In the Conference Quarterfinals, I picked seven of the eight winners, three of which were in the right amount of games (Miami, Indiana, Chicago). So, Stephen Curry led the Warriors to the Round of 8, the Clippers imploded in Game 6, and Westbrook is riding the bench with an injury. Let's jump back into some predictions.
|Photo credit: The Bleacher Report|
(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
The Thunder certainly survived a scare from the feisty Houston Rockets. How much can be credited to the loss of Russell Westbrook? Well, he certainly takes a lot of pressure off Durant offensively. With Westbrook in the line-up, it makes it so much harder for the defense to be able to double team Durant. Now, the Grizzlies were able to dismantle the Clippers with the physical combination of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Lob City just didn't have anything to match up with the two powerhouses down low, especially with Blake Griffin being hampered by an ankle injury. It'll be an interesting match up down low, since the Thunder can counter Z-Bo and Gasol with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. One major concern for the Grizzlies is where the offense will come from if OKC can shut down their frontcourt? This is a really close match up for me. When it comes to that, it's hard to go against the best player in the series: Kevin "Iceberg Slim" Durant. (I take no credit for that nickname. That's all Jalen Rose.)
Oklahoma City wins the series in 7.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
Now this is a surprise, especially for me. I had the Nuggets being all over the Warriors in the previous series. When David Lee left, I thought it was wrapped up. Well, Stephen Curry came to Golden State's rescue, carrying them to the Western Conference Semifinals. Their reward for taking down the Nuggets? A date with the well-rested San Antonio Spurs. It will be interesting to see how the Warriors will be able to respond to Duncan's presence. One of history's best power forwards, Duncan averaged just 32 minutes a game against the Lakers. So, a healthy and energized Duncan, healthy Parker, healthy Ginobli, and a bench that will do anything to win? I think that'll be too much for Golden State to overcome, especially without Lee - who averaged 20+ points and 10+ rebounds in the regular season. Curry made the league take notice, and will probably steal a game or two based on his ability to get his shot off. However, experience wins out in this one.
San Antonio wins the series in 6.
(1) Miami Heat vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
There is a whole lot of interesting storylines that come out of this series. LeBron James was just named the NBA MVP, giving him his fourth in five seasons. Earlier in the season, the Bulls ended the Heat's 27-game winning streak. In that game, James complained about overly-aggressive and violent fouls. Oh, and there are all the rumours of Derrick Rose somehow coming back in this series to challenge the NBA's defending champ. The Bulls are still fighting injuries - who knows how healthy Joakim Noah is at this point. The teams split the season series, with each winning in their opponent's gym. Plus, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has seemingly found a defense that works against this Heat team. All that being said, the Heat still have the three best players in the series. The Bulls will put up a fight, but the Heat will make it to their third straight Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami wins the series in 6.
(2) New York Knicks vs. (3) Indiana Pacers
Was the Celtics offense that bad, or were the Knicks that good? I found myself asking that question as I watched some horrendous basketball during that opening series. There were times the Knicks looked like they could challenge the Heat for the Eastern Conference title. There were other times it looked like both the Knicks and the Celtics forgot how to play basketball. The Knicks' key to the series isn't Carmelo Anthony since everyone knows he'll get his points. It'll come down to the play of J.R. Smith. When he is concentrating on basketball and not all of the after the whistle action, the Knicks should be fine. The Pacers won't be an easy out though. They have tough team defense, anchored by Roy Hibbert down the middle. For the Pacers to win, they'll need at least four strong games from Paul George. He might have to go shot for shot with Anthony, for example. If that's the case, the Pacers are in trouble. Again, it's hard to go against the best player in the series. Especially when this best player led the league in scoring.
New York wins the series in 6.
Well, there you have it. I'll be back with some predictions for the Conference Finals. Enjoy the playoff basketball. Hopefully this round will be much more exciting than the first. With these match-ups in place, that shouldn't be a problem.
Be sure to follow the new Sports by Schmucks Twitter for updates on when new articles will be posted. We've also started to live tweet some games and events. You never know which game we'll do.