With the NBA playoffs halfway done, upsets continued in the second round, with Memphis defeating Oklahoma City, and Indiana defeating New York. This round will feature appearances by teams that have not made it to the conference finals in several years. Memphis will be making their first conference finals appearance. This should set up for some exciting basketball as we head into summer. The games will start the week of May 19and continue through the week of May 26. Here are my predictions and analysis for the NBA Conference Finals.
Eastern Conference (Begins May 22):
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers/ New York Knicks
Things to think about going in:
Miami: After losing game in one to the depleted Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat turned up the energy to win the next four. They managed to score only 97 points per game in the series, and LeBron James managed only 23.6 points and shot only 41% for the series. Miami will face a much better offensive and defensive team in the Indiana Pacers, so they need to be ready to step up to the challenge. Their offense will need to be more efficient if they hope to keep advancing in the playoffs.
Indiana: After upsetting the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers will face a much better defensive team in the Miami Heat, which means they will have to be on their game and executing on offense. They have all the tools to contain James and Dwayne Wade, with forward Paul George and Lance Stephenson being their best perimeter defenders. Look for Indiana to slow things down and not let the Heat get out in transition.
Outlook: This will be a tough and physical series, plain and simple. I think both Wade and James will be held in check and the Pacers’ size will overwhelm the Heat’s front line. Bench play will be key as Indiana had one of the better benches in the league during the regular season. Indiana wins the series 4-2.
Western Conference (Started on May 19):
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Things to think about going in:
San Antonio: The San Antonio Spurs proved that experience still beats youth any day of the week, defeating the Golden State Warriors in six games. Point guard Tony Parker has shown that he is still one of the elite players at his position, averaging 22.5 points and 6.2 assists per game against the Warriors. Center Tim Duncan also showed he still has some game left by averaging 19.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. The Spurs will have to continue to execute on offense like they do if they hope to get past Memphis’ stingy defense and advance to the NBA Finals.
Memphis: The Memphis Grizzlies continued to shock the world by beating the number one seed Oklahoma City Thunder. The Grizzlies showed the entire NBA how blue collar and team basketball is played, shutting down the league’s best scorer in Kevin Durant. Memphis was led by their trio of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. Randolph averaged 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and the Grizzlies are the only team in the postseason with three scorers in the top 20 of the league.
Outlook: I expect a very competitive series with low scoring and defensive battles. Experience will factor in, as the Spurs play in their eight conference finals in 15 years, while the Grizzlies will be in their first in franchise history. This will be a back and forth series with both teams playing hard and smart. San Antonio wins the series 4-2.
Follow me on twitter @Lower_Merion33 for playoff updates.