With the exception of the Spurs and Magic, the favorites made it through the first round gauntlet. Those two upsets were interesting turns of events: the Spurs, a one seed, fell to the eighth seeded Grizzlies but there was a certain predictability to that upset. The Grizzlies are a tough feisty team that refused to respect the Spurs' veteran experience and hounded their ageing stars for the whole series. As for the Magic, the presence of Dwight Howard overrates what is otherwise a seventy million dollar lottery roster and the Hawks exploited his glaring lack of help to win their series. So, let's look forward at the NBA's second round matchups:
The Eastern Conference:
Chicago Bulls (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)
The Hawks deserve credit for surprising everyone, myself included, and defeating their archrivals in the first round. The Bulls also struggled to put Indiana away so there will be a growing cadre of individuals ready to give the Hawks the benefit of the doubt here. But it won't happen. The Hawks don't have a guard with the length to bother Derrick Rose like Paul George did and they lack the size to shut down Boozer and Noah in the post. Worse, Al Horford's lack of size will be evident against his old teammate Joakim Noah and Joe Johnson will struggle against ace defenders Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer. I think the Bulls will win four relatively close games out of six and advance.
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Miami Heat (2) vs. Boston Celtics (3)
Last year, the Celtics looked dead in the water at the end of the regular season and turned it on for the playoffs. This year they looked listless to finish the season but then blanked the Knicks 4-0. Don't sleep on a team that features four likely future Hall of Famers as starters and an ageing but effective Shaquille O'Neal in the post.
Miami also looks great but the 76ers were an ideal matchup. Will the Heat be able to guard the Celtic's size, length, and versatility or bash them offensively in the post? It's hard to say and I believe this series will go seven. But who will win is anyone's guess. I'll take the Heat in seven based on youth and home court advantage but this would not be a series I would gamble on in Vegas.
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The Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers (2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (3)
The Mavericks looked tougher than usual-tougher than any time since their 2006 finals run in fact-in their 4-2 defeat of Portland. However, the Lakers are a different animal. They have looked great the past two games and they match up well against the Mavericks. I think the Lakers will take this one in six games.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) Memphis Grizzlies (8)
Memphis plays with a feverish intensity that the Spurs just could not deal with for an entire series. But the Thunder are a young, complete team that plays with defensive fire and is willing to grit out every single possession. Even worse for the Grizzlies, their powerful frontcourt will be checked by the defensively-special duo of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. The Grizzlies have a bright future as a playoff team but the Thunder will stop them here in five or six games.
Well, that's The Best Sports Blog's Second Round Playoff Preview! Check back for our review of the series, the Conference Finals preview, and our analysis of the other major issues in sports!
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