By John Schmeelk
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After one completed game in each series, here’s what we know about the second round of the NBA playoffs.
#2 Miami Heat leads #3 Boston Celtics 1-0: The Heat won a relatively close and hard fought game against the Celtics. In this game:
– Paul Pierce was ejected halfway through the 4th quarter.
– Rajon Rondo played terribly.
– The Celtics had a week off, and typically, started slow and looked rusty.
– Dwyane Wade played out his mind
– James Jones scored 25 points
– The Heat shot 47% from behind the arc
Take all these things into consideration and the Heat should have won the game by 20. The Celtics have a ton of room to improvement. I like their decision making in crunch time better than Miami’s. The Celtics play better defense against isolation and pick and roll basketball than anyone in the league, and that’s what the Heat run ad nauseum. Kevin Garnett should be able to lock down Chris Bosh. Unless LeBron or Wade have an all-world series, or the Celtics shoot particularly poorly, I still like Boston in 7. They have the guts to makeup to win a Game 7 on the road.
#5 Atlanta Hawks lead #1 Chicago Bulls 1-0: Without Kirk Hinrich, the Hawks sent quite a message in their first game against the team with the best regular season record in basketball. Jeff Teague filled in nicely for Hinrich, who even if he returns won’t be the same this series. Atlanta continued their hot shooting from the Orlando series, with Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford carrying the scoring load. Joe Johnson has actually looked something close to a $120 million man during this postseason run. I just don’t think he can keep it up, and neither can Crawford, who can go 3-15 on any given night.
The Bulls are the better team, and Tom Thibodeau should be able to figure out how to stop a Hawks offense based so much on isolation plays. Derrick Rose will play through his ankle woes, but the Bulls still rely way too much on him for offense. It will eventually catch up with them, but not against the Hawks. They are simply not good enough. Bulls in 6.
#8 Memphis Grizzlies lead the #4 Oklahoma City Thunder 1-0: The Grizzlies managed to continue their incredibly hot run and beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City to kick off the Western Conference Semifinals. The Grizzlies are winning by playing old school basketball, based around size and defense. Zach Randolph is in the middle of one of his hot streaks and playing like the best low post man in the league. He can be unstoppable at times offensively and his teammates are making up for his shortcomings on defense. It’s amazing that without Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies are able to score enough points, but they are managing by dominating the paint.
The Thunder actually have a roster well-suited to deal with Marc Gasol and Randolph. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins both have the size and strength to deal with both guys. They should be able to force Randolph into jump shots, which he can make, but not at as high of a percentage. If I was a betting man, I’d say Randolph cools off while Kevin Durrant and Russell Westbrook steal the show. But the series will be tight and a lot of fun. Thunder in 7.
#3 Dallas Mavericks lead the #2 Los Angeles Lakers 1-0: This is the series I’m looking forward to most in the second round of the playoffs. The Mavericks are a balanced team with a star player in Dirk Nowitzki and are solid everywhere else. They have the size with Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood to deal with the Lakers’ greatest strength, Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol. Those two guys can dominate the paint but it won’t be easy againstDallas.
The Mavericks greatest weakness in this series is their lack of a good matchup for Kobe Byrant. DeShawn Stevenson and Corey Brewer, their best defenders, don’t get many minutes. That means Jason Kidd and at times Shawn Marion or Jason Terry will get time on Bryant. Those are not good matchups and Kobe Bryant should be able to have his way with them. The best plan for the Mavs is to not overreact, let Kobe Bryant get his and stop everyone else. The Lakers also have a good matchup for Dirk Nowitzki. Lamar Odom has the size and speed to give him trouble. If he can slow down Dirk, the Lakers will win the series. I don’t think he will. Mavericks in 6.
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What’s your prediction for the playoffs? Let Schmeelk know in the comments below!