Tim Duncan looks to lead the Spurs into the conference finals for the second year in a row.
If the second round of the 2013 NBA playoffs is anywhere near as exciting as the first round, NBA fans nationwide are in for a treat.
The first round featured teams completely dominating, while others battled and were able to hang on to advance.
Regardless of how each team made it into the second round, that doesn't matter now. The second round is upon us, and a spot in the conference finals awaits the victors.
The time to look forward is now, so let's break down each second-round matchup.
The Pacers stole Game 1 from the Knicks Sunday afternoon, pulling off the 102-95 victory.
This series comes down to tempo. The Pacers are a team that like to slow the game down and play gritty, smart defensive-minded basketball. The Knicks, on the other hand, love to get out and run and keep the game as uptempo as possible.
The Pacers will gladly let Carmelo Anthony shoot 28 times a game, as he did in Game 1. They will continue to key in on him and force him to take low-percentage shots until another Knicks player proves he can step up—presumably either Raymond Felton or J.R. Smith.
New York's offense has to make shots consistently against a very good Pacers perimeter defense if they want to compete. If not, Anthony will predictably be forced into driving the ball to the rim, where it will be tough to finish with Roy Hibbert in the paint.
But never count Carmelo Anthony out.
On the Pacers side, efficient play offensively will be the key. They aren't going to out-shoot the Knicks, but they have the distinct possibility of outsmarting New York's defense.
As was evident in Game 1 on Sunday, dumping the ball inside to Roy Hibbert is a crucial ingredient for success. But this doesn't revolve around Hibbert actually scoring the ball.
When the ball is thrown down to the center in the post, it was common to see the passer's defender double down on Hibbert, or at least take a second or two to help. That brief moment messes up the defensive rotation, usually ending with a good look on the perimeter.
And don't forget about David West on the other block, who led the Pacers with 20 points Sunday.
Overall, Indiana is too stingy defensively and has already stolen home-court advantage. The Pacers have consistent scoring beyond Paul George, whereas the Knicks can never truly rely on a player after Carmelo in the scoring department.
Prediction: Pacers in 6
The Miami Heat have rested an entire week after their shellacking of the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round. They seem extremely zoned in and focused on repeating as champions, and it is tough to see anyone in the Eastern Conference dethroning them.
Don't tell the Chicago Bulls that.
Chicago is riding high after an impressive Game 7 victory over the Nets in Brooklyn. While both these teams are looking mightily impressive, health issues surround the Bulls. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Luol Deng will not play in Game 1 of the series.
Not only does this loss tremendously affect the Bulls offensively, but on the defensive end of the floor, Deng was the possible answer to slowing down LeBron James because of his length.
Offensively for Chicago, the motors of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah cannot run dry. The Bulls will need to scrap for every second chance if they want to stay close in games and this series.
On the perimeter, all eyes look to Nate Robinson to continue his magical run of scoring. They will rely heavily on Robinson to provide infinite energy and enthusiasm, coupled with a scoring punch which will be enough to keep them afloat.
For the Heat, there isn't much to change. Miami must keep feeding LeBron and Dwyane Wade the rock and expect them to shoulder the load. Seeing that the Bulls will likely focus on the "Big Three," it will be up to other perimeter players like Shane Battier to knock down open jumpers.
Luckily for the Heat, Shane Battier swishing an open three-ball in the corner is a recurring element for their offense.
The Miami Heat are just too much for the Bulls to handle—or anyone for that matter. The Heat will dig in defensively and make each possession tough for the Bulls, who just don't have enough firepower to squeeze out wins, although their heart and fight will keep these games close.
Prediction: Heat in 5
If Game 1 is any indication of how intense this series is going to be, fans of each team may not have any fingernails left by the time this series is finished with.
The Thunder came back to win the game, and it was anything but easy.
This series breaks down rather simplistically. Oklahoma City will go as far as Kevin Durant takes them, as was evident on Sunday.
While it is fair to say that Kevin Durant shoulders the weight of the Thunder's chance of advancing, it is OKC's role players that will need to sufficiently contribute in order to give Durant the chance to take over and win games.
Now that they are used to playing without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have found a reliable ball-handler in Reggie Jackson. With the Grizzlies having such a prolific frontcourt, the Thunder will need Kevin Martin to knock down shots and take the load off Durant.
Inside, however, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are physical enough to body up against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. At the very least, they will be able to grind them down and wear them out in what should be an extended series.
For the Grizzlies, Mike Conley drives this team. If he is consistently getting to the rim, game over. This creates ample opportunities to kick the ball out or dump it off to Randolph or Gasol who are proven scorers around the rim.
Back to Marc Gasol, who will create matchup nightmares for the Thunder.
The Spaniard is so dynamic because of his dual-threat capabilities. He can play with his back to the basket posted up or step out and knock down jump shots.
When Gasol steps out of the lane, it will draw Ibaka or Perkins out of the paint, leaving plenty of room for Mike Conley to do his thing.
Defensively, the Grizzlies should put Tony Allen, one of the best defenders in the league, on Kevin Durant. While he won't stop him—or come anywhere close for that matter—his main focus will be ball denial, especially late in games.
If the ball is out of Durant's hands late in close games, the Grizzlies should prevail. Their offensive complexity will be too much for the depleted Thunder to handle.
Prediction: Grizzlies in 6
This series comes down to one thing: Can Stephen Curry continue to carve out a place among the top stars in the NBA today?
He'll have to do so against a Spurs team that, year in and year out, refuse to go down without putting up a fight. Led by veterans Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the Spurs know what it takes to win.
It is a matchup of old and dynamic (Spurs) vs. young and athletic (Warriors).
For Golden State, they essentially know what they are going to get with Curry on a nightly basis. He has the capability to tear it up at any stage in the game. The Warriors will need him to go above and beyond what he did in the opening round against the Denver Nuggets if they want to defeat the Spurs.
On the perimeter, Golden State will inevitably knock down shots. On the inside, however, it will be a tough time getting scoring production as David Lee won't play a significant role in the series.
The key to a Warriors series victory is how well they manage the interior both offensively and defensively, while secondary factors of success begin with their hot shooting and whether or not it can stay hot.
San Antonio, on the other hand, will look to Tony Parker at times to slow Curry down.
Parker, a savvy veteran, may not be as athletic or explosive as Curry, but he has the playoff experience under his belt to understand what it takes to slow him down and throw him off of his game at times.
Offensively, the Spurs attack from all angles. With the Warriors lacking a true threat down low, look for Tim Duncan to go to work in the paint. When the Warriors start to collapse on Duncan, he will kick it out to shooters like Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner and Danny Green, to name a few.
The veteran experience and inside dominance coupled with enough perimeter threats will allow the Spurs to defeat the effective jump-shooting Warriors.
Prediction: Spurs in 6