It's now time for the Conference Finals, after my Knicks were mercilessly ousted from the playoffs last night in Indiana. As unhappy as that makes me, that's the best Knicks season I've seen, so I can't complain that much. Anyway, it's time to move on to the rest of the playoffs and there are some very interesting matchups in this round. As for my predictions for the second round, I went 2-2 in predicting winners and 0-4 in picking he series lengths. That puts me at 9-3 and 3-9 in choosing winners and series lengths, respectively. I'm excited for another round of great basketball in the lead up to the Finals. Both series will be tough, especially in the West.
1 Miami Heat vs. 3 Indiana Pacers. The two teams that gave the Heat the most trouble this season were the Knicks and the Pacers. In the process of beating the Knicks, the Pacers showed exactly why they were able to frustrate the Heat so much. A great team in the halfcourt defense, Roy Hibbert is standing in the middle at all times ready to contest at the rim. Guys like George Hill, Paul George, and Lance Stephenson are great perimeter defenders, making it hard for a team like the Heat to find open threes like they normally would. The two keys in this series are LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Lebron is a key because he incites the transition offense for Miami. While the Pacers are great in the halfcourt defense, they can be exploited if they don't have time to set up. With the Heat playing small and Pacers playing a very big lineup, Miami can run around mismatched players while running up the floor. The MVP will be the biggest reason why. Outside of transition offense, if LeBron can play in perpetual God Mode like he did during parts of the season, it doesn't matter how well the Pacers can defend. I'm not talking about MVP LeBron, who is the best player on the planet right now. I'm talking about the LeBron we've seen pop up from time to time, the LeBron who is the best player ever. If that guy is there to stay, the Heat will breeze to a sweep. As for Chris Bosh, his mid range shooting will pull Roy Hibbert away from the rim, opening lanes for his teammates. Even so, the Pacers are a severely underrated team that is very ahrd to beat when they get hot shooting 3s offensively. Heat in 6.
2 San Antonio Spurs vs. 5 Memphis Grizzlies. The Spurs are an interesting team in that their style is quite amorphous. Tony Parker runs the team and loves to get inside the paint and go from there, but Tim Duncan gives them a reliable post presence. Surrounding them are a bunch of athletic role players such as Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard that can drive, but are also great shooters. That is a matchup problem for almost every team in the league, but the Grizzlies are not included in that group. Mike Conley is starting to get the respect he deserves as one of the top players at his position. He's a great defender, so the matchup between him and Parker will be interesting. Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter can frustrate the perimeter shooters for San Antonio and obviously, Marc Gasol is the Defensive Player of the Year inside. He can do it all on defense, so he'll be hard to play against. The Grizzlies will also test the Spurs defense, because they'll need to find enough bigs capable of guarding Randolph and Gasol. Splitter and Duncan will be in foul trouble against these twin towers, so look for a lot of my boy Boris Diaw in this series. I think the Grizzlies are the better team, and will control the paint enough to come out of this and get to the Finals. Grizzlies in 6.