
Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics tied 2-2.
3 of the 4 games of this series have been close and entertaining, with the first two games in Boston each being decided by one point and one of the games in Philadelphia saw an 18-point comeback by the home team. In fact, I made the trip myself down to see this game and I hope to see a similar playoff energy next year in Brooklyn during Nets home games. This series featured two very different teams, although both can play excellent defense at times. In game 4 on Friday, the Celtics showed why they are one of the best defensive teams in the first half, giving up only 31 points, but also showed why they are one of the oldest and least deep teams in the second half, giving up 61 in the Philly comeback win. I expect the rest of the games in this series to all be very close, with the home team winning every game. This smells like a 7-game series to me, although I can’t see the Big 3 of Boston losing to an up-and-coming team like Philadelphia. At least not this year.
If the Sixers were to win this series, the Nets will have swept a team on the road who made the eastern conference finals. That would definitely be unexpected. Kevin Garnett will be a free agent after this season and the Brooklyn Nets are rumored to be interested. Garnett has played well for much of the playoffs, but I don’t really want him to be a Net next year. He will probably ask for at least 3 years on his contract, and I don’t want the Nets paying a guy who will be in his 20th season in the NBA if he gets 3 years. Also, I don’t want the Nets to have a player who some call the dirtiest in the NBA.
Prediction: Boston in 7.
Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat tied 2-2.
This has been a very fun and exciting series to watch so far, with the Pacers surprising everybody when they took a 2-1 series lead. However, Lebron and D-Wade answered the criticisms being thrown at them by combining for 70 points, 27 rebounds, and 15 assists yesterday in a game 4 Miami win. If they play like that every game, the Pacers have no chance of winning this series. Chris Bosh was injured in the first game of this series and he is unlikely to return until the next round. The Heat should still have enough talent to beat Indiana with Lebron and Wade alone, but Indiana is definitely a better team than most people, including me, thought. The key for them will be Roy Hibbert. He only had 10 points, 9 field goal attempts, and 9 rebounds yesterday, and he needs to do much more. Without Chris Bosh, all the Heat have is Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf, and Udonis Haslem to stop Hibbert. None of these players should be able to contain the all-star center, and he needs at least 20 points, 15 field goal attempts, and 12 rebounds for Indiana to have a chance. Paul George has shown that he can defend Dwyane Wade, but can he continue his strong defense for 3 more games? I don’t think so. Even though Indiana is a great story and it would be very cool for them to beat Miami, I don’t think it is going to happen.
If Indiana was to win this series, tons of rumors would start about Miami possibly trading one of their Big 3. You can read about the chances of one of them coming to Brooklyn here.
Prediction: Miami in 6.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Los Angeles Clippers 4-0.
Has any team looked better than the Spurs? They look unbeatable right now and they have even won every game except for two by double-digits and have also scored over 100 points in 6 of their 8 games. After the Clippers showed a lot of heart and passion in a game 7 win in Memphis, they were swept away by a far superior San Antonio team. If this team wins the championship, it will probably go down as the best Spurs team ever, which is saying a lot because they have already won 4 championships. Just about everybody on this team can make 3′s (with the exception of Tim Duncan) and their ball movement is incredible. The ball rarely hits the floor as it is quickly swung back and forth across the court to confuse opponents and ends up in the hands of an open 3-point shooter. I am really looking forward to the western conference finals (much more than the eastern finals) when San Antonio will probably meet Oklahoma City. Even though David Stern is praying that the Thunder win that series, the Spurs just look too unbeatable right now to lose to OKC.
One of the most exciting Nets games this season was against the Clippers when Jordan Farmar hit a 3 with .2 seconds left to give the Nets a 1-point win. I am not surprised to see the Clippers out in the second round. They were no match for San Antonio.
Prediction: No prediction necessary.
Oklahoma City Thunder lead Los Angeles Lakers 3-1.
Russell Westbrook led an impressive comeback for Oklahoma City in Los Angeles on Saturday night. After blowing a lead in game 2 of the series, the Lakers again lost a double-digit lead in game 4 to put them in a very tough position. They needed to win both games at home to have a chance in this series, because now they will need to win 3 straight, including 2 in Oklahoma, to advance to the conference finals. That is one of the toughest arenas to play in in the NBA. They are very loud and everybody wears their free t-shirts. I don’t think the Lakers can go in there and win twice. The big question for the Thunder is who will be the closer in the fourth quarter. On Saturday, much of the fourth was a 1-on-1 battle between Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant rarely even touched the ball. However, with the score tied and 15 seconds left, Durant nailed a 3 to give OKC the lead for good. In my opinion, if Westbrook is having a good night, I don’t mind him doing all the shooting. However, if he is putting up a 3-14 performance like he occasionally does, Durant should step in and take the ball away from him. This may cause some problems down the line, but the Thunder are 7-1 in the playoffs so far, so nobody should be complaining. The Lakers are going to have to rebuild to some extent this offseason and I expect at least one of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Metta World Peace to not return. Gasol has sometimes shown that he can be a superstar, but for too much of these playoffs he has looked timid and he doesn’t want the ball in important situations. He may be on his way out of L.A.
There have been rumors for years about a Bynum-for-Howard trade but the situation has never been quite right for it to happen. I don’t think Howard wants to play with Kobe, so it may never happen, but expect both teams to look into it once the Lakers are eliminated from the playoffs.
Prediction: Oklahoma City in 5.
Expect a recap of the second round and a preview of the conference finals once the second round of games is over. Feel free to comment agreeing/disagreeing with my predictions below.