NBA Playoffs 2012: Previewing the Second Round Action in the Week Ahead
Round 2 of the NBA postseason is finally here. Each playoff series has its own unique set of storylines that will surely make for an interesting week in the NBA.
Out in the West, the four teams left have yet to get their hands on each other. This is the most star-packed, high-profile group of teams in recent years to make the second round. There are the two old-timers, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, and there are the two new guys, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers.
However these series turn out, the Western Conference Finals will be fantastic.
In the East, both series have played at least one game. The Eastern Conference is not as high profile as the West, but both series will be a joy to watch if you're a fan of NBA basketball.
The Miami Heat will have their hands tied against a young Indiana Pacers team that is not afraid of them. The Boston Celtics just need to stay healthy. If they can, they should be able to hold off the young, upstart Philadelphia 76ers.
Here is a glimpse into this week of NBA postseason basketball.
Philadelphia 76ers (No. 8) vs. Boston Celtics (No. 4)
The Boston Celtics squeaked by the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday to win the first game in Round 2 of the NBA postseason.
Two things were made clear in this series after Game 1:
- The 76ers will be severely outmatched against the Celtics late in close games. No team in the NBA executes as well down the stretch as the Celtics. The Celtics won't shoot themselves in the foot like the Chicago Bulls did in Game 6 in the first round. If the 76ers are going to beat the Celtics, they need to get the lead quickly and do their best to prevent them from making a second-half run.
- The Celtics are not healthy. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are not playing to their full potential. Luckily for the Celtics, Kevin Garnett has been able to turn back the clock. In Game 1, Garnett was a monster. He scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Celtics cannot afford another injury or else they could suffer the same fate as the Bulls.
This series will come down to experience versus inexperience and, unfortunately, the injury bug. If the Celtics can manage to get through this series without hampering their own roster due to injuries, they have a legitimate shot to return to the NBA Finals. If the Celtics get banged up like the Bulls did in Round 1, they will have a hard time slowing down the fast pace 76ers.
The Celtics are the better team in this series and they should win Game 2 on their home court. But if Allen or Pierce can't play at a high level, this series could get interesting quick.
Bold Prediction for Game 2: Paul Pierce does not play two bad playoff games in a row. He will help lead the Celtics to victory, reminding everyone the Celtics are still his team.
Indiana Pacers (No. 3) vs. Miami Heat (No. 2)
Marc Serota/Getty Images
The Indiana Pacers talked their pre-series smack all week.
Then they got outscored by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the second half of Game 1, 42-38. The Heat lead the series, 1-0.
Not all the news for the Miami Heat was good—Chris Bosh left late in the first half of Game 1 with a lower abdominal injury and did not return. Manu Ginobili missed more than two weeks with the same injury earlier this season.
The Heat will likely overcome Bosh's injury in this series, but the challenge becomes significantly tougher. Roy Hibbert and David West should be able to abuse Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony if they are truly big-time players.
The big difference in this series, as it always is when teams play the Heat, is how much better Wade and James are than everyone else. Danny Granger, who plays the part of "go-to guy" for the Pacers, scored seven points in Game 1. His counterpart, Paul George, scored only six points. Wade and James outscored Granger and George 61-13.
The word "obliteration" does not even describe the small forward/shooting guard beatdown the Pacers received.
If the Pacers can take advantage of their size, they have a real shot to make this series interesting. But ultimately, inexperience in big games will hurt the Pacers. Diss James all you want for his late-game choke jobs. At least he's been in a situation, unlike the Pacers, where he knows what it's like to be in a close, big-time game.
Bold Prediction for Game 2: James and Wade will continue to dominate their matchups. Hibbert and West will not. Heat win.
Los Angeles Clippers (No. 5) vs. San Antonio Spurs (No. 1)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
It took everything the Los Angeles Clippers had to get out of Round 1. The Memphis Grizzlies were tough and physical and the Clippers team that survived is a shell of the team that entered the postseason.
Blake Griffin has a sprained left knee and Chris Paul has a strained right hip. Neither of those injuries is getting better anytime soon.
The San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, have been resting since May 7. To make things worse for the Clippers, the Spurs have 10 guys who can score more than 10 points on any given night. They have by far the deepest roster in the NBA.
The wear and tear of a seven-game series may not even be the Clippers' biggest issue. The coaching matchup heavily favors the Spurs. Gregg Popovich, a future Hall of Fame coach, will go against Vinny Del Negro, who once again made questionable moves throughout the first-round series against the Grizzlies.
Against almost every NBA team, the Clippers would have the player advantage at point guard. But with a banged-up Paul, the Spurs will have the advantage. Tony Parker is playing lights out and it will be tough for a hobbled Paul to keep up with him.
Bold Prediction for Game 1: The Spurs will run circles around the Clippers, beating them big. This will open the general public's eyes, making them realize just how good this year's Spurs team is.
Los Angeles Lakers (No. 3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 2)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Like the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been resting for a week.
The Los Angeles Lakers barely beat the Denver Nuggets in the first round. The Lakers are old and they're tired and the Thunder will be going full speed from the jump ball all the way to the final buzzer.
The most frustrating thing about the Lakers is how disinterested they look at times, most notably Andrew Bynum. Does he care about anything? He comes off like a spoiled brat who feels entitled. He has no reason to feel entitled because the Lakers have won nothing with him as their second-best player.
In fact, if the Lakers lose this series, expect them to push hard for a Dwight Howard/Bynum swap in the summer.
The Thunder are the opposite of the Lakers. They are young and have not accomplished anything in the NBA postseason. Therefore, they always play with a sense of extreme urgency. The Thunder never take nights off and this will ultimately be the difference in this series.
So much has to go right for the Lakers to win this series, whereas the Thunder can scrape by and still win if they meet some bumpy roads. Think about it this way: If the Thunder sweep the Lakers, it will not be surprising. If the Lakers sweep the Thunder, it will be shocking.
Bold Prediction for Game 1: Bynum and Gasol will struggle. The Thunder will win Game 1 by more than 10 points.