#1 Indiana Pacers vs. #5 Washington Wizards
Analysis: The Pacers won the season series 2-1.
This is a better matchup for the Pacers. The Wizards do not have big men who could spread teams out like the Hawks did, which means the Pacers frontcourt (i.e. Roy Hibbert) will be more effective. It also helps that Washington does not shoot the ball as well as Atlanta. All Indiana has to do is put a body on Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza. John Wall may be a star in the making, but he doesn’t scare anyone beyond 15 feet.
I expect the Indiana Pacers to prove to their critics (which includes yours truly) that they are not as soft as we thought. Against my better judgment, I’ll roll with the Pacers in this series.
Prediction: Pacers in 6.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets
Analysis: The Nets swept the season series 4-0.
This is the series that everyone has been waiting for. The Nets were unbeaten vs. the Heat this season. Will it translate to the postseason? I will say this: past history indicates that regular season success does not equal postseason success. I think Miami will be ready for Brooklyn when it matters most. Both are veteran teams who do not like each other. You think Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are not salivating over the prospect of ending LeBron James’ and Dwyane Wade’s dreams of a three-peat? I don’t think it’s going to happen, but this will be one hell of a series.
Prediction: Heat in 7.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers
Analysis: The Spurs and Trail Blazers split the season series 2-2.
Ah, the boring team that no one wants to see is still alive. Hate on San Antonio all you want, but it is the best-coached team in the NBA. Spurs fans can thank the Blazers for eliminating the Houston Rockets. The Rockets would have been a matchup nightmare for the Spurs. Houston has an athletic backcourt and center who would have given the Spurs fits. That said, Portland poses similar problems for San Antonio. Damien Lillard is an athletic two-guard who will give Tony Parker fits. LaMarcus Aldridge is an athletic power forward who is going to bring it to Tim Duncan. Robin Lopez is not slouch either.
Fortunately for the Spurs, the Blazers are too green for this stage of the postseason. That will play into the hands of head coach Gregg Popovich and his Spurs.
Prediction: Spurs in 5.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #3 Los Angeles Clippers
Analysis: The Thunder and Clippers split the season series 2-2.
As with the Heat-Nets series, this should be one entertaining series. If you are a fan of offense and flash, this is the series for you. While I think the Clippers have the edge in coaching (Doc Rivers will coach circles around Scott Brooks), the Thunder have the edge when it comes to offensive firepower. Who on the Clippers will check Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook? Matt Barnes? A hobbled Chris Paul? A defensively challenged Blake Griffin?
What will help the Clippers is that DeAndre Jordan and Griffin will give OKC some fits on the boards. That said, look for Serge Ibaka to help neutralize Griffin on the defensive end. In the end, the Thunder will have just enough to win what should be one of the best series in the NBA playoffs.
Prediction: Thunder in 7.