#5 Washington Wizards vs. #1 Indiana Pacers
Key Matchup: Pacers vs Themselves
The Pacers, at their best, can beat anyone in the NBA, especially these Wizards. The problem is the Pacers have not been at their best in a very long time. Fans keep waiting for the first-half-of-the-season Pacers to reemerge and it may not happen. If they can use this series to reignite themselves against a beatable Wizards team, hope still remains for a long playoff run. If not, this young and hungry Washington team will pull the upset.
The cog that runs an inside-out offense and defends the rim allowing the Pacer guards to stick to shooters on the wing is Big Roy. His fall from Defensive Player of the Year candidate, All-Star, and media darling has been precipitous. And it directly aligns with the Pacers' struggles. He can win his matchups against the Washington bigs, but will he? If not, I fear for the Pacers and for Hibbert's career.
Still think the Blue and Gold are better. Pacers in 6
#2 Miami Heat vs #6 Brooklyn Nets
Key Matchup: Veteran Savvy
The Brooklyn Nets took on an unfathomable payroll to assemble some of the best old dogs in the game. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce have been hitting game winners for over a decade and Deron Williams, Andre Kirilinko, and Kevin Garnett have all been around the big-game block. They were brought together for this very series. They will be pitted against the veteran laden and two-time defending champs Miami Heat. Both team know all the tricks. This should be fun.
If the Big Ticket can find some of his old magic (brilliant defender, deadly jump shooter, renowned shit-talker) than I give the Nets a punchers chance. But I'm pretty sure all the miles on KG's wheels have left him punchless. We shall see.
The Nets won all four regular season matchups against the Heat, but this ain't the regular season. There will be some close games and it should be a competitive series, but Miami will expose Brooklyn as old. Miami in 5
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #4 Portland Trailblazers
Key Matchup: Parker vs Lillard
Dallas was able to keep Tony Parker out of the lane and it slowed San Antonio's offense. He makes that team go. Is Lillard up to that challenge? On the other side, Lillard is an electric offensive player that Parker cannot contain alone. Whoever ends up winning the point guard matchup will most likely be the winner of the series.
X-Factor: Role Players
LA gonna get his. TIm Duncan, too. If Parker and Lillard play to a draw, this series will be decided by the role players. Portland's Batum, Matthews, Lopez will have opportunities to make a massive difference. But Gregg Popovich excels at getting the best out of his second and third tier guys. It's on Portland's unheralded helpers to outplay the best supporting cast in basketball.
Love rooting for this Portland team, but the Spurs aren't done yet. SA in 6
#3 LA Clippers vs #2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Matchup: Durant vs Barnes
Tony Allen did an outstanding job defending Kevin Durant, and Durant still averaged nearly 30 points a game. Matt Barnes is a get-under-your-skin rugged defender, but I'm not convinced he can do better than Allen did. KD is fresh off his first MVP trophy. How hot can he get?
X-Factor: Chris Paul
Rumors are, the best point guard in basketball is banged up. He had an effective, if un-spectacular, first round. He's not gonna stop being "a little bitch" but he must impose his will on this series, particularly so, as he is matched up against the physical force of nature that is Russell Westbrook.
I think this seres goes the distance. Both teams are stacked with talent and hungry. Doc Rivers is 10 times the coach Scott Brooks is and I'm not convinced that home court advantage will matter that much, so LA has a real chance at an upset. But KD will be the difference. He's just too good right now. OKC in 7