Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
#1 Indiana Pacers vs #5 Washington Wizards
Key to Matchup: Not sucking
The Wizards are a good team. They have a great point guard and a two who can fill it up in a hurry if you don't play him physical. Their coach is from Indiana. So there's that. They lack veteran leadership and talent at the big positions. The Pacers (with Hibbert playing well) are a very balanced team that can shut anybody down. The only question is, which team will show up. I, like every other member of Pacer Nation, am hoping for Coalson's Version Two.
Key Player: Hibbert
We won't need 20-10 from Hibbert to win the series (but if we get it we might sweep). There is still hope for the big man entering a series with better match-ups for him. My guess is he's still up and down but with enough defensive energy from him we will play well enough to take this series in short order. We are still the more talented team. Can we play like it?
Prediction: Pacers in five. Eff. Should've taken seven when I had the chance!
#2 Miami Heat vs #6 Brooklyn Nets
Key to Matchup: Uhh...Scoring more points?
The Heat are going to take it to the Brooklyn Nets in this series. I know, I know, the Nets swept them in the regular season. Well, it's not the regular season. Wade is rested, Bosh gets better when his teammates do, and LeBron is in full playoff mode.
Key Player: LeBron
As LeBron goes, so go the Heat. And he's the best in the business. Expect a big series from him as he takes on the old guard. He even has a little something extra to prove, not being named MVP. The Nets will need a monster series from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams to have a chance. I fear Paul Pierce may just be tired by game four if he is charged with guarding LBJ too often.
Prediction: Heat in five. I almost picked another sweep. I don't think the Nets are anywhere near where the Heat already are and they will get better every series. I hate them. I hate them so much.
Western Conference Semi-Finals
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #5 Portland Trailblazers
Key to Matchup: Learning defense on the fly
I don't like Portland's defense a heck of a lot. They can throw up some points but, as jump shooters, tend to be very streaky. They will need to really lock in on this team to get to four wins. The Spurs will likely continue to limit playing time for their veteran players. The Blazers will need to go off on their second unit to win. Wish that were an easier task.
Key Player: Lamarcus Aldridge
In order for the Blazers to prevail, LA is going to have to eat up Tim Duncan. That means making him work hard at both ends of the court, being physical with the old man (not necessarily his strong suit), and making good passes when the blitz of double teams come his way; and they will. Hopefully Lilliard, Matthews, and Batum can continue to knock down the open jumpers they will have.
Prediction: Portland in six. They have to win in six. Travelling to San Antonio is not a good scene for a game seven. Rip City!
#2 Oklahoma Thunder vs #3 Los Angeles Clippers
Key to Matchup: First to 110
This will be a fun series to watch. I do fear that the winner of it may be too gassed to take on the winner of Portland-San Antontio. These teams don't particularly like each other either (does anyone like the Clipper?), so it should be a good show.
Key Player: Who else?
Kevin Durant is the league's MVP and couldn't have deserved it more. However, he'd trade that in a heartbeat for the Finals MVP; there are new goals. He may have to average 35 a game for his team to prevail. Luckily, that's not out of range, especially at the pace they'll be playing.
Prediction: Thunder in seven. The Thunder were a bit underwhelming last series and will need a better performance to survive this round. Just not sure they're playing well enough to do anything but win in seven. Personally wouldn't lay down a dime on this series.