Tue, May 6, 7:11am by Daryl Curnow
There’s isn’t much we can say, except that we clearly just witnessed one of the most exciting and unpredictable playoff rounds in the history of the game.
Here’s hoping round two continues to amaze the many fans and punters looking to make a profit.
The second round kicks off with Indiana Pacers vs. the Washington Wizards, who come into this match-up on very different paths.
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The No.1-seeded Indiana Pacers survived Atlanta in the first round – a team that entered the finals with a losing record – but they pushed the Pacers to their very limits, finally succumbing in Game 7. We’re not entirely sure winning in seven against the worst team in the playoffs is good form, but they won and overcame their apparent form slump.
The Pacers have gone from hero to zero these past few months and that pressure has taken it’s toll on their players and coach. It was all going so swimmingly throughout the season until the final weeks of the regular season where the Pacers suffered an identity crisis, coming into the finals on a form slump with their chances at a title in serious doubt. Despite this, they were able to muster enough to progress past the Hawks, but now they face a team with more firepower from all aspects, so their star players will have to play as a team.
Roy Hibbert has been largely ineffective for the Pacers and has been sitting on the bench more often than not. He will have his work cut out for him against the Wizards’ big man Nene, who brings in solid form to this series. Paul George has been solid throughout the playoffs and the Pacers will need their star to shine if they are to have any chance in this series. Sure, West can score his short jumpers, but he’s not reliable and the Wizards’ big men won’t have much issue in slowing him down in the paint.
The Wizards, on the other hand, have had plenty of time to rest after easily putting away the Chicago Bulls in five games. On the back of solid scoring from both John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards pulled off an upset and they truly believe they have the talent to send more teams packing. All five starting players average more than 10 points per game in the first round and they have more creativity than the Pacers. Whether or not that means they will win the series is another question, but you tend to favour the teams that can score points. The Wizards will have to step up another notch against the Pacers, but they have the youthful talent to do so.
Series prediction: Washington in six ($5.85) at Sportsbet.com.au
Both teams enter this series on the back of whirlwind Game 7 wins with the Oklahoma City Thunder finally putting away the pesky Memphis Grizzles, who held a 3-2 lead with two possible games remaining.
The Thunder and Kevin Durant were seemingly on the ropes but a news article calling Durant ‘unreliable’ was enough to spur the star on and he hasn’t looked back since.
Along with Russell Westbrook, Durant has scorched the scorers’ table in his last two games, which has taken the Thunder into this match-up against the Clippers, a team which relies on a more well-rounded scoring effort.
The Thunder were able to comfortably win Game 7 as the Memphis Grizzles didn’t have their primary scorer in Zach Randolph, so just how impressive the Thunders’ win was is yet to be determined. They did seem to struggle throughout the series with being able to spread their offensive effectively. Too much reliance was placed on both Durant and Westbrook to get the job done. In order for the Thunder to progress in this series both Durant and Westbrook will again have to take the burden of scoring on their shoulders.
The Clippers bring a much more rounded offence to the table, with both jump shooters and inside guys. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan making the slam dunk highlight reels on most nights. The two big men have no problem getting inside the paint to make a dunk and they will have to get past the Thunder’s defensive leader, Serge Ibaka, but they are dynamic enough to worry the Thunder here. The problem for the Thunder is that they have to defend so many different scoring threats. Griffin has developed a nice mid-range jump shot, Chris Paul is Chris Paul – tough to defend on the best of nights, even though he has an injured right shoulder. Reddick and Barnes also pose threats from three-point range and the Clippers’ bench is very effective.
The Clippers have seemingly united after the Donald Sterling affair and they could quite easily cause an upset in this series. If either Durant and Westbrook have an off night, it will be curtains for the Thunder, who rely too heavily on them, whereas the Clippers have multiple offensive threats that can fire at any time.
Series prediction: Clippers in seven ($7.80) at IASbet.com
It’s felt like forever ago since the Miami Heat were on the court following their 4-0 drubbing of the Bobcats.
The Heat were firing on all cylinders and were never really tested against a side that only had one prolific scorer- Al Jefferson.
For a team that spreads around their offense so well, the Heat were never going to be troubled. That’s until they face the Brooklyn Nets, who come into this series after eliminating the Toronto Raptors in seven games.
Are the Nets worried that they now face the two-time defending champions? Probably not, because they have are yet to lose to them this season.
The Nets have given the Heat something to think about this season and they will be the more match-fit team heading into Game One. Why are the Nets so effective against the Heat? It’s because the Nets have multiple scoring threats with Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and even Kevin Garnett, who can still be a threat in the paint. It only takes one of those mentioned players to get hot for the Nets to fire up and that will be in the minds of the Heat players entering this series.
The Heat are doing what they do best and that’s rely heavily on LeBron James, but that’s not a negative. The best player in the league is scoring with ease and he rarely finds a defensive player who can stop him. If James isn’t on his game, then he can pass it up to Ray Allen, who is always a threat from the three point line. Then of course there is Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who complement James well and if either of them score in excess of 20 points it’ basically game over.
This series should be entertaining and home court advantage will likely play a factor. If the Nets can win one of the Heats’ first two home games then this series will get interesting, but if the Heat take a 2-0 lead the pressure might take it’s toll on the Nets.
Series prediction: Heat in six ($4.85) at Sportsbet.com.au
The San Antonio Spurs were the title favourites in our eyes prior to the playoffs, but after limping past the Dallas Mavericks we’ve had to adjust our views on them. They are still ranked highly in our opinion and Game 7 of that series was an onslaught, but they did show their weaknesses in which the Portland Trail Blazers can exploit.
The Blazers enter this series on an all-time high after Damien Lillard knocked down a Game 7 winning three with no time left on the clock. The incredible buzzer-beater put an end to the Houston Rockets’ season, but the Blazers will have to move on quickly and re-focus as they now eye a series win over the staunch Spurs. This is where it gets tough for the Blazers as the Rockets were a similar-styled team, but the Spurs play a different type of game and have the playoff experience to knock them out in a hurry.
In a team filled with stars, the Spurs don’t need one single player to be outstanding, just as long as they play well as a team. Tony Parker is a demon when he gets into the key and that shouldn’t be a problem against a Portland side that struggles on defense. Leonard hasn’t fired yet and if he gets going then the Spurs have yet another offensive and defensive threat. The ageless Duncan is proving to be very effective in the paint once again and there’s simply no stopping the big man when he gets his hook shot working.
On the other hand, the Blazers have that x-factor about them and if Lillard continues to knock down amazing shots, then the Blazers have every chance to cause an upset. Lillard is an amazing talent who asks for the game winning shot, a trait even the best players in the league don’t always possess. That youthful exuberance is why the Blazers are in the second round and along with Matthews, Aldridge and Batum, the Blazers could run rings around the Spurs, but lack of finals experience will ultimately sell them short in our opinion.
Series prediction: Spurs in six ($4.95) at Centrebet.com
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