NBA Playoffs 2011: 15 Bold Predictions for the Second Round
Although the first round isn't completely in the books, oddsmakers and fans alike are pumped for the upcoming round.
It is bound to bring the intensity we love to see, and after a satisfying first round I can confirm that there's nothing better than the NBA playoffs this time of year.
With the new round comes a new batch of predictions, and I've got 15 for you in the upcoming slides.
15. The Thunder Will Dominate No Matter Who They Play
The Oklahoma City Thunder played with great confidence in defeating the Denver Nuggets by a 4-1 margin.
Now the team will take on the wrath of either the Spurs or the Grizzlies, and in all honesty they easily can beat both of these teams.
The Thunder would dominate both teams out on the perimeter offensively, and they have more than enough defense in the post in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. There is no way that the likes of Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol will be able to knock off OKC, and they will advance to the Western Conference Finals if they play the way they've been going at it.
14. The Bulls-Hawks Series Will Be Very Competitive
The Atlanta Hawks played with intensity and heart during their hard-fought six game series victory over the Orlando Magic.
The defense was tremendous, holding the Magic to a 40.2 percent number on their field goals. In fact, Dwight Howard was the only player for the crew to score more than 13.2 points per game throughout the series.
The Hawks have enough balance on both sides of the ball to challenge the Chicago Bulls in their battle.
The thing they need most during this series is for Kirk Hinrich to step and play excellent defense on the walking highlight that is Derrick Rose.
13. The Lakers' Post Game Will Determine Who Wins the Series
As facilitators of the Los Angeles Lakers post play, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol anchored the series victory over the Hornets with determination and true grit.
They will face an upgrade in the Mavericks, but if they play solidly on both sides and contain Dirk, it could be a very quick series.
One thing they need to do is continue with their thus far good fortunes at the charity stripe. Bynum, a historically terrible free-throw shooter, stepped up his game and drained 78 percent of his shots, while Gasol sank a solid 86 percent.
How these two play might be the deciding factor of the series.
12. Miami's Bench Woes Shouldn't Be a Problem
LeBron James played a whopping 42 minutes per game in the Heat's five-game series victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Chris Bosh was on the hardwood for nearly 40 per game, and Wade added an additional 38 minutes per.
Only six players averaged more than 20 minutes throughout the series, and this is a testimony to the fact that the Heat don't need a plethora of above average role players to win. James, Bosh, and Wade can get it done themselves, no matter how long they have to stay on the court.
Critics of the Heat pointed to the bench as the staple of all their problems, but this postseason they are removing doubts with their tremendous play from the starting five.
11. The Mavericks Will Hit 10 Threes Per Game
The Dallas Mavericks hit 46 three-pointers throughout their six-game series victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Mavs have the best group of three-ball shooters in Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, and DeShawn Stevenson.
It's not entirely foolish to believe that this lineup can hit 10 treys per game if given the chance. I can see them having a solid perimeter series if they can get 25 threes off per contest, and if anyone is up for it it's the Mavericks.
10. The Long Rest Will Prove to Hurt the Celtics
I'm a believer in constant play, and the Celtics, who haven't played in five long days, might be hurt by this fact. Experts say that rest is key between series, but I'm not entirely sure that's a completely factual statement altogether.
On the other hand, the Miami Heat are more fresh and won't be affected as much.
After a sweep that not many expected, the C's look primed to head to the Eastern Conference Finals, but a huge road block stands between them.
This isn't to take anything away from Boston though: they are definitely in position to create some noise in the East.
9. The Bulls Will Close Games More Effectively This Time
Going into the deciding game of the series, the Bulls' three wins came by a combined total of 15 points, and every game it seemed that the Pacers were going to make a fourth quarter, and in doing so they rattled Chicago's strategy and sent them into chaos mode. A lot of people don't understand it truthfully, but the series was a lot closer than the 4-1 margin they beat Indiana by.
I believe that Tom Thibodeau will have his guys in closer mode once they start grabbing ahold of leads, otherwise the team can consider itself eliminated.
Derrick Rose and the rest of the team's fourth quarter play wasn't all that special, and they better sternly address what went wrong and how to fix it if they want to make quick work out of the Hawks, and I believe they can.
8. The Grizzlies Will Be Completely Inspired...and Gassed
Assuming that the Memphis Grizzlies grab one more from the Spurs and move on, they will face a gritty Thunder team that looks like they are in the perfect position, awaiting the winner of the series.
Let's look at the whole other side of the "rest" argument. In basketball, I think that a middle ground needs to be found. For instance, the Thunder will have about four days to rest before taking the court again. If the Grizz (or Spurs if they win both games, for that matter) have one they will be considered lucky, but they will be too tired to make enough noise.
Although the Grizzlies will be inspired, the fact of the matter is that they will have to take the hardwood (perhaps) just two days off the end of a long series.
7. Kevin Durant Won't Need to Average 25+ Points to Find Victory
The one thing that has impressed me most throughout the playoffs thus far is the total team commitment that the Oklahoma City Thunder play with.
When one guy falls, the whole team steps up. We saw this in little bits with Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and James Harden.
The team has proved it has what it takes to mesh with the best, and when they are on there is no use in trying to stop them.
That being said, it is now proven that Kevin Durant doesn't need to score 25+ for the Thunder to emerge victorious. The same can be said for Russell Westbrook.
6. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James Will Continue to Dominate
James averaged 24.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists during the five-game series. He was also very cautious but good defensively, and only picked up nine personal fouls in the process.
The boys in South Beach are going to be key in the upcoming series, and if they play some great defense on their respective players (Wade guarding Allen; LeBron guarding Pierce) they will be extremely difficult to beat.
5. The Fans Will Be on Their Feet the Entire Time
Okay, so this isn't a "bold" prediction per say, but the fact of the matter is that the biggest winners in all of this are the fans of the NBA.
You cannot deny that these playoffs have been both exciting as well as engaging. There have been so many plays that have made me say "wow!", and there were some epic games that went down to the wire.
Heck, it even looks like an eight seed might beat a one seed. That would be the fourth time that's ever happened!
The second round will bring just as much entertainment as the first, and it will keep the fans on the edge of their seat throughout the duration of it.
In a year where amazing was promised, amazing has happened.
4. The Thunder Will Beat the Grizzlies/Spurs
The Oklahoma City Thunder proved they are indeed for real when they took down the Nuggets in almost a rythmic fashion.
An all-around team on both sides of the floor, the Thunder will have the poise and balance necessary to take the series, no matter who they play.
After all, the Grizzlies lack the perimeter game to keep up with OKC, and the Spurs don't have the depth to outman the Thunder.
An X-factor in the series will be James Harden. Harden seemed to be a good luck charm of some sort when he was out on the court for OKC. If he can shoot lights out and guard who he needs to, the Thunder will have a great shot at winning.
Kevin Durant's first-round antics are nothing to shy away from. He is becoming ridiculously clutch, as shown by his crazy dunk in Game Three and his off-balance dagger in the clincher. He put up 32.4 points and pulled down 5.8 boards en route to victory.
3. The Lakers Will Topple the Mavericks in Six
After giving up a 23-point lead in Game Three against the Blazers then losing the next one, the Dallas Mavericks looked like a team who may as well not have even showed up in the fourth quarter.
Late heroics were needed, and I'm not sure if they are up to what the Lakers will give them.
Speaking of the Lakers, can you believe this is the first time I will mention Kobe? The Black Mamba averaged nearly 23 points per game against the Hornets while playing injured half the series.
One guy whose good performance will be necessary is Ron Artest. Artest had a solid series against New Orleans, and he looks to continue upon this newfound momentum.
There is too much here for the Mavs to overtake here. The Lakers win the series in six.
2. The Heat Will Narrowly Escape the Celtics
This was a matchup that many had predicted before the season to occur in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Here they are, standing tall after going a combined 8-1 in the first round.
The Boston Celtics proved me wrong when I stupidly picked the Knickerbockers to topple them prior to the first round. With a lineup of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jermaine O'Neal, they are ready to prove that their end of the season skid (they lost seven of 13) was just a fluke. The C's play astounding defense, and it will be on Allen and Pierce especially to contain Wade and LeBron.
The Miami Heat hope to fulfill lofty preseason expectations, and if they contain the Big Four and take good shots, I believe it is altogether possible. In fact, I think it is going to happen.
Chris Bosh needs to continue his solid postseason run additionally.
The boys from South Beach will beat the boys of Beantown by the absolute slimmest of margins. An epic seven-game series is on its' way.
1. The Bulls Steal the Series over the Hawks in Six
As I stated earlier in the slide show, it will be necessary for the Hawks to balance the red hot Bulls on both sides of the ball.
The thing it comes down to the most is execution: can they actually come through?
Atlanta knows they have the playoff experience and that this might finally be their year.
In any case, the Bulls will win this one due to their blossoming team chemistry. Derrick Rose and the crew should get through this series harmonically, but only if they are able to slow down the high-powered offense and clutch shooting that got the Hawks through the Magic.
Joseph Fafinski is currently a freshman at the University of Missouri. Originally from Chaska, Minnesota, Joseph is an NBA and Minnesota Timberwolves Featured Columnist and a frequent writer on all things NBA, NFL and MLB. You can e-mail Joseph at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @JosephFafinski.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!