Sunday, May 5, 2013

NBA Second Round Predictions: This Is Where The Fun Stops

The End Of Suspense
 Let's get into it, folks; it's late and there's only so much to say about a chalk round.

MEMPHIS at Oklahoma City

It's rare to see a #1 seed almost fully  disre-garded in their second round series, but that's where the Thunder are without Russell Westbrook, and how weak they looked in Game 4 and 5 against the 8 seed Rockets. Memphis, of course, took apart the Clippers in six, and won the last four; they seem to have all of the momentum. More importantly, they have some crushing matchups.

Marc Gasol will destroy Kendrick Perkins... and Scott Brooks will not be able to get away from the matchup without causing huge issues in his locker room and on the court. The Thunder were not able, in large parts of the Rocket series, to control their own backboard against the undersized Rockets; they're going to get pounded by the Grizz, especially when the Grizz slow the pace down and turn the game ugly. It also really doesn't help them that Mike Conley is playing the best ball of his life, and will use all of his craftiness to expose Ricky Jackson.

I think the Thunder get a game or two, because their home court is solid, and Kevin Durant isn't going down without some flashes. Unlike the Clips, the Thunder actually have some bench players that aren't knuckleheads, and a few veterans that don't cave on the road or under adversity. Brooks isn't an idiot, either; the Thunder are going to learn from the Clips' having some zone success against the Grizz.

But the historic way to judge pro ball teams is their centers, then their point guards, and only then the wing guys. The Grizz have advantages at those positions, and maybe even two others. It's going to be tight, but it's going to be Memphis in six.

Golden State at SAN ANTONIO

The sad but true fact of why people like the NCAA Tournament more than they do the NBA Playoffs is that, in the latter, the best team always wins. Which means that your low seed underdog never goes more than a round, no matter how much fun they are.

The Warriors have not won in San Antonio IN THIS MILLENNIUM. No, seriously. In Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they have guards that can score nearly as much as the Dubs' Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, only without the ugly turnovers and occasional rock-headedness. With Tim Duncan, they have a guy that can keep Andrew Bogut from making big plays. In Gregg Popovich, they have a coach that can work up actual strategies to limit Curry's damage on the offensive zone, and punish him on defense.

The Dub crowd is great, and the Warriors will not quit at any point in this series. But this is the part of the playoffs where the fun pretenders go away. For a second straight round, the Spurs won't have to work very hard, or very long.San Antonio in five.

Chicago at MIAMI

If only the Bulls were healthy... this would be a threatening series, rather than just a problematic one. Chicago's hopes for making this go long enough to make the Heat worry lie with defense and getting people healthy, but the down side is that the Heat spent a week getting Dwyane Wade back up to snuff.

In a better parallel universe, the Bulls have Rose, and this is for the right to go to the Finals. It also goes seven games, with LeBron James having to go to extraordinary lengths to further cement his legacy. In this world, the Heat have the guards and dedication to make Nate Robinson a liability, James solves Deng, Chris Anderson (Birdman!) fights Joakim Noah to surprising draws in a quarter or two, and the Heat take care of business with disturbing consistency. This is what I meant by how the Second Round is The End Of Fun. Miami in five.

Indiana at NEW YORK

The schedule for this is downright silly; we're going to have 3 games between contests just to give us all a shot at seeing a New York team in the second round. (Woo.) The Knicks have home court, a better bench, an edge from all of off days since they have a huge collection of older talent, and the potential best player on the court in Carmelo Anthony. The Pacers have physical defenders, solid coaching, more athleticism and no real pressure.... but star power gives playoffs in the NBA, and unless Paul George has the biggest coming-out party imaginable, they just don't have any.

 It's going to take a while, since the Knicks are very good at shunning prosperity and jawing at the refs when things don't go their way. But they also have more margin for error with their three-point shooting and bigs, and Iman Shumpert has been playing out of his mind, too. New York will start this series thankful that they got away from those pesky Celtics and can finally run and gun and fun.. but by the end of this one, they'll be relying on their defense and prayers. Knicks in seven.

Round 1: 7-1, three of the wins picked in the right number of games, the other four all one game off

Enjoy the games, folks.

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