Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat
Time: 7:00 PM (ET)
Season Series: Tied 2-2
Bulls vs. Heat is the playoff matchup that many people expected to see last season, but Derrick Rose's torn ACL led to Chicago's first-round upset at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. The two teams will finally meet in the postseason, but Rose remains on the sidelines and it remains doubtful that he'll make an appearance during this or any other series.
For the second year in a row, the two teams split their regular-season series at two games apiece. The Bulls, of course, were the ones who famously snapped the Heat's 27-game winning streak back in March and remain one of the few teams that isn't awed by Miami's star-studded, "Hollywood As Hell" lineup.
Wade doesn't care to use Noah's term "war" to describe Heat-Bulls. "I'll say it's going to be a basketball battle."— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) May 5, 2013
There's always the worry that too much rest will get a team out of rhythm, but having the past week off was a huge benefit to the Heat. Shooting guard Dwyane Wade spent the time dealing with a bruised right knee, and all signs point to him being back in uniform on Monday (via the Sun-Sentinel).
Carlos Boozer averaged 15.0 RPG against Miami this season, and the Bulls will need him and Joakim Noah to dominate the glass to have any chance of knocking off the Heat. Opposing them will be Miami's X-factor, Chris Andersen, who may be the best late-season free-agent pickup in recent memory. Including the playoffs, the Heat are 43-3 when Andersen has been in the lineup.
Chicago is riding a wave of emotion following their 99-93 Game 7 win over the Brooklyn Nets, but with Rose out and Luol Deng (severe flu) and Kirk Hinrich (leg injury) unlikely to suit up, the Bulls have their work cut out for them in the series opener.
Adrenaline will only carry Chicago so far, and at some point in the second half, the Heat will kick it into overdrive and run away with an impressive victory.
Prediction: Heat 103, Bulls 87
Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs
Time: 9:30 PM (ET)
Season Series: Tied 2-2
With both the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors shooting better than 49 percent so far this postseason, something has to give when the two teams square off in the Western Conference semifinals.
Golden State seemed destined for a first-round exit after David Lee injured his hip in the series opener against Denver. But thanks to Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and others, the Warriors became this year's Cinderellas following their 92-88 series-clinching win over the Nuggets.
In stark contrast to the perennially contending Spurs, the Warriors are playing with house money at this point: Everything they do from here on out is icing on top of a very majestic cake.
Mark Jackson, on the eve of Warriors-Spurs Game 1: “There’s no pressure on us–we’re excited”: SAN ANTONIO–Than... bit.ly/15kR39v— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) May 5, 2013
Curry (24.3 PPG, 9.3 APG, 4.3 RPG, 2.2 SPG) is the MVP of the playoffs to this point, but the task of covering Tony Parker full time figures to have a measurable effect on his offensive output. And while Mark Jackson is a viable Coach of the Year candidate, he's not even in the same class as Spurs' bench boss Gregg Popovich, who has led his team to the conference semifinals in 11 of the past 13 seasons.
Tim Duncan averaged 22.7 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in three games against the Warriors this year, and he should have little trouble dominating the paint with Lee out. The Spurs made short work of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, and thanks to a week of rest, expect San Antonio to take early control of their series against Golden State.
Prediction: Spurs 105, Warriors 99