LeBron wants another NBA title.
With only four spots available in the conference finals of the NBA playoffs, the eight remaining teams are fighting for their lives to make history. The first round is complete and now is the time real championship contenders show their worth.
Among the eight remaining teams, the Miami Heat are the favorite to once again go all the way.
However, there’s a reason they play the games, and the seven other organizations remaining in the second round feel they have just as good of a shot.
Even though each semifinal series has completed one game, it’s time to choose the last four teams that will reach the next round.
Marc Gasol and Memphis will prove to be too much for the Thunder.
In order for the Memphis Grizzlies to reach the next round, they’ll have to take down the reigning Western conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder. On paper, this is one of the best matchups of the postseason, and that was evident on the court in Game 1.
Oklahoma City came away with a narrow victory at home thanks to a fourth-quarter comeback topped off by Kevin Durant’s go-ahead shot with only seconds remaining. Memphis held a nine-point lead after the third quarter, but couldn’t finish down the stretch.
Despite the loss, Memphis has to be feeling good about themselves. They avenged last season’s playoff loss to Los Angeles in the first round and were very competitive on the road in Game 1.
Oklahoma City is about the polar opposite. In spite of winning the first game, the Thunder have not been the same team this postseason since Russell Westbrook went down with a season-ending injury. Kevin Durant has taken on an even larger role and is feeling the added pressure to generate more points.
Both teams are very talented, but I don’t think Oklahoma City can advance without their other superstar. The Grizzlies frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will prove to be too much in a long series.
Prediction: Memphis in seven
Tony Parker needs to score for San Antonio to be successful.
The other Western conference semifinal produced an even more exciting Game 1. The San Antonio Spurs overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in double overtime Monday night.
It seemed like the Warriors had the game in hand toward the end of the fourth quarter, but an incredible run by the veteran Spurs team erased it all. The loss marks Golden State’s 30th straight loss on the road in San Antonio.
The bright point for Golden State is that they have the hottest player going in the 2013 playoffs. Thus far, Stephen Curry has averaged more than 27 points, nine assists and four rebounds per game. He exploded on Monday for 44 points and 11 boards, while shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
However, Tony Parker was just as good in Game 1 for the Spurs. The 30-year-old had 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the winning effort.
Once again, I think this is going to be a long and intense series. Golden State will give San Antonio everything they can handle, but the veteran poise from Parker, Duncan and Ginobili will be too overpowering.
Prediction: San Antonio in seven
LeBron just won his fourth MVP.
The biggest surprise of all the Game 1 results was Chicago taking the down the defending champion Heat on their home court. Miami managed to only lose four games at home this season, although none of them stung like Game 1 against the Bulls.
Chicago has been led all postseason by the great play of guard Nate Robinson. On Monday night, he scored 27 points and had nine assists to lead the Bulls to a stunning victory.
Four-time MVP LeBron James did his part for Miami, nearly tallying a triple-double with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. However, his cast of teammates did not. Besides Dwayne Wade, the rest of the Heat players shot an awful 16-of-45 in Game 1.
There is no doubt that there is some panic happening in South Beach after their first loss of these playoffs, but most of that is unnecessary. Chicago has proven their tough defense can cause Miami problems, but the Heat are too talented to lose to a beat-up roster that is missing several key components.
Miami will win Game 2 and seemingly coast through the remainder of the series.
Prediction: Miami in six
The Knicks need Carmelo at his best.
The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers have been postseason rivals dating back to the 1990s when they met for many consecutive seasons. Indiana wrote the first chapter in this year’s book, taking down the Knicks in Madison Square Garden with a decisive win in Game 1.
David West and Roy Hibbert led the way for Indiana, taking advantage of New York in the paint all game. They also had a surprise performance off the bench in D.J. Augustin.
Augustin, who only averaged a little more than four points per game in the regular season, scored 16 points in the first game, shooting 4-of-5 from deep.
Since taking a 3-0 series lead against Boston in the first round, New York hasn’t looked good. They are relying too much on their star, Carmelo Anthony, who hasn’t played well in a few games.
Melo scored 27 points in Game 1, but only on 10-of-28 shooting from the field. The Knicks’ other key scorer, J.R. Smith, played just as bad, grabbing 17 points while going 4-of-15.
Game 2 will be extremely important for the Knicks to regain momentum and give themselves a chance in this series. I think both the team and leader Carmelo Anthony will get their act together to take what is basically a must-win game at home.
When rolling, the Knicks’ offense is very tough to beat. Despite being down in the series, Carmelo Anthony is impossible to stop when he’s playing well, and I think that will be just enough to get New York back to the conference finals.
Prediction: New York in seven