The question is, who is the X-factor that could win or lose every second-round series?
The definition of an X-factor is loose, but it all goes along the lines of a player who can make or break his team's success. These players are intricate members of the rotation that have been known to both shoulder a heavy load and disappear.
Unpredictability is a major part of this equation.
In that same breath, it's not just the players that can be X-factors, but the conditions as well. For instance, a home-court advantage can be more favorable for certain teams, and injuries can be more devastating.
One way or another, these factors will decide the following series.
Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls: Injuries
The Miami Heat are the heavily favored team in this series, regardless of who is playing. The fact of the matter is, that old "We have so many players injured" argument is actually applicable for the Chicago Bulls.
As it presently stands, there are questions surrounding the availability of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
All three of those players are the X-factors here, as the Bulls will not pull out this upset without them. Rose is a superstar, Deng is an All-Star and Hinrich is a top-tier on-ball defender.
Without them, the Bulls are without their top two point guards and their most well-rounded player that happens to have led Chicago in scoring this season.
Miami will be at a talent advantage regardless of who is healthy, especially with Joakim Noah battling plantar fasciitis. With that being said, the presence of Hinrich, Deng and Rose could be enough for Chicago to pull out the upset.
Keep in mind, the Bulls split their regular-season series with the Heat without Rose.
New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers: J.R. Smith
The New York Knicks boast one of the deepest and most decorated rosters in the NBA. On top of having multiple options at every position, they're led by scoring champion Carmelo Anthony and Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith.
Unfortunately, Smith hasn't lived up to that billing during the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Thus far, Smith is averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.8 steals per game. He's doing so on an underwhelming slash line of .364/.333/.692.
For perspective, Smith averaged 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals on a slash line of .422/.356/.762 during the regular season.
This loss of production has been critical for the Knicks, as they struggled to close out the Boston Celtics and are now down 1-0 against the Indiana Pacers. If Smith is to rediscover his form, however, New York can turn it around.
At this point, that's looking like a very big if.
For insight into how valuable Smith is to the Knicks, he shot 44.8 percent from the field during wins and 37.5 percent in losses during the regular season. In other words, Smith's production and efficiency is directly tied to the outcome of games.
If he doesn't step up in this series, the Knicks will be packing their bags and watching the rest of the playoffs from their couches.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Kevin Martin
The Oklahoma City Thunder must be pleased with Kevin Martin, as he's erupted for 25 points in consecutive games. Unfortunately, Martin also shot 1-of-10 during OKC's Game 5 loss against the Houston Rockets.
That's just one of the disappointing performances Martin has put forth, as he's currently shooting 38.6 percent from the field during the postseason.
If the Thunder are to advance past the Memphis Grizzlies, Martin will need to make his Game 1 heroics a habitual feat. After all, the Thunder are without Russell Westbrook for the rest of the postseason and lack a defined second scorer behind Kevin Durant.
Martin appears to be the only other player on the roster that can create his own shot on a consistent basis.
He is shooting 40.5 percent from beyond the arc during the playoffs, so there is reason to be encouraged. If OKC is to defeat powerful Memphis defense, however, it will need more than just the three-ball.
When Durant isn't scoring, Martin must be able to shoulder the load.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors: Carl Landry
If the Golden State Warriors are to defeat the San Antonio Spurs, it's going to take a lot more than three-point shooting and elite guard play. After all, the Spurs did rank slightly above Golden State in three-point field goals made during the regular season and have world-class guards of their own.
It's going to come down to who steps up along the perimeter, most notably Carl Landry of the Warriors.
Andrew Bogut has a tall task ahead of him, as he will be defending and attempting to score against Tim Duncan. With that being said, no player has as heavily inconsistent a burden to carry than Landry entering this series.
Let me explain.
If David Lee can return to starter's playing time, Landry will likely be tasked with playing just under 25 minutes a night. If Lee is unable to provide that spark, however, Landry's playing time will likely increase and his responsibility will follow.
No player will need to be on his toes quite like Landry, as he attempts to counter San Antonio's interior attack with consistent offense—a tall task against this defense.
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