Shaquille O'Neal could be a pivotal factor in the Celtics series with the Heat.
Please keep in mind that even though this is getting up late, and after two games have been played, these opinions are genuine and not altered by today's events. The predictions of the series' are the same I had before today's games were played, but today's events made me second guess a bit.
This being said, here are my second round predictions:
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
I think this series is going to be the least watched of the four. Both teams have the potential to score in the range of 80-90 in all the games they play, and I think this defensive style of basketball leans in Chicago's favor. When it comes down to the wire, and either team needs a score, I would put my trust in Derrick Rose before anyone else in this series.
Also, the injury of Kirk Hinrich really hurts the Hawks, as I feel he would have really been able to disrupt Rose's game. Without Hinrich the Hawks chances are by no means dashed, but I feel it will be a harder climb. I see Chicago in six.
No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 3 Boston Celtics
Outside of the Lakers/Mavericks series, this will be my favorite one to watch. Of course I loathe both teams, but I'll be rooting for Boston this time around. I want the Lakers to face off with the Celtics again in the Finals, just because I love beating them more than anyone else. Even after watching Game 1 today, I feel the Celtics will have the last laugh. A tough, defensive, and scrappy style of play favors Boston in my mind, though if they still had Perkins I would be more sure of my pick.
If Shaq can somehow muster up the courage to stay healthy and contribute in any way, I think things get a lot easier for the Celtics. But today's contest shows us all what we're going to get: six or seven great games of competitive basketball. I see Boston in seven.
No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Dallas Mavericks
The Lakers will own this series in my mind and as long as they start the series out focused, shouldn't lose more than a game. That being said, with Dirk on your team anything can definitely happen, and the presence of Tyson Chandler down low will contribute to some hard games.
My more in-depth preview will come tomorrow before tip-off, but I think the Lakers' ability to score down low, and their second chance opportunities will be too much for Dallas to handle. Los Angeles in five.
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies
All along I saw this series being a tough one for Oklahoma City to handle. I just think the Grizzlies have the right mindset, and Zach Randolph is playing great basketball. Memphis has been tough, defensive minded and has worked hard in the paint. I figured Ibaka and Perkins would make things tough for Randolph and Gasol, but that the duo would be able to do enough to win two or three games.
After seeing today's result...who knows what could happen, Memphis may even be able to claw out a series victory over the Thunder. People outside of Durant and Westbrook will have to step up offensively for OKC to take this series, and I think they will. I saw this going seven from the beginning, and I'm not going to change my mind after today's game. Oklahoma City in seven.
Be sure to be on the lookout for my in-depth preview of the Lakers/Mavericks series at www.lasportsminute.com tomorrow.
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