2012 NBA Playoffs: Second Round Quick Picks

The Heat, Celtics, Spurs, and Thunder are my picks
to go past the second round.

Miami Heat (2) vs Indiana Pacers (3)
As of this writing, Miami is up 1-0 in this series. As of this writing, Chris Bosh has also been declared “out indefinitely” because of an abdominal injury. And now, suddenly, things get pretty interesting. The Pacers have always been a threat, mind you. They have a bona fide All-Star in Roy Hibbert, two borderline All-Stars in David West and Danny Granger, and a potential All-Star in Paul George. It’s a very good team. They’ve also been very opportunistic. Indiana’s rise to the 3rd seed is the result of a confluence of events – the condensed season giving them fewer games against West teams, and injuries everywhere have crippled the depth of other “stronger” teams. Now they find themselves in the second round for the first time since the Miller-time era. Sadly, even without Bosh, Miami will stop the Pacers here. After being crowned the MVP for the 3rd time in his career, I’m pretty sure LeBron James will take this chance to dominate Indiana. Both he and Dwyane Wade will get more possessions than usual, and they should be more productive. Like what some people say, the Heat, at this
point, may actually be more dangerous without Chris Bosh. Now, for the Pacers to extend this series to a 6th or even 7th game, they have to make every game a statement game. But that won’t happen. Miami in 5.

Boston Celtics (4) vs Philadelphia 76ers (8)
Like Indiana, Philly has benefitted from the condensed season and a relatively healthy roster. Yes, Spencer Hawes went down for most of the season, but they were still able to keep abreast of the East’s top teams and, for a while, even seemed like they had a lock on the Atlantic Division pennant. They also benefitted from a crazy spate of injuries that befell the Chicagi Bulls, which eventually helped the Sixers free throw their way into the second round. A fellow blogger has billed this match-up as a battle between youth and experience, which I agree with. I believe, however, quite naively perhaps, that this is also a battle between great young players and the heroes they watched/worshipped growing up. For guys like Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Vucevic, Jodie Meeks, and Thaddeus Young, watching guys like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce must have been some sort of pastime in their adolescence. Now, they get a chance to play against, or maybe even oust, their childhood heroes from playoff contention. Will it happen, though? I don’t think so. I believe Boston believes it still has one really good run in them, and they won’t let some upstarts from Philly take that away. I also believe Rajon Rondo and his boys know they’re the only legitimate threat standing between Miami and the Eastern Conference title. So, for all that is good in this world, I’m rooting for Boston here. Celtics in 6.

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs LA Clippers (5)
The Spurs should win Game 1 because they’re a deeper team, they don’t have any serious injuries of note, and the Clips are still recovering from their 7-game Calvary against Memphis. And the Spurs should basically not let this last for more than six games since, again, they’re a much deeper team, and Lob City is just hobbled by a handful of ailing starts. We all know Chauncey Billups is out, Caron Butler has a fractured left hand, Blake Griffin strained his left knee, and Chris Paul strained his hip flexor. Even with a technically intact roster, LA would be hard-pressed to beat San Antonio four times out of seven. Now that many of their key pieces aren’t 100%, the Clippers’ chances fall even further. Still, it should be interesting to see how MVP candidate Tony Parker will match-up against Paul, and how LA’s younger bigs try to tackle the four-headed beast that is Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, and DeJuan Blair. And if they do solve that puzzle, can they solve yet another one – the sniping squad composed of Stephen Jackson, Gary Neal, Danny Green, and a healthy Manu Ginobili? San Antonio in 6.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs LA Lakers (3)
This could be the official changing of the guard, or another addition to Kobe Bryant’s ever-expanding lore. It’ll be OKC’s big three (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden) against LA’s big three (Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum), with OKC having its kicker in Serge Ibaka, and LA having its own defensive demon, Metta World Punch (yes, that’s gonna stick). Yes, Derek Fisher will play a big part, too. I predict he’ll be hitting at least ONE BIG SHOT against the Lakers. I also predict Metta and Harden are gonna have a melee before we have a Game 4. By all indications, this series should the Thunders’ for the taking, but if the Lakers can manage to make its big three click simultaneously for four games, then maybe an upset is in the making. But, well, with Mike Brown calling the shots, my confidence in LA is muted. Unless Metta picks a different target and gives either KD or Jet Zero some elbow music. Boom, talk about a series-changer. OKC in 6.

Game Recaps:

BOS over PHI, 92-91
Rajon Rondo recorded his eighth career playoff triple-double on Saturday and guided the Celtics to a 92-91 win over the 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Rondo finished with 13 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds and helped Boston overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. Kevin Garnett added 29 points and 11 rebounds for the fourth-seeded Celtics, who defeated the Hawks in six games to advance to the second round for the fifth straight season. Andre Iguodala, who sent the eighth-seeded 76ers into the second round with a pair of last-second free throws on Thursday, scored a team-high 19 points in the loss. Game 2 is set for Monday in Boston.

LAL over DEN, 96-87
It took seven games and a series of trials but the Los Angeles Lakers finally put away the Denver Nuggets. On the cusp of elimination, the sixth-seeded Nuggets stormed back with two straight wins and held a lead in the fourth quarter on Saturday, but the Lakers persevered, getting 23 points, 17 rebounds and six assists from Pau Gasol en route to a 96-87 victory. Los Angeles, seeded third, will visit the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday in the Western Conference semifinals. Al Harrington and Ty Lawson scored 24 points apiece for the Nuggets, who fell just one victory short of their first-ever series win over the Lakers.

LAC over MEM, 82-72
Chris Paul set the pace with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and the LA Clippers ousted the Memphis Grizzlies, 82-72, in an intensely physical Western Conference quarterfinal Game 7 on Sunday. It was the first Game 7 victory, and just the third playoff series win, in the franchise's 42-year history. The Clippers' reserves were critical down the stretch, posting all but two of the team's 27 fourth quarter points. Kenyon Martin, Mo Williams and Nick Young combined to finish with 33 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol scored 19 points apiece, but Mike Conley shot just 2-of-13 from the floor and the team managed a dismal 25-of-77 mark, including missing all 13 of their three-point attempts. The Clippers advance to face the top-seeded Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals beginning on Tuesday night in San Antonio.

Marc Gasol cries his way out of the Playoffs.
(image by Mark Humphrey/AP)

MIA over IND, 95-86
Newly-minted NBA MVP LeBron James had 32 points, 15 rebounds and five assists on Sunday and the Heat grinded out a 95-86 win over the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The game was tied after three quarters, but Miami opened the fourth with an 8-2 run and never relinquished the lead after that. Dwyane Wade added 29 points for the second-seeded Heat, who defeated the Knicks in five games to advance to the second round. They have won 13 straight playoff home games versus Eastern Conference opponents. Chris Bosh scored 13 points but suffered a lower abdominal strain shortly before halftime and did not return. David West and Roy Hibbert both recorded a double-double for the Pacers, who also won their opening series in five games, downing the Dwight Howard-less Magic to reach the second round for the first time since 2005. Game 2 is set for Tuesday in Miami.

Can the Pacers stretch the Heat to more than 5 games?
(image by Wilfredo Lee/AP)

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from Reuters, the Associated Press and the Sports Network.

**Cover image was compressed by Hoop Nut, but the pictures were by Marc Serota, Brian Babeneau, Steve Dykes, and Ronald Martinez, who are all from Getty Images.
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