With one first-round series in the books and others nearing completion, it's time to look ahead at the second-round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. The second round is where teams get to add more credibility to their resume and prove that their first-round series win wasn't a fluke. Let's take a look at three teams that are likely to handle their business in the second round.
The Heat just narrowly missed sweeping the Knicks out of the first round but they should still definitely win their series against New York. Should they advance along with the Indiana Pacers (who are also up 3-1 in their series), Miami would be faced with arguably the biggest threat remaining in the Eastern Conference.
However, the series between the Heat and Pacers will probably not be as close as many think it would be. Playoff series' in the NBA all rely on how the players match-up against their opponent. This sounds like an obvious statement, but when you play up to seven games against the same team and the same players, how those players stack up every night is crucial to winning. This is why I don't think this series would be very close.
The Heat easily outmatch the Pacers in three out of the five starting positions (Lebron James at SF, Dwayne Wade at SG, and Chris Bosh at PF). The Pacers do have good size in their lineup which could help on the defensive end, but it will all be in vain since every defense in the NBA has been hard pressed to contain the duo of Wade and James this season.
Besides the match-ups, the Heat have been playing with such a high level of chemistry this year that has improved from last season where they fell short in the NBA Finals. This team is becoming more comfortable with each other and that's a dangerous thought for any team in the way of their path to the Finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder had very close games in their first two contests against the Mavericks, but they squeaked out victories with some fortunate bounces. However, they made statements in the final two games of their four-game sweep. Game 3 was sheer dominance by Oklahoma City who took the life out of the defending NBA Champions. Game 4 sent an even stronger message when Oklahoma City came back from a deficit in the second half to win the series on the road.
There's a lot of momentum on the side of the Thunder right now and that could translate into the next round, even with all of the rest in between. Assuming the Lakers close out the Nuggets (up 3-1 in the series), the Thunder will get it's first crack at playing the Lakers in the playoffs since 2010 when LA stomped OKC en route to the NBA Championship.
The Lakers have some dominant big men which match-up well against the pretty weak interior for the Thunder. However, the Kendrick Perkins-Andrew Bynum matchup is definitely of interest. Perkins is notorious for getting in scuffles and getting under the skin of opposing players and with Bynum's emotional play and short temper, Perkins could be the catalyst to Bynum performing poorly. If he gets too worked up about some chippy play from Perkins, Bynum could start losing focus on the task at hand. The Lakers really need him to perform to have a chance in the series.
OKC is likely to dominate this series not just because of the momentum they built in the Dallas series, but also because of how their second unit has been playing. Derek Fisher has been having a great postseason so far, and a series against his former team will surely motivate him to play that much harder. Additionally, Metta World Peace may miss the first two games against the Thunder. This means Durant could be going off for high-point totals without World Peace's tough defense on him.
Overall, expect Oklahoma City to jump out to an early series lead and never look back.
San Antonio Spurs
How old are these guys again? The ageless wonder that is the San Antonio Spurs continues to roll and are currently up 3-0 in their series against the Jazz.
Gregg Popovich has done a phenomenal job of resting his older players in such a stressful season and now they are performing well in the postseason. Tim Duncan is getting up there in age, but he's still playing at a solid level and can still score effectively in the post.
San Antonio also had to deal with multiple injuries to Manu Ginobili who is certainly a focal point of the offense. Tony Parker has been having an MVP caliber season as well, and it has translated so far into the postseason.
The Spurs are playing great basketball right now and could be matched up with either the Clippers or Grizzlies in the second round. Either way, the Spurs will have the upper hand, since both are younger teams without much playoff experience.
The Grizzlies did beat the Spurs in the first round last season, but I don't see the same fire in the Grizzlies this postseason. They have already shown signs of distress with their record-setting blown lead against the Clippers in Game 1.
The Clippers would possibly put up a better fight but they are still a young team who the Spurs could overwhelm with smart play and old-school basketball.
I don't envision the Spurs going down in the second-round at all and could very well finish out the series in five games or less.