#1 Indiana vs. #5 Washington
Match-up to watch: John Wall vs. George Hill/Paul George. Wall has been electric this year, having figured out how to vary his blazing speed AND knock down jump shots with regularity. Limiting his paint penetration, and thus the Wizards potential for success, will be key for the Pacers.
Coolest potential subplot: The re-emergence of Roy Hibbert from basketball oblivion. After Game 1, this seems nearly impossible. However, I (foolishly) believe that Big Roy can have a moment in these playoffs, but his opportunities to so may be limited going forward.
Prediction: Pacers in 6. EFF! I should’ve taken Pacers in 7 when I had the chance.
#2 Miami vs. #6 Brooklyn
Match-up to watch: LeBron James vs. Joe Johnson/Paul Pierce. LBJ officially relinquished the MVP belt, and be certain he is pissed. That usually means trouble for opponents, and it will be for Brooklyn. But, the Nets have the rare luxury of having two dudes with the requisite size to bother James when he’s trying to score AND make him work a little on the defensive end. It probably still won’t be enough to keep him from averaging a 30-12-8 for the series.
Coolest potential subplot: The last five minutes of every game. This isn’t so much a subplot, as it is the main narrative. Most of these games will be close. Both teams have vets that have been in these situations a billion times. Who will execute the best in crunch time?
Prediction: Heat in 7. They’re just good. And, oh-by-the-way, Wade got to rest for a week after they dispatched the Boobcats with little trouble.
#1 San Antonio vs. #5 Portland
Match-up to watch: Tim Duncan vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. It’s as if The Big Fundamental will be playing himself after a trip through the way-back machine. LMA is playing at a ridiculous level, and Timmy will certainly have his hands full in trying to slow him. One key may be making LMA do some work on the defensive end, a job he can do, but does not enjoy.
Coolest potential subplot: The scoring contest that will take place between Tony Parker and Damian Lillard. As predicted by yours truly, Lillard shines in the playoffs. He nailed the series winner against the Rockets and averaged nearly 26 PTS and 7 ASTS. Parker meanwhile put up a pedestrian 20 and 5, but wasn’t facing the swiss cheese defense of Portland. Those that love point guard play should really enjoy Round 2 of the Western Conference Playoffs.
Prediction: Spurs in 6. Sorry Nico and Dave, but the ride ends here. Unlike the Rockets, the Spurs can get stops when they need them.
#2 Oklahoma City vs. #3 Los Angeles
Match-up to watch: Chris Paul vs. Russell Westbrook. Even before CP3 exploded in Game 1, I was ridiculously excited to watch these two go at it. Both are super talented, we know this. What takes this to the next level is the competitive motor that both of these guys have, along with the downright nasty streak that each possesses. I would not be surprised if several scruffles break out between these two. Hopefully, it also takes their play to even more transcendent levels.
Coolest potential subplot: KD’s defense of the MVP trophy (and continued middle finger extension towards The Oklahoman). In Round 1, KD faced the phenomenal defense of Tony Allen and the Grizzlies, averaging “only” 29 a night. Here, he’s facing Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley. Um...expect that average to increase.
Prediction: Clippers in 6. I just think Doc Rivers is going to take Scott Brooks behind the coaching woodshed and teach him a thing or two.