NBA Playoffs 2014: Predicting Each 2nd Round Series

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NBA Playoffs 2014: Predicting Each 2nd Round Series
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

You may be drowning in talk about California Chrome or the NFL draft, but let's take a moment to review the NBA playoffs, shall we?

With all four series having played a game, we got an early indication of how these matchups might play out. Some Game 1s had an inevitable feeling about them, as though little will change over the duration of the series. Others promised greater and tighter matchups to come as these series progress.

But which teams will move on? How will the second round shake out?

Let's break it down.

 

Miami Heat

The Miami Heat quickly put to bed the notion that the Brooklyn Nets "owned" them in Game 1, huh?

Look, once the the playoffs roll around, any regular-season results are meaningless, especially when LeBron James is involved. The Nets may be built to beat the Heat with their depth and veteran stars, but James is the best basketball player on the planet right now, not five years ago. 

And that matters in this series.

So too does the fact that this Heat team has proven the past three years it is the class of the Eastern Conference and the class of the NBA in the last two. 

Miami smoked the Nets in Game 1. Absolutely smoked them. I have no doubt the Nets will put up more of a fight than that in this series, but I certainly don't think they are destined to knock the Heat out of the playoffs just because they won the regular-season series.

 

Washington Wizards

The Indiana Pacers are a mess, and unlike the Atlanta Hawks, the Washington Wizards are good enough to make them pay.

In John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have the best young backcourt in the NBA. Nene and Marcin Gortat are a handful in the paint. Trevor Ariza does a little bit of everything for the Wizards. They don't get a ton from the bench, but Andre Miller and Drew Gooden at least provide veteran presences while Martell Webster is a nice piece as the sixth man.

Oh, and did I mention the Pacers are a mess? I mean, how does Roy Hibbert go an entire game without a point or rebound? How does that happen? What is going on in Indiana?

Did they lose their confidence? Is the team chemistry out of whack? Did other teams simply crack the code on how to stop them? 

The Pacers seem to be getting tired of all the speculation and media focus. Paul George told Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com"I'm just getting tired of the media and these stories. I'm just putting everything to bed and to rest."

Added George Hill:

You guys keep making up stories. We're just trying to focus and letting Roy know through all this BS that is going on, the rumors and everything like that, that we're all brothers. This locker room is a tight group and we're going to continue to be there for each other even when people are trying to break it apart.

Maybe if the Pacers started, you know, actually playing well, the talk would end. Until then, people are going to wonder what is going on. And more than likely, the Wizards will continue winning.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

The series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers is so intriguing because these teams are so talented and so similar. Both can light up the scoreboard, both teams like to get out and run, both teams are led by superstars (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for OKC, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul of Lob City, both have strong supporting casts and both squads will be extremely disappointed if their season ends in the second round. 

In the end, I like the Thunder because I think Durant is on a mission to prove he can lead this team to a championship, and when he gets going, well, the Thunder are hard to beat. And the fact that they have Westbrook, who's capable of taking over a game at any time, makes them so dangerous.

The Clippers won Game 1, of course, and they may be the better constructed team. But the raw talent on OKC makes it impossible for me to bet against them.

 

San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are so old—how old are they?—that Tim Duncan actually invented this joke format.

He's also so old that he's dominated these NBA playoffs on numerous occasions. In fact, much of this roster has. 

Simply put, this is the best-coached team in the league, the least selfish and the most fluid. The Spurs players know where they're supposed to be, when they're supposed to be there, why they're supposed to be there and nobody ever deviates from the script. It's boring, but it's also pure efficiency, and if you're the type of person who listens to music for technical brilliance rather than beauty and storytelling, than you probably love the Spurs.

Oh, and they play defense, too, unlike the Houston Rockets. From Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated:

For the first time this postseason, Portland encountered genuine scoring obstruction. The difference in defensive imposition between the flaky Rockets and the crisp, fully-functional Spurs is nothing short of titanic. It’s in that difference that we find the cause for Portland to shoot 38.5 percent from the field in Game 1 while turning the ball over on nearly a fifth of their possessions—both dreadful marks by the Blazers’ standards, in particular.

Portland struggled getting into its most basic actions on Tuesday, from the pick-and-roll down. Lillard (17 points on 15 shots, three assists, six turnovers) was thrown for a bit of a loop in the first half by how aggressively San Antonio was showing on LaMarcus Aldridge’s high screens (a clear deviation from the Spurs’ default)—a strategy that held Lillard to just four points on 2-of-7 shooting before halftime while the Blazers got pummeled. Lillard worked his way around that pressure to better effect in the second half, though by then the game had essentially been decided and Portland’s offense was hardly recognizable.

The Spurs also have the depth to dictate matchups. Add that along with their precision, experience and coaching, and the boring Spurs will put you to sleep while they march to the Western Conference Finals.

 

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