The NBA as viewed by 4 Aussies, with the latest news, reviews and opinions
Hello fans of basketball,
Welcome to the Second Round edition of my review of the NBA playoffs. I’ll recap each matchup and highlight the next round for you all, just like in the last post in the series. Overall this round has been a bit of a let-down, when compared to what is arguably the most exciting First Round in NBA history. We saw no Game 7s, and two of the series didn’t even survive more than 5 games. Onto to review.
Spurs vs Trailblazers
This series was previewed by me and others as an exciting series to watch. It saw the young Damian Lillard go against the ageing Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Lamarcus Aldridge, two of the best forward-centers in the league, and two of the most underrated Small Forwards, Batum and Leonard, all going head to head. It was a good matchup on paper but strong contributions from the Spurs bench made for a pretty easy second round win for the Spurs. Patty Mills, an Aussie favourite down here, made some great contributions. This series soon got out of hand for the Blazers as they dropped the first 3. It was never really possible from there. The Spurs’ chances for the rest of the playoffs have certainly increased after this dominant performance. Coming out of the first round, they were looking wheezy after a 7-game series against the Mavericks, an 8th seed. But now they’ve rolled the blazers and they’ve got a while to rest, they’ll be in fighting form for the conference finals, their 3rd straight appearance. Look out for another dominant Spurs team.
Thunder vs Clippers
A strong showing in the second round by the best Clippers team in franchise history, this year was great as a Clippers fan. They came up against a really strong Thunder side that matches up extremely well against the fast paced Clippers side. Sadly, the Clippers post-season was marred from the beginning, with distractions left and right. Donald Sterling’s comments were tough enough to deal with, and in game 5 a couple of days ago the Clippers were on the wrong end of a game-deciding call which cost them the game. This Clippers side is only getting better and better each year, and I look forward to another season with them. As for the Thunder, they managed the Clippers in 6, and look ready to show some more of their dominance in the next round. They’ve had a couple of great series against strong teams in the Grizzlies and Clippers, and they’re moving onto the next round with plenty of confidence.
Pacers vs Wizards
Just like in the Thunder vs Clippers matchup, this series saw a high-seeded perennial contender taking on a previously struggling franchise finding its feet in the playoffs, and just like in the aforementioned series, the perennial contender ultimately came out on top, after a bit of a scare. The Wizards gave them a good fight, and it’s great to finally see the team performing well. For the Pacers, we’re finally seeing the Roy Hibbert we all expect to see. You have to rate the Pacers more highly after this series, because we’re seeing the side at its full potential, and I give their chances in the next round a solid boost.
Heat vs Nets
The Heat were the team to beat, and the Nets weren’t the ones to do it. Touted as the team maybe most likely to knock off the repeat-defending champions, the Nets were unable to make a real series of it, going down 4-1. Strong performances from LeBron, Wade, and backed up by great shooting from Ray Allen and Chris Bosh, made the series too easy. This Nets squad was never going to be the same in the playoffs as they were in the regular season, and after a gruelling 7-game series against the Raptors, the Nets were in search of some fresh legs. Shaun Livingston and Mirza Teletovic did pretty well, but couldn’t conquer the Heat. Again, I don’t place too much value in the Heat’s competition, they’ve had an easy first two rounds against the lower seeds of a weak Eastern Conference, and only lost 1 game, they’ll continue to be rested up and ready for the next round. Hopefully the Pacers are their strongest opponents yet.
Western Conference: Spurs vs Thunder
The 1 seed against the 2 seed in what should be a great series. We’ve come to expect seeing both of these sides in the Western Conference Finals each year, and this playoffs was no disappointment. In the regular season, the Thunder swept the Spurs. That’s not something you often see from a Gregg Popovich side. There are two keys to determining the victor of this matchup. Firstly, fatigue. If this series goes long and the Big 3 in San Antonio all play extended minutes, their chances will be slimmer. So far, Popovich has done a good job of keeping his stars fresh. Duncan has averaged 32.4 minutes a game, Parker 29.2 minutes per game, and Ginobili at 22.6 MPG. The Spurs have also seen great contributions by bench players, Patty Mills, Marco Bellineli and Boris Diaw have all pulled their fair share, look forward to more contributions from them in the next series. The other important factor in this series is the health of Serge Ibaka. If he’s out the whole series, I’d find it hard to see OKC coming out on top. If he misses a couple of games, then they’re in with a good shot. He’s going to have to be the one to take Duncan, nobody else on the Thunder is really up to the job. My prediction for this series is Spurs in 7, taking it at home.
Eastern Conference: Pacers vs Heat
Another 1-seed 2-seed matchup, we have a rematch of the Conference finals last year with the Pacers taking on the Heat, but this time, it’s the Pacers with home court advantage. They set out to attain it from the start of the year, they were going to gain home court advantage, now lets see what they can do with it. This series is going to come down to a couple of factors, one of which is the shooting of both sides. In a couple of games against the Wizards, we saw the Heat put it away with such comfortable 3 point shooting from Ray Allen and Chris Bosh. In game 4, the Heat hit 6-10 in the 4th quarter. An interesting stat I found on the NBA.com/stats twitter page, Bosh has been shooting over 30% of his shots from deep throughout these playoffs, and he’s been doing it at over 44% efficiency. On the other side of the ball, we have good shooters to keep up with them on the Pacers team. Another element at play here is the play of Roy Hibbert. He has to step up and continue the form he found in this last series. He can’t slump back to his woes in the series against the Hawks, especially on defense. Hibbert will have to be the presence in the paint that stops LeBron from dominating. In the Heat’s one loss to the Wizards, James only took 4 shots inside the restricted area, in Game 4, he took 12. Hibbert needs to keep him out and force him to shoot from further out. I see this series being long-drawn out, and eventually going to the Pacers in 7.
This is going to be a fantastic Round of basketball, as we now really get down to the nitty-gritty. There’s no soft contests anymore, as we’ve got the top 2 seeds in each conference battling it out for a spot in the NBA Finals. We’ve got an Indiana side ready to take revenge on a steam-rolling Heat side, and A matchup of the two best teams in the Western Conference. Hopefully we’ve got another great series of basketball to come. I’m also going to be writing a Playoffs review for the Spurs, so make sure to check that out when it goes up soon.