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Rest vs rhythm: The two-time defending champ Miami Heat enters the semifinals well rested as they swept the Charlotte Bobcats last week. The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Toronto Raptors in game 7 yesterday and off short rest they face the Heat Tuesday.
The Heat find themselves in similar predicament, last year the Heat dusted off the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1st round and waited nearly a week for their semifinal opponent Chicago Bulls conclude their 7 game series. The Heat lost the 1st game and went on to win four straight to take the series. The Heat have undoubtedly have the best trio in the league spearheaded by Lebron James. James is carrying the load while Dwayne Wade is slowly emerging from his injury woes. Can the heat overcome their issues and advance?
The Nets finally reached the semifinals after last year heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Chicago Bulls in the 1st round . The Nets re-tooled as they acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett…guys who put the fear in the Miami Heat. The Nets are a matchup headache for the Heat…this team was built to beat the heat. The Nets swept the season series (4-0) , 3 of the games were decided by a single point & the other game went to double overtime. The Nets will give the Heat its biggest test thus far.
Most Intriguing Matchups:
Lebron James vs Paul Pierce
Dwayne Wade vs Joe Johnson
The Nets Win if: Kevin Garnett outshines Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce come through in the clutch.
The Heat Win if:the big 3 play like the big 3 of the past, Chris Bosh has to get the best of an aging KG &DWade must stay
Prediction: Heat in 7!!!!!
Credit: Steven Lane/The Columbian
The Portland Trailblazers & the San Antonio Spurs are the two teams are very similar.
The Blazers in my opinion are a younger version of the Spurs. Damian Lillard can be considered a young Tony Parker with his quickness and his ability to get to the basket. The Blazers reached the semifinals on the heels of Damian Lillard’s series clinching 3 in game 6 to send the Houston Rockets home. The same PG comparison can also can be said with the PF in this series. LaMarcus Aldridge ability to rebound coupled with his nice 15 foot shot definitely reminds you of Tim Duncan. The Blazers bread and butter is their Pick & Roll…Lillard and Aldridge works this to perfection. This Blazers team is well ahead their time and most definitely will be threat to the Spurs.
The Spurs are the wounded dog you see in your neighborhood..you often wonder after these years that there still around…and when you think their defeated they rise to the occasion. Their 1st round series vs the Dallas Mavericks played out in that particular fashion. At times it looked like the Spurs were going to lay down, but like a wounded dog they persevered and destroyed the Mavs in game 7. The Spurs play the game the way it should be…their the true definition of a team…they play as one…no particular guy grabs the attention…and every man plays his role to the “T” . Experience is the best teacher and the Spurs are the professors of experience, but father time is looming…..
Most Intriguing Matchups:
Tony Parker vs Damian Lillard
Tim Duncan vs LaMarcus Aldridge
The Blazers Win if: they can execute the pick and roll to perfection & Lillard and Aldridge get the best of their older counterpart match-ups.
The Spurs Win if: Tony Parker plays out of his mind and the Spurs ability to capitalize on the Blazers mistakes.
Prediction: Spurs in 6!!!!
Credit: Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
The Oklahoma City Thunder and the L.A Clippers who are fresh from Game 7 victories in their respective 1st round match-ups square off Monday. This series undoubtedly will be the the most offensive series we will see in the semi-finals in both conferences.
The OKC Thunder is led by MVP Kevin Durant and his (robin) Russell Westbrook who are seeking its third trip to the Western Conference Finals. KD and Westbrook are the most dynamic duo in all the NBA. Their ability to drive to the basket, the ability to finish at the rim & their ability to pass to open shooters makes this team very dangerous. The Thunder faced a defensive minded Grizzles in the 1st round and until this point haven’t faced an offensive juggernaut like the L.A Clippers thus far.
The L.A Clippers enters the semifinals emotionally and physically drained as the Golden State Warriors gave them all that they can handle. The emotional drain in some way has rejuvenated them…(they answered the bell vs Golden State when their backs were against the wall.). Chris Paul stirs the drink for this Clippers team in which his play has elevated the play of others ( Daren Collison, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin to name a few).
This match-up will in my eye live up to the billing. Both teams are complete teams and loaded with stars. This series will undoubtedly come down to the role players..Expect this series to last for 2 weeks….it will be a INSTANT CLASSIC!!!
Most Intriguing Matchups:
Russell Westbrook vs Chris Paul
Serge Ibaka vs Blake Griffin
The Clippers Win if: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin defend the OKC Duo & Can Jamaal Crawford and the bench provide timely scoring when CP3 and the starters have a off shooting night.
The Thunder Win if:Kevin Durant dominate in MVP fashion..Establish himself as top dog. The Thuder also will need huge contibu
Prediction: Clippers in 7!!!!
Credit: Brian Spurlock USA Today Sports
The Indiana Pacers & the Washington Wizards enter their Eastern Conference Semifinals match-up in remarkably different fashion.
The Pacers were considered the toast of the league during the all-star break then it all went downhill. Despite the regular season collapse the Pacers still managed the #1 seed and their 1st round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks was going to be a cake walk….Not so fast… The (38-44) Hawks pushed the Pacers to Game 7. The Hawks took advantage of several match-up advantages…..Jeff Teague exposed George Hill.
The Wizards was considered a good team , but the biggest knock on them was their lack of playoff experience coupled with a young backcourt. The Wizards simply demolished the Chicago Bulls in their 1st round match-up in 5 games. Wall and Beal proved their critics as the nearly averaged 20 PPG a piece in their series vs Chicago.
In a series like this generally the best player is the deciding factor & Paul George fits that bill. George flexed his muscle in Game 7 vs the Hawks pouring in a career playoff high 30 points and 11 rebounds….expect him to have several nights like this!
Most Intriguing Matchups:
Paul George vs Trevor Ariza
Lance Stephenson vs Bradley Beal
The Wizards Win if: John Wall completely dominate his matchup against George Hill & have a Jeff Teague-esque series coupled with Trevor Ariza ability to neutralize Paul George.
The Pacers Win if: Roy Hibbert comes back to All-Star form (the classic big man that is missing in today’s game) & Paul George must take over offensively night end night out!
Prediction: Pacers in 6!!
The Indiana Pacers (56-26) and the Atlanta Hawks (38-44) square off once again in the first round of the NBA Playoffs (Pacers defeated the Hawks in 6 games last year). The Pacers are limping into this series (10-13 in last 23 games) despite being 46-13 once upon a time. During the post All-Star collsape of the Pacers their most head shaking loss came at the hands of the Hawks as they were defeated 107-88. If the Pacers are limping in the Hawks have damn near crawled in the playoffs being the only team under .500 to make it to this years playoffs. The Hawks have a multitude of match-up problems with the Pacers. Paul George’s(21.7 PPG) ability to slash to the basket will definitely flourish in this series along with David West’s (14.0 PPG) midrange dominance & hopefully a rejuvenated Roy Hibbert will give Atlanta a world of trouble. The Hawks are a terrific passing team in which provides open looks to their skilled shooters (The Hawks are among the leauge leaders in 3 Pointers made). Can the Hawks be the 9th #8 seed to knock off the #1 seed since 1985? ABSOUTLEY NOT!!!
Prediction: Pacers in 5
Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock USA Today Sports