The first round is in the books and things are heating up. Unfortunately, injuries have been a major storyline thus far and have robbed us of several great players. The Oklahoma City Thunder may have suffered the biggest hit when they lost Russell Westrbook for the duration of the playoffs with a knee injury. The Thunder were considered the favorite to come out of the West, but now the conference is completely up for grabs. Let’s take a look at the four remaining series.
Miami vs. Chicago
The defending champs swept Milwaukee with almost minimal effort. The Bucks even led at the half in two games, but none were ever in doubt. Brandon Jennings had a particularly dreadful series against the Miami defense and may have cost himself millions this summer. Lebron James continues to spoil us all and continued his dominating regular season. The soon-to-be four time MVP averaged 25, 8 and 7 on 63% shooting against the Bucks and he was just warming up. Chicago is in big trouble.
The Bulls achieved something just short of miraculous just by advancing. The number of injuries and banged up players they have is astonishing. Somehow they still found a way to scrap out a 7 game series win against the Brooklyn
Nets Tinmen. Derrick Rose won’t be riding in on a white horse any time soon either, so the road most likely ends for the Bulls here. There’s no shame in losing to the Heat, these guys proved they have the hearts of champions already.
Knicks vs. Pacers
Despite being the much better team, New York got a little full of themselves and let Boston make their first round matchup much more interesting after taking a 3-0 lead. The Knickerbockers ended up still winning in 6 games, though after Boston expose some serious weaknesses. This does not appear to be the most mentally strong team, and if things go wrong early against Indiana a total collapse shouldn’t surprise you. That being said, the Knicks are the better team when they’re on their game.
Speaking of the Pacers, I didn’t watch a single minute of that awful series against the Hawks. It went 6 games, and featured 6 blowouts. Not exactly entertaining basketball, but the Hawks do have a history of mysteriously hanging around longer than you think in the playoffs. Paul George is quickly becoming a star in this league and will give the Knicks nightmares. The Celtic’s defense lived on reputation, but Indiana plays the real thing. If they can limit New York’s outside shooting they have a real chance at advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
San Antonio vs. Golden State
Nothing unusual in the first round from the Spurs as they easily disposed of the Walking Dead, formerly known as the Lakers. Kobe always wanted to be like Michael Jordan, but his teammates want to be like Kobe. So much so, that they all decided to get hurt and miss the playoffs too! By game 4, the Lakers could barely field a competitive team. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to tell if this incarnation of the Spurs look like a legitimate threat to come out of the West. Manu Ginobili appears to have a little gas in the tank, and Tim Duncan is completely defying the laws of physics and chemistry and aging and any other science that says he shouldn’t still be this good.
Meanwhile, Golden State makes it to the second round thanks to a fortunate draw. I mean no disrespect to the Warriors, but the Nuggets were the best first round opponent they could have hoped for. Seth Curry is a legitimate NBA superstar and this team has a ton of young talent. Let’s not forget they finished off Denver without the services of their All-Star power forward, David Lee. This team has a ton of firepower, and is a true joy to watch play. Now, they get a true test in San Antonio. The Spurs have two lock-down perimeter defenders in Kwahi Leonard and Danny Green and will give Curry and Klay Thompson fits all series.
Oklahoma City vs. Memphis
This is the series I’m the most excited for. Without Russell Westbrook the Thunder are just another great team in the West. They are no longer head and shoulders above everyone else. The burden is entirely on Kevin Durant’s back, and the question is if he is capable of carrying this team to back to back Finals appearances. If you want to disregard a guy who averaged 28 points a game while shooting 50-40-90 from the field, 3pt range and the FT line respectively, go ahead. But, I will reserve judgement to see how he adjusts to having to be the #1 and #2 option on offense. Kevin Martin really needs to elevate his game if the Thunder want to get past a rugged Grizzlies team.
Memphis showed us in round 1, that flash and highlight reel plays don’t impress them. After falling behind 0-2 to the Clippers, the Grizzlies rattled off four straight wins in a way only this team can. They want to beat you down, take your lunch money and then laugh in your face. Zach Randolph showed how important he was to this team as he struggled in the two games Memphis lost. When both he and Marc Gasol are on, this team is a nightmare down low. Luckily, OKC has two big men in Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, that they should be able to at least weather the storm. Mike Conley had a true break out performance against Chris Paul in the first round and he will have to continue to do so against the Thunder.
The Sports Dump Predictions:
We will be tracking our predictions as follows: 1 point for the winner of a series plus a bonus point if you correctly predict the number of games it takes for them to win. Here are the current standings:
Phil: 9 points
Charlie: 9 points
Richard: 8 points
Round 2 predictions:
Phil: Heat in 5, Knicks in 6, Thunder in 7, Spurs in 5
Charlie: Heat in 5, Knicks in 6, Grizzlies in 6, Warriors in 6
Richard: Heat in 4, Pacers in 7, Thunder in 7, Spurs in 6