1 Miami Heat vs. 5 Chicago Bulls. The Chicago Bulls were able to pull off a win against the Nets, despite losing players left and right. Luol Deng missed Game 7 while in a hospital bed. Kirk Hinrich is out for the season. Joakim Noah had the ability to dominate throughout the series while dealing with plantar fasciitis. They won the series on the backs of Noah and the streaky shooting of Nate Robinson. Robinson is inconsistent, but he has the ability to take over games when his shots are falling. As for the Heat, they are the best team in the league, but have had trouble with the Bulls this season. Tom Thibodeau is a great defensive coach and the Bulls have exhibited his mentality all year. The Heat obviously have the talent to sweep anybody, but I'm not going to expect it this time around. With the Heat playing small ball, Noah and Boozer have a size advantage (Boozer is taller than LeBron, but LeBron's strength can somewhat negate that, and Noah is stronger than Bosh) allowing for extra rebounds, especially when LeBron and/or Bosh are on the bench.The games will be close, and the Bulls will steal at least one, and there's a good chance this goes 7. I'll be right in the middle. Heat in 6.
2 New York Knicks vs. 3 Indiana Pacers. As shown by their series against the Celtics, the Knicks are prone to horrible inconsistency. When they are moving the ball on offense, it's very hard to compete with them. They are also capable of playing a very defensive style, as shown by the Celtics' inability to score consistently throughout the series. The Pacers are all about defense and have a lot of trouble on offense. As long as the Knicks are playing well on both ends, this series shouldn't be as bad as it seems. The only problem, I can't predict when they'll play well. Knicks in 7.
1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5 Memphis Grizzlies. I originally predicted this to be the matchup in the second round, but I have to change my winner. The loss of Russell Westbrook is a huge blow for the Thunder. This means that Kevin Durant has to do everything on offense, without his security blanket, Westbrook. Reggie Jackson is decent at setting up shots for others, but not nearly as good as his mentor. Against the Rockets, it seemed like he was exhausted on the defensive end, and I can only attribute this to his added responsibilities on offense. The Grizzlies are great defensively, and will not allow much scoring in the paint. On the perimeter, Tony Allen and Mike Conley will make it hard to get good shots. Now that Conley doesn't have to deal with guarding Russell Westbrook one-on-one, things will be easier for him. On offense, Marc Gasol is going to embarrass Kendrick Perkins, and while Serge Ibaka is a great shot blocker, he won't be able to defend Zach Randolph's mid range shooting. Back to my boy, Mike Conley (severely underrated), without Westbrook's defensive pressure, he'll be able to call his own number more often. OKC needs their point guard, and they need him badly. Though I am giving the Thunder wins just because of Kevin Durant, I can't give them 4 of 'em. Grizzlies in 6.
2 San Antonio Spurs vs. 6 Golden State Warriors. How does one guard Steph Curry? You don't. His ability to shoot all kinds of shots is ridiculous. Pull-ups, off the dribble, fully contested, it doesn't matter for him. The key to this series, however, is Andrew Bogut. He has looked healthy and has shown the ability to be a force on both ends of the floor. If he can win the matchup against Tim Duncan, the Warriors are going to win this series. The Spurs have a lot of three point shooters, but the Warriors can match that with a pretty good defensive squad. I don't feel great about this, but I'm calling an upset. Warriors in 7.