The first round of the NBA playoffs went down without a hitch, and we are left with 8 teams competing for the glory of winning a championship.
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- Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
Miami rolled through the Milwaukee Bucks with ease. I was hoping for a better series, but what ensued was far from surprising. The Heat pulled a sweep, winning every game by double-digits and an average margin of victory of 14.8 points per. They appear to be unbeatable.
The injury-riddled Bulls did not have such an easy first round. However, even without star point guard Derrick Rose, they upset the Brooklyn Nets in 7 games. Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson were both great in the only series of the first round that went the distance.
The Heat and Bulls split the season series this year, winning 2 games apiece. Chicago was one of only three teams this season that took at least 2 from Miami. They were also the bunch that ended the Heat's impressive 27-game winning streak back in March. The back story makes for an interesting series outlook, because the Bulls seem to matchup fairly well with the Heat. Taking all that into consideration, I still don't think Miami will stumble. I could actually see this team going 16-0 in the postseason. They're that good.
Miami: 4, Chicago: 0
- New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers
New York looked strong early against the Celtics, winning the first 3 games by an average of 12.3 points. Boston refused to lay down, though, as they fought hard in their quest to be the first NBA team to ever rally from a 3-0 series deficit. The Celtics won back-to-back games, but fell short of their lofty goal, losing in 6.
The Pacers and Hawks series went 6 games as well, but not a single game was decided by less than 8 points. The only game a home team lost in the series was the deciding Game 6 in Atlanta. No doubt Indiana was the better team in the series, but in Game 3, they were awful. The Pacers only mustered 69 points on 27.2% shooting.
New York and Indiana split their season series, 2-2. If the Pacers play like they did in Game 3 of the opening round, the NBA's second-ranked defense doesn't stand a chance in this series. The high-flying Knicks will run all over them. However, when they're on their game, Indiana can hang with anybody. If they play tough defense, I like their chances to pull off an upset. New York was anything but fantastic against Boston, and I don't think they will be much better in this round.
Indiana: 4, New York: 3
- Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
When Russell Westbrook went down with a torn lateral meniscus, the Thunder started to look like a different team. Although he is a player that likes to take errant shots at times, Oklahoma City seems lost without their usual starting point guard. The Thunder managed to beat the Houston Rockets in 6 games, but they were tested more than anybody thought they would be. In Game 1, they thrashed the Rockets by 29 points. With Westbrook going down in Game 2, they never won another game by more than 9, and had trouble closing out the series.
After dropping the first two against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Grizzlies turned their opening series around in a big way. They were extremely impressive in taking the next four games, each win by 10 or more points.
Memphis took 2 of 3 games from Oklahoma City this season, and they matchup well against the Thunder even when OKC has Westbrook. Without him, I think the Grizzlies will win this series. I don't expect it to be easy, but I'm going with another upset here.
Memphis: 4, Oklahoma City: 3
- San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
The Spurs made the Los Angeles Lakers look horrible in the opening round. San Antonio swept the Lake Show, winning every game by 11 or more points. The Spurs won by an average of 18.75 points per game in the short-lived series. This team just knows how to win basketball games. It's that simple.
Golden State and the Denver Nuggets competed in a very hard-fought 6-game series. Each game was within 14 points, and 4 of the 6 games were within 7. In the end, the Warriors played well and defeated a Nuggets squad that had looked fantastic entering the postseason.
The Spurs and Warriors split their 4-game season series at 2 wins apiece. Still, Golden State will need to play great to beat this San Antonio team. Even as the NBA's best 3-point shooting club, I think they fall just short of knocking off Gregg Popovich's Spurs.
San Antonio: 4, Golden State: 2
Here's hoping that the conference semi-finals are even better than the first round was. I expect at least three good series in this round, but every matchup should be worth tuning in for.