After arguably the most exciting and entertaining first round in NBA playoff history, the second round of the 2014 playoffs are set to begin. Just like the first round, there is no shortage of exciting matchups to watch. Here is my preview and prediction for what will happen during this round.
Eastern Conference Semifinals: #5 Washington vs. #1 Indiana
The action kicks off with the Paul George and the top-seeded Pacers against John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Indiana’s struggles in the 2nd half of the season are well-documented, and the Pacers barely got by the 8th seeded Hawks in 7 after falling behind in the series 3-2. Meanwhile, the Wizards were impressive in easily taking care of the Bulls, and have exceeded expectations in their first playoffs since 2007. There really is not much reason to think the Pacers will all of a sudden revert to midseason form again. They have just not been able to play well recently, and nearly losing the series to a below 0.500 team is a major red flag. The Wizards are a young team, well-rested, with momentum and a nothing to lose mentality. I think the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal finally put the Pacers out of their misery and take the series in 6 games.
Eastern Conference Semifinals: #6 Brooklyn vs. #2 Miami
After easily sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round, the Miami Heat waited a whole week to see who they would play in the next round. In contrast, the Brooklyn Nets took their first round series all the way to the final possession of Game 7 before finally finishing out the series. Despite the Nets 4-0 record against the Heat during the regular season, I expect this to be a very hard-fought and physical series. Both teams are loaded with veterans that have championship experience and whose only goal is to win another ring. Paul Pierce and Lebron James meet in the playoffs for the fifth time in the last seven years, having split those four series 2-2, and having split the two seven games series one apiece. Miami does have an advantage with all of the rest they have had, but veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are accustomed to grinding out long series with little rest. Miami has the superstars, but Brooklyn has the deeper team. In the end, I think Miami will be too much for Brooklyn to handle, and the Heat will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 games.
Western Conference Semifinals: #5 Portland vs. #1 San Antonio
San Antonio is back in the second round yet again, while Portland is a newcomer at this stage. Led by Lamarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, Portland disposed of the high-powered Houston Rockets in six games to reach the second round. Meanwhile, the Spurs had their hands full with the 8th seeded Mavericks in the first round before slamming the door in Game 7. Although this is a matchup of veterans with championship experience vs. young players with a lot of potential, I think this series will be very close. Portland certainly did not look like a team that was content with just making the playoffs. This is a team that thinks they are legitimate championship contenders. Aldridge, Lillard, Batum, Matthews, and Lopez lead the way for Portland against Parker, Duncan, Ginobili, Leonard, and Danny Green for San Antonio. I think this series goes the distance, but the Spurs are able to win Game 7 for the second straight round.
Western Conference Semifinals: #3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #2 Oklahoma City
This will be the most exciting series of the second round in my opinion. Chris Paul against Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin against Kevin Durant, several great players coming off the bench, and two veteran coaches with Finals experience headline the series. Both teams needed seven games in the first round to get by their opponents. All eyes will be on likely MVP Kevin Durant in his quest to win a championship, especially after some late game struggles in round 1. Meanwhile, the Clippers are also contending for a title, which would be the first championship for most of their roster. I think the experience and defensive scheming of Doc Rivers is going to be the difference in this series, as he will find a way to limit Kevin Durant while the deep Clippers will be too much Oklahoma City to handle. Los Angeles wins the series in six games.
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