With all but one second-round matchup determined, the 2012 NBA playoffs will hold way to even more exciting and intriguing matchups, just as they did in the first round.
We saw Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James battle, the Howard-absent Magic get dismantled by the Indiana Pacers and the aged Boston Celtics cruise past the young Atlanta team despite losing Rajon Rondo for a game.
After a first round mixed with excitement and lop-sided series, what do we have to look forward to in the second round?
It is always exciting to see a divisional matchup. For much of the season, the Boston team full of age and experience struggled while the youthful 76ers took control of the division. By the end of the year, however, experience persevered through adversity and received a higher seeding than the younger Philadelphia team.
Philadelphia, although playing very well in the opening round, caught what most would consider a lucky break. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah both found themselves injured, and the top-seeded Chicago Bulls were left fighting without the heart and soul of their team. With Jrue Holiday and Spencer Hawes leading the way, Philadelphia defeated the Bulls 4-2 in the series.
As for the Celtics, Kevin Garnett was simply outstanding. He led the team in points, rebounds and blocks throughout the series, defying age and playing a major role in defeating the seemingly lifeless Atlanta Hawks 4-2 in the series.
In the three games these two teams played against each other, Philadelphia came out victorious in two. The one game they lost, however, was in early April as the season ended, and the Celtics were surging with momentum.
Rajon Rondo has been precise with his passing, leading the Celtics in assist and Paul Pierce has led in scoring with 17.7 points per game versus the 76ers. Philadelphia has been led by Elton Brand against Boston, despite only playing 21 minutes per game.
The key in this matchup will be simple: Can Philadelphia contain Garnett?
There may not be a better matchup between players throughout the rest of the NBA playoffs after we see Kobe Bryant face Kevin Durant.
Both players are within the top five of NBA scoring leaders—Bryant with 29.1 points per game to lead all players, and Durant in fifth with 26.5. This matchup will surely have no lack of scoring and exciting offense. Against each other, Durant beats out Kobe with 29.7 points per game versus Bryant's 24.3.
In the last few years, these two players have dominated the Western Conference with their offensive abilities and roles on their teams. There will be no exception once these two face off, and round two of the NBA playoffs will be better for it.
In terms of point guard matchups, there is none better in the 2012 NBA playoffs than Tony Parker and Chris Paul. Two premiere All-Star point guards who can put up points as well as dish dimes.
During the regular season, Paul held the edge as the more productive one guard averaging 19.8 points, 9.1 assists and a 4.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. Parker was no slouch either, barely trailing with averages of 18.3 points, 7.7 assist and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.03.
Against each other however, the two are almost identical in production. In three games, Paul has scored 22.3 points per game, barely leading Parker's 22. Parker leads in assist with 9.5 per game, compared to Paul's 8.7. Parker may hold the slight edge due to his minimally better turnover-to-assist ratio.
These two intelligent floor generals will create quite the battle, and it will be the best you will see with point guards.
Tim Duncan and Blake Griffin may not play at the same positions, but this will be a battle of presence inside the base. A battle of an aged veteran and youthful star.
Duncan, for years, has been one of the best big men in the game. Griffin has burst onto the scene with his remarkable leaping abilities and post game down low. This matchup might not provide much one-on-one action, but it will certainly be fun to watch the progression of big men and their styles in the NBA.
On the year, Duncan has averaged just over 15 points with nine rebounds per game. Griffin has shown more of an offensive presence with just under 20 points per game with 6.8 rebounds.
Watch these two play, as you will see the future and the past styles of post play right before your eyes.
Most would not look at the matchup between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat as exciting—or possibly not even competitive, since Miami took the season series 3-1 in a convincing fashion.
Do not overlook the Pacers though. During the regular season portion of April, the Pacers averaged over 110 points. After a lackluster 77-point performance to open the series with the Orlando Magic, the Pacers have returned to old form lighting up the scoreboard.
We all know what Miami has—LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The team plays excellent defense, and can score at will as well. Indiana however, has a very well balanced team with five players that can at any given time possess the hot hand—Danny Granger, Paul George, George Hill, David West or Darren Collison.
The danger in this matchup is not only due to Indiana's ability to score, but also Miami's track record of playing down to their competition and attempting to cruise to a win. We saw this no better than against Dallas, when Miami squandered a 15-point lead late in the game.
If Miami doesn't play this series with everything they have, they may be upset by the under-the-radar Pacers.