It’s with a heavy heart that I begin this NBA Playoff Preview for Round 2.
My team all season long was the Toronto Raptors, and not only did they lose in the first round, they did so in a dramatic, heartbreaking fashion. I’m still picking up the pieces to be honest, but I’ll give this NBA playoff preview my best shot. Oh and I hate Paul Pierce, but that’s subject matter for another article. I’ll keep the focus of this NBA playoff preview on what’s important-the fact that these playoffs have been one of the all-time great postseasons so far.
Want to check out my round one predictions? Click here or on the video below.
Joining me will be daily fantasy basketball powerhouse Scott Malewig of DraftDay.com.
NBA Playoff Preview: Round 2
Washington Wizards vs Indiana Pacers
My Take: Each team’s previous series ended quite differently than the other’s. The Wizards dispatched of the Bulls handily, announcing their arrival on the national scene as a legitimate threat to the Heat’s title defense. Color me impressed, as I predicted the Bulls would win. The Pacers on the other hand sputtered badly through the first round, nearly losing in an upset for the ages to the limping Atlanta Hawks.
I think this is the end of the line for the Pacers, as the Wizards offense is suddenly clicking on all cylinders. Bradley Beal looks every bit the part of elite up-and-comer, and John Wall has struck a nice balance between using his freakish athleticism to score at will and involving his teammates.
Scott’s Take: I think Roy Hibbert will be fine in this matchup with a more traditional team, so the focus becomes a battle of the guards. How much of an edge does the House of Guards (Brad Beal and John Wall) give the Wizards over George Hill and Lance Stephenson? I expect this to be Wall’s coming out party. I’m calling Wizards in six.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Oklahoma City Thunder
My Take: Round one for each of these teams was an epic struggle. While I won’t rehash the Donald Sterling discussion, I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams come out emotionally flat after everything that transpired the last two weeks. I picked the Grizzlies to upset the Thunder in round one, and if it wasn’t for Zach Randolph’s suspension and Mike Conley’s injury I believe they would have sealed the deal.
For me this series comes down to Kevin Durant. The Clippers don’t have a Tony Allen to follow him around the floor, and if the newly crowned MVP’s shot is falling I don’t see the Clippers being able to hang tough. The one exception may be if they can outscore Oklahoma City, which isn’t too much a stretch considering their offensive proficiency.
Scott’s Take: While Mike Conley is a well above average defender, there are few that can match the preparation and mental quickness Chris Paul brings on defense. He was banged up in Round 1, so the key to this series will be him preventing Russell Westbrook from doing what he did to the Grizzlies in games six and seven. I’m taking the contrarian route and going with the Clippers in seven games.
Brooklyn Nets vs Miami Heat
My Take: Brooklyn won the season series 4-0, and depending on how much stock you place in such things one could argue that the Heat are in trouble. Even so, and assuming the worst, the one-week rest period for Miami as an aging Nets squad battled tooth and nail could be enough to tip the scales.
My prediction is that Miami does indeed walk away victorious, but I also believe it will take the full seven games. The Nets are a team built for the playoffs, and their experience will likely prove problematic for Miami. This is also the series where I expect LeBron James to turn up the volume in a big way.
Scott’s Take: Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson may not match up with each other a ton in this series, but each will be the key to their team’s success. Wade was effective, but limited by not being needed in the first round. It remains to be seen how his body will hold up playing heavy minutes in a competitive series. While Johnson, the hero of round one for the Nets, will likely see his fair share of both Shane Battier and LeBron James. That should make replicating his round one numbers a true test. I can’t see the Heat losing this series, and I say they’ll end things in game six.
Portland Trailblazers vs San Antonio Spurs
My Take: The Blazers are still riding the high of Damian Lillard’s heroics, while the Spurs can’t be happy about dragging their aging team through a seven game first round series. I had the Rockets winning round one, but this twist introduces a few interesting elements.
The Blazers are a terrible matchup for the Spurs, and if you look at Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge’s numbers against the San Antonio over the last two seasons you’ll see why. I still think the Spurs pull out the victory, but I’m nowhere near as confident as I’d like to be.
Scott’s Take: The Spurs are going to have their hands full with LaMarcus Aldridge. The Rockets only managed to contain him in one of six games in round one. The Spurs will likely start with the aging Tim Duncan on defense, but I suspect we’ll see plenty of Boris Diaw this round as well. The Blazers youth will ultimately prevail in seven games.