NBA playoffs continue in 2nd round


I was 7-for-8 in picking the winner of the first round of the playoffs. Not bad when you consider the one series I missed was the 76ers upset of the Bulls, after both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah went down with series-ending injuries. Regardless, I picked all the others correctly, some a whole lot more contested than I thought (the Nuggets taking the Lakers to a game 7) and others ending surprisingly quick (the Thunder’s impressive sweep of the incumbent NBA champion Mavericks.) The second round started Saturday, so I get a little sneak peak. But here’s a preview and the predictions for the NBA’s second round.

Eastern Conference

#5 Boston Celtics vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers

This was a matchup that very few, if any, people expected to happen in the second round. The two lower seeds meet up to see who will advance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics won the first game on Saturday night by one point, but only after overcoming a 13-point lead by the Sixers, who controlled all but a very few minutes of the game. The Celtics have home court advantage, and in their case, it is a real advantage. The last time they lost at home was early April against the Spurs, and before that, hadn’t lost at TD Garden since Feb. 15. With one win at home already, the Celtics will not relinquish the advantage.

Prediction: Celtics win 4-2

#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Indiana Pacers

Unlike the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket, this was a matchup that most people expected and salivated over. It is definitely an interesting series, with the Pacers’ aggressive knock ’em, drag ’em out style of play. They have a significant size advantage over the Heat, with 7’3” Roy Hibbert guarding the paint, and David West, Danny Granger and Tyler Hansbrough playing key roles. Especially with the devastating blow to Miami in the form of an abdominal strain to Chris Bosh, that will keep him out indefinitely, the question as to whether the Heat can compete with Indiana comes into focus. However, game 1 is already in the books for Miami, who used MVP LeBron James and fellow superstar Dwyane Wade to close out a tight game in South Beach. Without Bosh, the Heat will struggle to play against the big Indiana team, but the Pacers may not have enough offense to keep up with Miami.

Prediction: Heat win 4-3


Western Conference

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #5 Los Angeles Clippers

These two teams had very different first rounds. The Spurs had a walk in the park, as they easily handed the Jazz a four game sweep, in which the Spurs won by an average of 16 points, defeating the Jazz in game 2 by 31. The Clippers on the other hand, had a series full of comebacks, such as game 1 against the Grizzlies, where they won after trailing by 27. Each of the four wins for the Clippers, can be defined by a comeback. But will Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have enough energy left, let alone be healthy enough, to compete with the rested veterans Tony Parker and Tim Duncan? Not very many people are giving the Clippers much of a chance. Me neither.

Prediction: Spurs win 4-1

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #3 Los Angeles Lakers

The Thunder have been able to sit back and watch the Lakers struggle with the feisty Nuggets for seven games, until L.A. was finally able to put them away in the Staples Center Saturday night. Tonight they travel to OKC to play the Thunder, who haven’t played a game since May 5, when they completed the sweep of the Mavericks. So the real question is if the Lakers can summon up enough energy to play with the lightning-quick tandem of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, or if the Thunder are going to be rusty after dispatching the Mavericks in their lightning-quick fashion. Not likely.

Prediction: Thunder win 4-2


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