May 5, 2014 by Ell and Mike Sports
Ell’s 2nd Round NBA Playoff Predictions
1. Pacers vs. 5. Wizards
The Pacers come into this series barely making it out of the Hawks series giving Wizards fans hope, but I believe these teams are more evenly matched with the advantage to the Pacers. Paul George has to continue to be the leader making plays all over the court and make Trevor Ariza work on defense, as well as, slow down Ariza’s offensive game. George Hill can’t afford to play lackluster defense against a star like John Wall like he did against Jeff Teague in round 1. Roy Hibbert must come to play in this series and I believe he will with the big men on the Wizards actually playing in the post. I think the key to success will be the play of Lance Stephenson who needs to post up the smaller Bradley Beal and tire him out, as well as, stop him on the defensive end which will be a task. The bench will play a big role with Watson, Scola, and Turner needed to outplay Miller, Webster, and Gooden which is extremely possible, but the key x-factor will be SF/PF Chris Copeland from the Pacers with the ability to stretch the floor.
The Wizards keys to success involves getting Nene involved to get West in foul trouble and making him work, Beal making Stephenson work to defend him, and Wall dominating the matchup with George Hill. The Wizards bench needs to stay consistent with better competition on the horizon. The play of Ariza on Paul George will be the key to this series as he has been able to knock down big shots and bring defense to the Wizards, but George is no light task.
Pacers 4-2 – I think the Pacers have learned from last round and will come out to play with energy and good defense. Paul George will continue to show why he is a young star in this league and Roy Hibbert will be back on defense blocking shots against Gortat rebuilding his confidence. Wall and Beal will have their night, but I don’t think the Wizards are ready for this round of playoff ball.
2. Heat vs. 6. Nets
The Heat come into this matchup well rested and ready for battle, the Nets come in fresh off of battle walking into an even tougher matchup. The Heat have the best player in the league in LeBron James so Paul Pierce will have a big challenge and Andrei Kirlenko should see time on him as well since he has good length and defensive skills. PF Chris Bosh will continue to play a big role as he must continue to space the floor exposing the less mobile Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee. Dwayne Wade must be effective in this series as Joe Johnson is no easy matchup, especially in the clutch where he has shown no mercy. Chris “Birdman” Andersen will have a tough task taking on PF/C Andray Blatche who has a nice array of offensive moves and good rebounding skills, but Udonis Haslem will also help bring toughness inside for the Heat. The Heat’s keys to success involve LeBron James dominating Pierce forcing him into foul trouble which would take the Nets best scorer and clutch player off the floor. Wade must make Joe Johnson work for his points and make him work on the defense end. Mario Chalmers must make Deron Williams work for his points and continue to go into scoring slumps. Ray Allen will be a key factor to bring points off the bench while spacing the floor; he could really give the Nets problems.
The Nets must get their offensive big 3 of Williams, Johnson, and Pierce to push the ball early to score and they must get back fast ready to work on defense especially Johnson and Pierce. Shaun Livingston will be the x-factor as he must push the 2nd unit and continue to bring consistent play on both sides of the ball. The main key to success will be Williams’ ability to dominate Chalmers as that is the key mismatch in this series, but he has been extremely inconsistent. Garnett has the size, defense, and experience to give Bosh fits, but he will definitely need to be on the floor more. However, Blatche will also be a key big man off the bench who could give the Heat big men problems. Kirlenko must bring consistent defense and will be challenged with players like LeBron James and Shane Battier.
Heat 4-2 – The Heat are dangerous when they are well rested especially LeBron so he will continue to be the best player in the series dominating. The Nets don’t really have answers for Ray Allen and Chris Bosh (when he’s playing well offensively spacing the floor) either making this a tough matchup. I think the PG combo of Williams and Livingston and the combo of Johnson and Pierce will be dangerous, but it’s tough to outmatch James, Wade, Bosh, and Allen who are all well-rested and ready to go.
1. Spurs vs. 5. Blazers
This will probably be the best, most evenly matched series to watch in the 2nd round of the playoffs. The Spurs struggled with a deep scrappy veteran Mavs team and the Blazers are coming off a confident building series where they took out the higher seed Rockets with good play whether home or on the road. The Spurs Big 3 really need to come to play as they all have important matchups; maybe not Ginobili if he comes off the bench. The matchup of starting 5’s will be the highlight of the games; therefore the bench play of both teams will be that important. Tim Duncan needs to prove how much he has left with good defense needed on Lamarcus Aldridge who proves why he is a top 2 PF in the league. Tony Parker will need to use his veteran experience and championship caliber defense on Damian Lillard who proved in the 1st round that he is definitely ready for the playoff challenge. Danny Green and Belinelli must space the floor in order for the Spurs to win as important players in this series. Tiago Splitter will be needed to matchup with Robin Lopez who plays with good energy and rebounding. Off the bench, Patty Mills must stop Mo Williams and continue to put points on the board. Boris Diaw is usually an x-factor, but if he is on Thomas Robinson he will have his hands full. Kawhi Leonard on Nick Batum will be a good defensive matchup, but if either player has a good night they could be a difference maker.
The Blazers have to get Aldridge going early to wear down on Duncan and if he can get him in foul trouble then the Spurs really are in trouble. Lillard must continue to play with heart making good plays and providing consistent scoring, but he will have his hands full on defense versus Tony Parker and he doesn’t give up easy buckets. Stopping Ginobili will be the key to the series, which may fall on Batum which would be great, but Dorrell Wright may be called upon; however, he did play well in the last series. Thomas Robinson could be a nice x-factor if he could provide offense and rebounding off the bench while continuing to make athletic plays. Batum has the ability to take over games and his solid play on both ends of the floor will be much needed. Matthews needs to continue to knock down 3’s and play good perimeter 3’s to stop the Spurs from spacing the floor; he needs to be a lot more consistent. Mo Williams could be a nice contributor off the bench, if he can contain Mills, but I know he will make him work on offense. Lopez must continue to play solid defense in the paint and control the boards because Splitter and Duncan will be more concerned with Aldridge. If the Blazers big 3 of Aldridge, Lillard, and Batum can outplay Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, then this series will definitely go in the Blazers favor.
Blazers 4-3 – The Blazers will be too much with another nice series from Aldridge and Lillard. At this point in his career, Duncan will not be ready for the array of offensive moves Aldrige brings to the table and his lanky defense. Lillard plays with good heart and will get his points off and Batum will outplay the Leonard with good stingy defense. Lopez will be too much inside with the attention drawn to Aldridge, allowing Robinson to do more damage off the bench. The Spurs will win a few games thanks to heroics from Ginobili and good shooting from Danny Green and/or Belinelli. However, the Blazers starting 5 along with Williams, Wright, and Robinson will be too much for the older Spurs.
2. Thunder vs. 3. Clippers
The Thunder are coming off a series where they really struggled against a tough Grizzlies team and the Clippers are coming off a very tough series filled with controversy, but the experience should really make this team that much better. The Thunder need all they can get from the Big 3 of Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka in this series, in addition, the bench and role players really need to step it up the most. Westbrook will have his hands full with the best PG in the league and will really have his defense tested. Sefolosha should be able to contain J.J. Redick, but he may need to play more to help contain Jamal Crawford. Ibaka and Perkins will have their hands full with Griffin and Jordan, so staying out of foul trouble will be the key to this game as the replacements wouldn’t be as effective. The matchup on the rebounds will also be very important in this series as the success in the paint will easily determine this series. Reggie Jackson must really provide a spark off the bench, like he did last series, because they are playing a team that can really score. Fisher will need to come-up big with the solid play of Darren Collison who also has good speed. With all the big men available, the Thunder may need to play Nick Collison and the defense of backup center Steven Adams could help them protect the paint. Veteran Caron Butler will be the x-factor for the Thunder and he must contribute off the bench, especially on the offensive end. In order to win this series, the Thunder need Westbrook to continue his solid play, Durant needs to dominate his matchup on Matt Barnes and keep his composure, and Ibaka must make Blake Griffin work on both end of the floor while staying out of foul trouble.
The Clippers have the advantage with their big 3 of CP3, Blake, and Jordan who are in position to dominate lead by Paul who must continue to put this team on his shoulders. Blake and Jordan must continue to dominate the post and playing good defense while staying out of foul trouble. Blake must continue to beat post players off the dribble which would help get them in foul trouble. Redick will have his hands full, but he must continue to try to space the floor taking the pressure off the big men. Matt Barnes must continue to be the tough guy on the roster getting in the face of Durant which will always shake his composure (see Tony Allen from last series); the defensive play of Barnes could really make this a one-sided series. The Clips depth will be the key to this series as Collison, Crawford, Dudley, Granger, and Turkoglu are all solid contributors capable of bring solid offense. Crawford can explode for 20-30pts on any given night and will be very hard to contain. Collison has the ability to sub-in for CP3 and make the team never miss a beat and if he can abuse Fisher with his speed the 2nd unit will run nicely. Production from Granger, Turk, and Dudley is all just icing on the cake, but if Dudley and Granger can overwhelm Butler then that would be even better. In order to win the series, the Clips need to get the most out of their big 3 which should outplay their counterparts and the bench must continue to keep the offense moving.
Clippers 4-2 – The Clippers big 3 will prove to be too much as CP3 will outplay Westbrook, Barnes will be able to get Durant out of his game similar to what Tony Allen did, and Griffin and Jordan will be too much controlling the paint similar to Randolph and Gasol. The Thunder do not have an answer for Jamal Crawford and that not a good thing when dealing with a volume scorer who could also get people in foul trouble. The talent flows deep through the depth of the Clippers and the Thunder do not matchup well as they are very reliant on Durant and Westbrook who will have their hands full. Durant and Westbrook will combine to pull off two games at home in my opinion, but the Clippers will prove to be too deep for them.