Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks could have a date with LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
When it comes to the 2013 NBA playoffs, the first few days of the second round have given fans loads of entertainment.
The Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls took down LeBron James and the Miami Heat in Game 1, Kevin Durant showed why he was second in MVP voting and the San Antonio Spurs completed a stunning rally to beat the Golden State Warriors in double overtime of Game 1.
Don’t forget about the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers, either, as each team struck gold at Madison Square Garden in the first games of that series.
While there’s no one way to determine what will happen next, one thing is for sure. Excitement is continuing to build as the year progresses, and the postseason has more to offer the closer we get to the NBA Finals.
*This article has been modified to reflect the results on May 8, 2013.
The battle between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers features two NBA clichés going head to head.
“Defense wins championships,” and, “Good offense beats good defense.”
In Game 1, the former proved to be more accurate. The Pacers held New York to just 95 points, and they stole home-court advantage right out of the gate.
In Game 2, a 30-2 run by the Knicks in the second half exemplified how dangerous they can be. They scored 33 points in the fourth quarter to ensure the 105-79 blowout win.
A consistent defense is always a safe bet, but you can’t ignore the most prolific three-point shooting team in NBA history (per Zach Harper of CBSSports.com). New York is far more lethal when it comes to putting points on the board and is the more balanced team.
Assuming Indiana has trouble replicating its 100-plus-point performance from Game 1, the Knicks should be able to steal one on the road and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
New York in 7
The Chicago Bulls surprised most people with their victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1, but the question is, should we really be surprised?
Chicago is the team that snapped Miami’s historic winning streak in the regular season, and it’s shown that it can win despite being short-handed. The Bulls played a tough, physical game, and they took complete advantage of a rusty Heat squad.
But if Game 2 taught us anything, it's that there's a fine line between rust and rest. Miami came out with better energy and more of a willingness to fight back—as evidenced by the nine technical fouls called between the two teams.
In the first game of the series, Chicago saw one good half from LeBron James. In Game 2, the MVP showed what a difference he can make when he plays up to his own standards.
Miami doesn’t need to sweep every series. If you expected the Heat to show up and sweep the Bulls, you hadn’t been watching what Chicago is capable of. That said, this has the potential to be a grueling series, and Miami is still the favorite.
Miami in 6
Against the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked lost at times without their starting point guard on the floor. Russell Westbrook was out, but at least the team was able to make up the difference against the squad that gave up the third-most points during 2012-13.
Unfortunately for OKC, it’s facing a completely different beast in the Memphis Grizzlies.
Memphis has allowed the fewest points per game of any team, and it plays with a physical nature that is sure to disrupt and frustrate players used to playing a looser style.
What the Thunder undoubtedly have going for them is Kevin Durant. His heroics in Game 1 were unmatched by most in the postseason, but the question, of course, becomes, how long can he do what he’s been doing while playing the point-forward role?
Players such as Reggie Jackson and Kevin Martin have boosted their numbers without Westbrook on the floor, but the success of this team comes down to how long Durant can maintain his superhuman production.
Never count out a team with Durant leading the way, but the Grizzlies will do everything in their power to control the pace and momentum throughout this series. They successfully did that in their 99-93 Game 2 win.
Memphis in 7
If we've learned anything through two games, it's that this may be the most exciting series of the entire postseason.
The Golden State Warriors are one of the most entertaining teams to watch, and it has almost everything to do with the production and style of Stephen Curry. That being said, Game 2 featured a masterful performance from Klay Thompson, and the two guards have become the most dangerous backcourt still playing.
The theme in this one has to be a changing of the guard. If Golden State is able to move on past San Antonio, it will indicate a clear power shift out West. The question, though, has become, how long can Golden State ride this momentum?
The Spurs are the more experienced team, and Gregg Popovich and his core have proven they can come back despite adversity. The Warriors, on the other hand, took advantage of a streaky Denver team in Round 1 and won their four games by an average point margin of 8.5.
The games should continue to be close as this series moves on, but the know-how of San Antonio should give them the edge when it’s all said and done—at least for one more year.
San Antonio in 7
Aside from an NBA Finals rematch featuring the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, this might be the most sought-after matchup by fans across the league.
The New York Knicks were competing with the Heat for the No. 1 spot in the East to begin the season. Miami ultimately pulled away, leaving the Knicks—and everyone else—in the dust, but New York showed that it can hang tough by beating the Heat in three of teams' four meetings.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, this is a much different Miami team than the one it saw during the regular season.
In the first two battles, Miami wasn’t playing the kind of defense that it did to close out the year. In an early-March matchup, the Heat had seemingly flipped the switch, holding the Knicks to just 93 points as Miami posted the 14th victory in a winning streak that would ultimately reach 27 games.
During the teams' final showdown in April, the Heat were resting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers in an effort to preserve them for a deep playoffs run.
Unless New York can catch fire in every game, Miami should make it to a third straight Finals appearance.
Miami in 6
When No. 8 Memphis took down the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in 2011, the gritty Grizzlies caught a lot of people by surprise.
Now, Lionel Hollins and his crew have grown to be true Western Conference contenders, and they’ll have a chance to take down that same Spurs team in 2013.
The question for the Grizzlies is whether they have the offense to advance to the Finals. We all know that their defense is physical and their rotations are swift, but can a team averaging just 93.4 points per game advance that far in today’s NBA?
That answer will be no if the Spurs have anything to do with it.
San Antonio isn’t quite on the level of the Oklahoma City Thunder when it comes to either points scored or points allowed, but it moves the ball much better than OKC, which will put Memphis’ defense to the test. This is going to be a grind-it-out series—one that goes to the team with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on its side.
San Antonio in 7
The Miami Heat have been the best team in basketball since the month of February, and it’s only fitting that they close out the year with a chance to defend their title.
LeBron James has faced the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals once before. He and his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by the Spurs in the 2007 Finals, and James will be looking to exact revenge.
The Heat swept the regular-season series in two close games, but throw those contests out the window when comparing these two squads. In the first matchup, San Antonio was undermanned, while it was the Heat resting starters the second time around.
San Antonio has the depth to compete with Miami, but the question is, can its Big Three outperform the Big Three from South Beach?
We’ve been hearing for years now that the Spurs’ championship window is closing. They’ve yet to fade off into the distance, but they also haven’t made a Finals appearance since beating LeBron and Cleveland in 2007.
The Spurs may return this season, but James and the Heat should prove that nobody's getting past them in 2013.
Miami in 5