6 Bold Predictions for 2nd-Round NBA Playoff Matchups
If you weren’t satisfied with the first round of the NBA playoffs, the second chapter has likely helped meet your expectations. After all, it is the Elite Eight of the professional postseason.
That being said, there’s more excitement to come, and you won’t have to wait for the next round to find it.
With every series at least three games in, the question becomes: can the second half of the round live up to the first? Drama has been at its finest, and the stars have come out shining with a trip to the conference finals officially on the line.
It’ll be tough to match the production we’ve seen thus far, but with elimination games yet to be played, it’s safe to say that there’s still some incredible basketball right around the corner.
Stephen Curry Will Break the Single-Series 3-Point Record
The record for three-pointers made in an NBA playoff series is 28, and if Stephen Curry's ankle allows him to play, he'll have a decent chance of making that record his.
Curry has 16 three-pointers through four games thus far. That’s an average of four long-range shots per contest, putting him on pace to set the mark if the series goes seven games.
Luckily for Curry, the battle between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. We know that we’ll at least see a Game 6, and while Curry has a chance of breaking the record if he gets hot in Games 5 or 6, it becomes far more likely if the series goes the distance.
Curry has shown why so many people consider him the greatest shooter in the game today, but he’ll make his mark on history when he nails his 29th long-range shot in this series.
LeBron James Will Establish Himself as the Postseason MVP
Up to this point, it’s been easy to argue that Stephen Curry has been the MVP of the NBA playoffs. He’s torched defenses from deep range, he’s been an extremely reliable distributor and he’s helped change the perception of the Golden State Warriors from Cinderella story to legitimate contender.
Curry has done it all in the early part of the postseason, but when the second round comes to an end, it will be tough to argue against LeBron James as the NBA Playoffs’ most valuable player.
The biggest difference between these two, other than defensive dominance, has been that Curry’s production is a result of hot streaks, while James simply coasts to success.
It’s easy to forget how productive James has been when the Miami Heat are taking care of business, and it’s easy to hone in on how great Curry has been when every game in that series is exciting.
Curry has meant more to his team than almost anybody in the postseason, but the silent supremacy of James should speak loudly, as the Heat are seemingly ready to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Derrick Rose Will Not Return
In all honesty, it would be far bolder to say that Derrick Rose is going to return in the second round of the playoffs. However, the star has led us to believe that there's a chance for a comeback, and that's simply not the case.
Throughout the postseason, we’ve heard murmurs about the possibility of a Rose return. But with the Chicago Bulls now down 3-1, don’t be surprised if the superstar waits until the 2013-14 season to officially get back on the court.
When it comes to Rose, it’s easy to see why he and those around him left the door open. The Bulls played a gritty style of basketball without him that translated to wins, and if it looked as if they were going to make a deep run, the point guard wanted the flexibility to return to a good situation.
However, if the team looked as if it were going nowhere, Rose didn’t want to put his body—and mind—in a lose-lose situation.
Rose and his camp were put into an awkward place when the team advanced past the first round, and an even more uncomfortable situation when it won Game 1 on the road against Miami.
Now, with Chicago facing an uphill battle against the league’s best team, it only makes sense for the superstar to officially hang it up, stop teasing the fans and get ready for a comeback campaign in 2014.
J.R. Smith Will Find His Stroke
Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith has been highly criticized during the second round. Part of this has to do with his off-the-court decisions (per NBA Buzz), but the fact is that his nightclub excursions wouldn’t be nearly as hot a topic if he were shooting the way fans in New York know he can.
During the series, Smith has connected on just 26.2 percent of his field-goal attempts. That number drops to a dismal 18.8 percent from deep range, and his points-per-game average has been nearly seven points worse than it was during the regular season.
The question is, how can we trust him to turn things around after such a miserable stretch?
First, the guard is a streaky scorer who can get hot without much notice. If this ends up being the case, not even the imposing defense of the Indiana Pacers will be able to keep him from finding shots he likes late in the series.
The other, more concrete reason to believe Smith has it in him is the return of Amar’e Stoudemire.
The big man will need time to acclimate on offense, but if he can improve upon his performance from Game 3 (seven points in nine minutes), the Pacers’ perimeter defense will be forced to at least pay attention down low, leaving space for a lights-out shooter to regain his touch.
Defense Will Take Over
Despite the defensive efforts that allowed the Chicago Bulls to find success, it’s been the defense of the Miami Heat that has made the difference in that second-round series.
In two of the three other matchups, there’s a clear offensive advantage by one team. The Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks are going up against two of the worst offenses in the league, but what’s more important to note is that they’re also going up against the No. 1 and No. 2 defensive squads, respectively.
When it comes to the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, the team from California has posted three points more per game during the postseason, but it’s been the Team from Texas that has allowed just 94.6 points per contest—the Warriors are allowing 102.9.
As much as we all love to watch offense take over, the saying "defense wins championships" has become a cliché for a reason. The offense isn’t going away entirely as the postseason moves on, but if these four defensive-minded teams stay the course during the second round, they’ll all find themselves in their own conference championships.
3 of the 4 Series Will Go 7 Games
It can’t be said enough that the second round has been far more competitive than the first. Every series saw a one-one split through two games, and the competition has been exactly what you want to see out of almost every matchup in the conference semifinals—my apologies to the Chicago Bulls.
The most entertaining series of them all has been the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. It’s almost as if fate is pulling them toward a Game 7, as overtime thrillers and constant comebacks are keeping them tied at the hip.
Out East, neither the New York Knicks nor the Indiana Pacers can officially steal momentum despite their abilities to win in blowout fashion.
The Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder have also given us endless entertainment, and while OKC has fallen behind 3-1, the games have been close, leaving room for a dynamic Thunder offense to keep the series alive.
These three battles have lived up to the postseason hype, and they’re only getting better as Round 2 continues.