NBA Playoffs Second Round: Picks and Predictions by OLF

NBA-Playoffs-2013-second-round

That was one heck of a first round for the 2013 NBA Playoffs, and many were caught by surprise—including us, as most of our picks missed their mark (for the record, we’re blaming injuries). Well, the second round is upon us, and here we are to dish out some more predictions for the upcoming conference semifinals.

Western Conference

[1] Oklahoma City Thunder vs. [5] Memphis Grizzlies

RB: To say that Russel Westbrook’s season-ending injury is devastating to OKC’s title hopes is an understatement. Sure, Kevin Durant is the main man, but it is Westbrook who makes the Thunder go. His energy and relentlessness keeps any defense on its heels, and that helps open things up for Durant. OKC has already felt Westbrook’s absence in the last four games of their series against the Houston Rockets. They’ll feel it even more against the Memphis Grizzlies.

OKC’s offense struggled at times against Houston’s so-so defense because Durant was the only credible threat. Memphis will make scoring even more difficult. The Grizzlies have players who can bother Durant, and they have an anchor in Marc Gasol, who just recently won the Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Grizzlies’ stingy defense and their balanced offense should be enough to bring them to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

My pick: Memphis in 6

Ryan: With the injury of Russel Westbrook, the Thunder’s mojo took a major hit. Kevin Durant managed to be so efficient in the regular season because of Westbrook’s dynamic play, and we all saw how Durant almost blew up when the opposing team’s pressure focused solely on him. It’s troubling to see him lose composure when guys like Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia bodied him up and denied him the ball.

Memphis proved against the Los Angeles Clippers that it can grind any team into submission. Steady play on both sides, and guys are stepping up. Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, heck, Tay Prince (who could also spoil Durant’s fun)—the Grizzlies have players aside from their main guys (Randolph, Gasol, Conley) who can really help any given night. This is going to be a tough one for the Thunder, simply because the Grizzlies are deeper and grittier and more balanced.

If OKC wants to pull off a series win, they need Durant to go beyond what he’s already done. OKC is vulnerable, and now is the time to strike for this up-and-coming Grizzlies team.

My pick: OKC in 7, but really, I think it can go both ways.

[2] San Antonio Spurs vs. [6] Golden State Warriors

RB: Steph Curry and Golden State’s other shooters were spectacular in the series against Denver. I don’t know if they can continue to shoot that well against San Antonio. Andrew Bogut, finally healthy again, has shown what he’s still capable of on both ends of the court. I’m not sure if he can be as effective against a resurgent Tim Duncan. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green played about as well as rookies could in a playoff series. I don’t know if they can be as effective in the second round.

What I’m trying to say is that the things that the Warriors did to win against Denver don’t seem to be sustainable, which means San Antonio should be the overwhelming favorite to win this series. But the way the Warriors played in the first round kind of makes you think that maybe, just maybe, they could sustain it. They probably won’t, so I’m picking the Spurs to win. However, I won’t be shocked if the Dubs pull off the upset.

My pick: San Antonio in 6

Ryan: The Spurs disposed of the Lakers quite easily, with Pop saying that it just wasn’t a fair contest from the start without Kobe and then without Nash and the others who got injured along the way. They’re going to make it tough for Curry to get the kinds of looks he got in the Denver series, and who knows if he can even stay that hot from beyond the arc?

It’s nice to see the Warriors win another series, and as underdogs yet again. However, they won’t have it as good once they take the floor against the Spurs. Steph Curry is still nursing a bad ankle (he perpetually is), and David Lee’s not really ready yet with that hip flexor. Andrew Bogut played really well against Denver, but he’ll be facing the ‘miracle’ (Pops’ words, not mine) that is Tim Duncan this time, instead of the platoon of Koufos/McGee/Randolph.

My pick: Spurs in 6

Eastern Conference

[1] Miami Heat vs. [5] Chicago Bulls

RB:The Chicago Bulls showed great guts and heart, winning Game 7 on the road in Brooklyn with what is basically a makeshift lineup. Guts and heart won’t be enough against the juggernaut that is known as the Miami Heat, though.

Sure, the Bulls stopped the Heat’s 27-game win streak. But I just don’t see how they can beat this Heat team four times out of seven. There’s just not enough talent there whether Derrick Rose plays or not. Tip of the hat to Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls, but this is where the road ends for them.

My pick: Miami in 5

Ryan: The Chicago Bulls showed great heart in beating the Brooklyn Nets, but the Miami Heat are on a whole ‘nother level. It’s been a while since 4-time MVP LeBron James and company last played, and even then the Bucks never really posed a big challenge for them, so that might be something going in favor of the Bulls. However, the Heat have shown that they can simply switch their games on anytime they want, and before long, they will get the hang of this gritty, defensive-minded Chicago team.

Then again, let’s not count the Bulls out just yet—they’ve really displayed a lot of guts (literally and figuratively), and they have beaten this Heat team before. Also, don’t expect Derrick Rose to return soon, but if he does, it could give the Bulls a boost. He owes it to his injured teammates who are playing through pain and delivering wins for Tom Thibodeau. This team is too depleted, though, and they’re heading into the series tired as heck.

My pick: Heat in 6

[2] New York Knicks vs. [3] Indiana Pacers

RB:My fears about the Knicks offense surfaced in the last few games of their series against the Celtics. Too dependent on Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith isolations, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler being non-factors, and not enough support from the bench. Things will get worse against Indiana’s defense. Granted, the Pacers have offensive struggles of their own, but their defense should help them keep the Knicks at bay.

This series should be fun, and it probably will be very physical. You know, like pretty much all of the Knicks-Pacers series in the 90s.

My pick: Indiana in 6

Ryan: With the way they played against the Celtics, I’m still not convinced this Knicks team can challenge Miami. Then again, the Pacers also got blown out by the Hawks for a couple of games before winning the last two, so this series could be a free-for-all. If the Knicks can get hot, they’ll beat the Pacers. However, I think Indy is definitely better on perimeter defense overall compared to the Celtics, which should make it a challenge for the Knicks’ shooters. I’m picking Paul George to step it up over Melo, though, and I do think Indiana has the tools to pull off an upset.

My pick: Indiana in 6

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