LeBron's elbow, Andrew Bynum's and Kevin Garnett's knees. The second round is here and full of more unknowns than certainties. Injuries may just be a fraction of the equation of success this round. With Grant Hill finally making the second round of the Playoffs, we can blast off to our second round of predictions.
My favorite and probably what most people consider the most entertaining matchup of the second round. This series will be dependent upon injuries. LeBron is back and is slightly wounded, K.G.'s knee is still a question mark based on the last two years of play and Paul Pierce looks slowed. The extent to which these injuries will have an effect can only be known as the series plays out. The Cavaliers have bulked up in their abilities to take on physical defensive minded teams this past season and it will help them compete with Boston. Boston on the other hand is the former Miss USA. She's won her crown but hasn't been able to go back and win her crown again in a Universal fashion (Save that to the Spurs). They seem healthy and if the first round matchup against the Heat is any indication, the Cavs better come ready to play. The matchups from point guard on down and including the benches would tell me the Celtics would win the matchup war overall, but that does not take into effect the mastery LeBron wields over the court. Rasheed Wallace needs to show me something still and I feel that will be what type of candy bar he's eating. I'm going with a Payday since that is about all he is hanging around for. LeBron is too strong in a tough series where Boston just doesn't give up that easy. K.G., Jesus Shuttlesworth and the Celtics look to an unknown future.
Prediction: Cavs in 6
The Lakers looked old, real old against the Thunder. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum looked like the injury gods were having them pay for prior sins last series (Although with Bynum he has multiple gods after him). The Thunder showed a slight weakness the Lakers have in their ability to run with fast teams. That being said, this team still has so many weapons they can pick up for any weakness that is shown to them if they decide to show up. Deron Williams has been the best point guard this season and played like it in the first round against Denver. He was able to set the pace and maneuver his team into an energized pace through Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsapp. He has a favorable matchup against Derek Fisher and we will have to see if Phil Jackson makes his move towards Kobe on Deron. If the Lakers get game one, this series is over (Phil Jackson is now 45-0 when he wins the first game of a Playoff Series). Thus, I believe the Lakers will be able to go strong and hard against an inspired Jazz team. The Salt Lake City faithful will be able to must a win, maybe two for the Jazz, but that's all. The big men for L.A. even with a banged up Bynum will still be able to have control over an under appreciated Jazz team. The Lakers should be focused enough to make it through at a slight comfort level.
Prediction: Lakers in 6
Tim Duncan and Steve Nash fighting for a ring. It the same ole thing. Tim moves on, Steve Nash goes home saying: "What can I do?". Yes, who can forget Robert Horry sending Steve Nash crashing into the side boars at the Alamo thus allowing Amare Stoudamire to be suspended for the pivotal game 5 in the 2007 Playoffs. Well, those are the days of the past and this is the time now for the Suns to take revenge. The Spurs are healthy and hungry to return to a matchup with the Lakers from two years ago. Manu Ginobili carried the Spurs in the first round against the Mavs and George Hill played inspired ball. The Suns will need to rely on making their open shots and limiting second chance opportunities. The Spurs will need Richard Jefferson to give them a couple good games to solidify potential wins for them. I keep going back and forth about this series, what it means and what could potentially change because of it. In the end, it comes back to Steve Nash vs. Tim Duncan. Tim Duncan's four titles win out even in his old age in a very competitive series that could go either way.
Prediction: Spurs in 6
Don't let this image fool you: the Hawks are going to have to do more than this to get past Orlando. The man in the image is the key point as well in any attempt Atlanta can make at upsetting Orlando. Josh Smith is as much a physical freak as anyone, having many of the same abilities as LeBron. He needs to pick up his play and show up more than half a series as he did against Milwaukee. The Magic are the hottest team in the Playoffs and have been waiting for what seems like a year for the second round after dismantling the Bobcats in four games. Dwight Howard's inability to stay out of foul trouble could be a point of emphasis for Atlanta to target. That falls upon Al Horford and Joe Johnson to take it towards Howard. The lack of unity of the Atlanta players as a whole could be their point of problematic emphasis. I expect Atlanta to play as ugly as their jerseys(please bring back the Dominique jerseys of the 80's!). The other Orlando players outside of Dwight including Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis I expect to have big games and allow Orlando to move on swiftly.
Prediction: Magic in 5