There is No I in Team!
After a first round of injuries and upsets, the NBA playoffs second round is here and there are some extremely intriguing match-ups. No one in the world predicted that Philly would upset Chicago in the first round, but I think we all can attribute that miracle to the devastating Derrick Rose injury. The second round boasts teams very familiar to its pressure like the Lakers, Heat and Spurs. There are also teams that aren’t so accustomed to the very large spotlight like the Clippers and Thunder. All-in-all the match-ups are great, but in each series I am fascinated by the potential one-on-one pairings.
I don’t think that the Indiana Pacers stand a chance against the powerhouse Miami Heat, but I also thought the Knicks would push the Heat to 7 games, so what do I know. I think the Heat throw way to many different formations at their opponents and it just seems as if it will be a cakewalk for Miami to reach the Finals for a second straight season. The one-on-one battle I am going to enjoy most in this series is between Lebron James and Danny Granger. Against majority of small forwards in the NBA Granger would have the upper hand, but against the best player in the world he looks like a D-league player. In the first game of the series, which Miami won, Granger shot a dismal 10% from the field and finished with an embarrassing 7 points. If Granger can find a way to shoot 50% and score over 28 points a game then maybe the Pacers can squeak one past the Heat just like the Knicks did.
One of my other brilliant first round predictions was an easy sweep of the 76ers by the Bulls. After Rose went down, so did Chicago, and now Philadelphia is facing off with the ageless Boston Celtics. These two teams match up very well with each other on paper and they proved that by splitting the first two games of this series by 1 point each. The most appealing confrontation in this game is by the veteran Paul Pierce and the high-flying Andre Iguodala. Pierce is one of the greatest players in one of the most storied franchises in basketball, while Iguodala is the key piece to a surprisingly dangerous team. I feel that Pierce has the upper hand in this battle, but if Iguodala can find a way to distribute the ball at the rate he has been, 7 Assists a game, then I think this can be another exhilarating 7 game series. For Boston to win, Pierce has to shoot at 48% rate or higher without forcing ugly shots. A few more assists for him wouldn’t hurt either, but with the best passing PG left in the playoffs on his team it shouldn’t be his main concern.
The best power forward of all time vs. the future of power forwards in the NBA. What else could we ask for? Tim Duncan and Blake Griffin play the same position on the court but they play it in the most different of ways. Duncan has 4 Championships under his belt and it is hard to bet against him picking up #5 this year. Griffin is a star on a team that just won its third playoff series in franchise history. Griffin thrives on taking his opponents off the dribble and slamming it home, while Duncan plays a more conventional style with his patented bank shot and smooth hook. Both of them are good passing big men and they both have an above average perimeter shot. The main difference between the two of these players is the fact that Duncan has the experience and the rings, while Griffin is still trying to bring his team out from their neighboring Lakers shadow. Maybe relinquishing two victories to the Clippers, I feel the Spurs will move on to the Western Conference Finals.
My final match up is an offensive juggernaut versus an offensive juggernaut with 5 rings. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder has won the scoring title for the past 3 seasons, where Kobe Bryant has finished 4th, 5th and 2nd in those respective years. Durant’s uncanny ability to score from everywhere at a staggering 6’11 is something the NBA hasn’t seen in a long time. Kobe Bryant on the other hand finds ways to score from everywhere while only standing at a miniature 6’6. Kobe has long been known as the greatest closer in the game. He plays with a fearlessness that has only been seen in Michael Jordan. This season, Bryant is trying to match Jordan’s 6 rings by winning his own, but Durant and the Thunder will not roll over and let that happen. After a crushing game 1 blowout in Oklahoma City, you can expect Kobe to bring his experience and fire to game 2 and find a way to go back to LA tied 1-1 in the series. If Durant can score 25+ points with 50% shooting or better like he did in game 1, then you can expect Kobe to have to wait at least one more year for number 6.