The NBA 2014 Playoffs: Semis Preview


LeBron James and Paul Pierce will battle in the playoffs for the Nth time
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(2) Miami Heat vs (6) Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn swept Miami during the regular season. All four of the games were close including a double OT game in Brooklyn. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett love playing against LBJ, Wade and the Heat. They reserve their best efforts and consequently, best games against Miami. Even Joe Johnson and Shaun Livingston have produced big numbers vs Miami. However, LeBron James and the Heat also pick up their games in the playoffs. Miami eliminated PP and KG together with Ray Allen on the Boston Celtics during 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade appeared to be healthy in their sweep of the hapless Charlotte Bobcats and that helps a lot because Wade can defend Joe Johnson or any other guards from Brooklyn. Chris Bosh has been okay but that needs to improve if Miami wants to prevail over Brooklyn. If Kevin Garnett dominates Bosh and the rest of Miami's frontcourt during his 20-25 minute stint, things will be looking good for the Nets. Overall, can the Nets win four more games versus the Heat (to make it 8 wins in one season)? That one is possible but very unlikely. Miami still has the best player in the planet and he absolutely hates Pierce and the Brooklyn Celtics. Heat in 6. 

John Wall has a H-U-G-E advantage over George Hill in their PG match-up
(1) Indiana Pacers vs (5) Washington Wizards
The Wizards quickly dispatched of the Chicago Bulls and their elite defense. Now, they will go up against the Pacers who also had an elite defense during the regular season. Indiana was shaky vs the Hawks and almost lost in the 1st round. The Pacers survived that and will play the Wizards whom they've beaten 2 out of 3 games in the regular season. Nonetheless, things have been different in the playoffs. The Wizards are playing better than the Pacers and they have the personnel and talent to defeat Indiana. Washington has a gigantic advantage with their PG John Wall while Nene has been playing well in the playoffs. Nene sorta dominated his match-up vs the most recent winner of the DPOY, Joakim Noah. I shudder to think what Nene will do to the mentally-fragile Roy Hibbert. Meanwhile, Paul George has the advantage over any SF that the Wizards can throw at him but can PG24 be their best player on both offense and defense to collect another 4 wins? There might be stretches where Paul George will be tasked to cover the agile and quick John Wall (could be faster than Jeff Teague) while initiating their offense on the other end. He may not have enough energy to do both. Unless someone else produces  for the Pacers consistently (Hill, West, Lance), the Wizards have enough weapons to defeat Indiana. That was something Atlanta did not have due to the injury of Al Horford. Wizards in 6. 


Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin will battle in the 2nd Round 

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (3) Los Angeles Clippers
So, the Clippers survived a grueling 7 games vs the Warriors. Up next, maybe another 7 games against a team that also hates their guts, the OKC Thunder. They split the season series at 2-2 and both teams are evenly matched. This series will have lots of match-ups to monitor. First is the PG duel between Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul which will be amazing to watch. At one end, you have a combo guard who shoots first and shoots second, while the other guard is your traditional pass-first PG. Next, the Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka heavyweight bout will also be a joy to watch. Those two have bad blood brewing and it will surprise me if nothing happens between them. A decent under-card will be the combo of Glen Davis and DeAndre Jordan going up against Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins. More pushing, taunting and shoving will manifest during this series but hopefully no ejections or suspensions. Overall, Kevin Durant cannot be guarded by anyone of the Clippers (no disrespect to Matt Barnes). If KD plays like "Mr. Reliable" instead of being unreliable, the Thunder will advance to the WCF. Thunder in 7. 

LaMarcus Aldridge is arguably the best PF in the playoffs while Tim Duncan is the best PF in NBA history
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (5) Portland Trailblazers 
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker vs LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. This will be a fun and exciting series even if the Spurs are playing in it. LMA has been the dominant PF during the playoffs and it will be a huge challenge for him to constantly outplay Tim Duncan. Meanwhile, Tony Parker will have his hands full containing Damian Lillard who has been shooting well especially in the clutch. However, Parker can also attack Lillard because Dame is still a subpar defender at his position. Lillard can hit more threes while Parker is a beast when it comes to penetrating the paint. The PF and PG match-ups could balance each other out which shifts the focus to supporting players. Here, the Spurs have the advantage especially since they have a deeper bench compared to the Blazers. Manu Ginobili has been fantastic off the bench and he isn't alone. The Spurs are getting solid production from Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Marco Bellinelli. The Spurs exhibit a more patient offense and they play good defense which are both upgrades compared to Houston whom the Blazers defeated. On the other hand, Portland continues to receive inconsistent production from their bench. Still, Lillard and Aldridge have been spectacular in the 1st round and they could score in bunches. Can they do that every time and get 4 wins? I'm not convinced yet.  Spurs in 7. 

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