After a wild and somewhat unpredictable first playoff round, the NBA conference semifinals are set to begin. While the top two seeds in each conference remain, all of them could be tested by some opponents that are looking to keep their seasons alive.
The Miami Heat shouldn't have much trouble as they are at a completely different level at this point, but the three other series are far from locks. The New York Knicks have to deal with a tough Indiana Pacers squad, the banged-up Oklahoma City Thunder face the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies, and the San Antonio Spurs will have their hands full with the upstart Golden State Warriors.
Here is your complete guide to the second round of the NBA playoffs, complete with the full schedule that has been determined thus far, courtesy of USA Today.
New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers
Game 1 – Sunday, May 5, Indiana at New York, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 – Tuesday, May 7, Indiana at New York, 7 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 3 – Saturday, May 11, New York at Indiana, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 4 – New York at Indiana
Game 5* – Indiana at New York
Game 6* – New York at Indiana
Game 7* – Indiana at New York
The New York Knicks and Miami Heat have seemingly been on a collision course all season long, but the Indiana Pacers may have something to say about it. Indiana has been a forgotten team, as it has flown under the radar without a bona fide star on the roster. Paul George has had a spectacular season, but he is far from a household name and few seem to be giving the Pacers a legitimate chance at winning.
New York and Indiana split the season series 2-2 and there is suddenly some concern regarding Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. Melo won the regular-season scoring crown and was dominant in New York's first-round win over the Boston Celtics. While he is expected to be ready for Game 1, he felt his shoulder pop in Game 6 against Boston, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
The Knicks could be in trouble if Anthony's injury is more serious than he is letting on. Aside from Melo, the Knicks don't have many dynamite scorers. J.R. Smith can pick up the slack, but there isn't much beyond him. The Pacers are a great defensive team that plays as a unit, so they shouldn't be written off. This should be a great series with plenty of physical play.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Game 1 – Sunday, May 5, Memphis at Oklahoma City, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 – Tuesday, May 7, Memphis at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 3 – Saturday, May 11, Oklahoma City at Memphis, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4 – Oklahoma City at Memphis
Game 5* – Memphis at Oklahoma City
Game 6* – Oklahoma City at Memphis
Game 7* – Memphis at Oklahoma City
Most expected the Oklahoma City Thunder to romp through the Western Conference playoffs en route to a rematch with the Miami Heat, but that is now far from a certainty. The Thunder dispatched of the Houston Rockets in six games; however, they got all they could handle. A big reason why OKC wasn't dominant is that they lost star point guard Russell Westbrook for the remainder of the season due to injury.
The Thunder will have to deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, who won four straight games to eliminate the Los Angeles Clippers after losing the first two. Their dominant interior duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol was fantastic, but the Thunder have the series' biggest star in Kevin Durant. It could certainly come down to the play of Westbrook's replacement, Reggie Jackson. While Jackson doesn't have much starting experience, it didn't stop ESPN's Skip Bayless from comparing him to Westbrook.
Whether Bayless means that Jackson and Westbrook share good traits or bad traits has been left open to interpretation, but there is no doubt that Jackson has big shoes to fill. If Durant plays out of his mind, then the Thunder should be fine. The Grizzlies seem to have a more cohesive team at the moment, though, so they will be a very tough out.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
Game 1 – Monday, May 6, Golden State at San Antonio, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 2 – Wednesday, May 8, Golden State at San Antonio, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 3 – Friday, May 10, San Antonio at Golden State, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4 – San Antonio at Golden State
Game 5* – Golden State at San Antonio
Game 6* – San Antonio at Golden State
Game 7* – Golden State at San Antonio
Many fans were surprised to see the Golden State Warriors upset the Denver Nuggets in six games in the first round of the playoffs. Warriors forward David Lee was injured in the first game of the series and Golden State played without him for much of the series. Lee was an inspirational figure in Game 6, however, as he played limited minutes despite having been ruled out for the remainder of the season. With that working in their favor, the Warriors could be a thorn in the San Antonio Spurs' side.
With that said, the Spurs are a team on a mission. Their aging core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili may not have many more cracks at a title, so they won't willingly let it slip away. Duncan has been particularly impressive this season and could be tough for Lee to handle. Duncan has been the Warriors' nemesis for his entire career as Golden State hasn't beaten San Antonio on the road since before Duncan was drafted, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com.
The Warriors have a stud player for the first time in quite a while, though, in the form of Stephen Curry. He is arguably the best shooter in the game right now and he could force the Spurs to play a bit more wide open than they are accustomed to. San Antonio is definitely favored, but the Warriors will come to play as well.
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