Welcome back to the Post Up! The first round of the playoffs was nothing short of spectacular and I am confident in saying that I think we will see more excitement to come over the month of basketball. But, let us not jump ahead of ourselves. I personally examined the first round and ended up being right on 3 of the 4 teams, not too shabby. I also made sure to state that the Bulls might lose if Nenê shows up, which he did big time. So let’s be honest here, I did a pretty good job with my predictions so I figured, “Let’s go again!” and look at the second round match-ups in the Eastern Conference.
Match-up one: Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards
The Set Up:
Well I may have picked the Indiana Pacers to make it to this point in the playoffs, but boy at the end of it I sure wasn’t feeling them. Heck, I even said in an article I wrote last week that they would end up losing Game 7 to the Hawks! However, by the grace of God or whatever you believe, the Pacers managed to squeak through into the next round. I am going to make something very clear to some individuals that I know are hating, but Paul George has been sublime in the playoffs. Don’t believe me? Then look me in the eye and tell me 23.9 PPG, 10.7 REB, 4.6 AST, 2.4 STL, 46% FG and 40% 3PT is bad. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Regardless while George has been playing very, very well, the rest of the Pacers (cough Roy Hibbert cough) have not. They still are struggling mightily as a team and even though they won their match-up against the Hawks, they hardly have any momentum on their side.
The Washington Wizards on the other hand are on cloud nine. Most (including myself) expected them to get bounced easily by the Bulls in the first round, but boy did they prove us all wrong. But, if I may toot my own horn again, I did say that this could be a different series depending on Nenê and that came to be true. Nenê absolutely torched the DPOY in Noah. But, Nenê is not the sole reason to the Wizards success. Much like what we saw last year in Curry and Thompson, the Wizards in the heat of the playoffs showed us an emerging young back court that could be a force to come over the next 5 years. Wall, as I predicted, played great and Beal is showing us all finally why he was a lottery pick. The praise does not stop there however, the Wizards as a whole looked very good and could arguably be the most complete team in the East. The Wizards are rested and are riding a lot of momentum into their next round match-up.
What it Boils Down To:
Roy Hibbert and Bradley Beal
I am going to keep this short, because I already wrote a few articles in which I have talked about Roy Hibbert and what he has done in the second half of the season, as well as in the playoffs. Anyway, the fact of the matter is that Roy Hibbert needs to pick up his jock strap and start earning his keep. If he does not pick up his play and continues to be an issue for the Pacers, Vogel needs to bench him and go for a front court that consists of West and Scola. Hibbert is crucial, not in an offensive way, but defensively and if he struggled as bad as he did against Millsap and Antic, then Gortat and Nenê will be an even bigger issue and headache for not only Hibbert, but the Pacers as a whole.
Bradley Beal is the big x-factor for the Wizards for really only one reason, can he keep it up? Nenê was the first round factor for the Wizards because no one knew how he would come back and in what role he would come back in. Nenê came back and looked extremely good, and healthy and that is big for him. Unless something crazy happens, Nenê should be a for sure thing for the Wizards the rest of the way. What is not a for sure thing is Beal. Sure Beal played well, I will give him that. But, he is only in his second year and he has never played in the playoffs before. With how big and clutch he was playing against the Bulls, I cannot image the pressure getting to him. But, the fact of the matter remains is that he is young and it can happen. The same argument can be made for Wall, but with Wall I feel that this year he has been very cool and collected, and even looked that way in the playoffs. He seems as if he is better suited to handle the pressure which is why Beal is the big x-factor for the Wizards.
Washington Wizards in 7
Yeahhhhhh buddy, upset city….eh not really. As I stated before, I think that the Pacers are not what they were earlier and that will hurt them. They went to 7 games against the Hawks, and the Hawks are nowhere near as complete a team as the Wizards are. With that being said, I also think that Hibbert will continue to struggle. He will become even weaker and more broken when the tandem of Nenê and Gortat start to light him up. I also believe that the Magic Brothers (new coined nickname by me) of Wall and Beal will NOT crumble under the pressure or lack of experience and will actually come up huge in this match-up. The Pacers will give them a fight because of all the weapons they have and the great coaching of Frank Vogel, but ultimately the match-ups and lack of defense, mainly by Hibbert, will catch up to this already demoralized Pacers team and the Wizards will be moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals!
Match-up two: Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Set Up:
The Miami Heat come into this series with a business as usual approach. They lucked out big time in the first round with Al Jefferson getting hurt, or else they could have been in for a slightly tougher, and definitely more draining series. The Heat, and especially LeBron, played very well in the first round and did not see any issues. They will have some momentum coming into this match-up, but one thing that every player on the Heat will be more than aware of is the intensity that will be seen in this match-up.
The Brooklyn Nets had a much tougher fight on their hands then I thought they would have against the Raptors. But all credit to the Raptors for making it an enjoyable and tough series, but for the Nets, making it a tougher series could be a good and bad thing. It is a bad thing because this very old Nets team could be a little tired and slow come the first game of the match-up, the game which is usually the easiest to win against the Heat. The good thing about this is that this had to give the Nets a lot of confidence. The Raptors were a very young and athletic team, who can put up points in a hurry. They are very similar, though not the exact same, to the Heat and therefore the Nets have to feel pretty good about the match-up that they are heading into.
What it Boils Down To:
Dwayne Wade and Paul Pierce
I was torn between using the same x-factor for the Heat in this match-up as in the last one, but ultimately I decided to stick with it. I thought about using the heat big men as the x-factor, but the fact of the matter is that the Nets big men have not been great and therefore I think that the match-up it relatively even. Dwayne Wade will always be my x-factor for the Heat because no one expect Wade knows if he is healthy. Sure, he may say he is healthy and look it, but any basketball fan knows that with Wade that can change in an instant. The sweep of the Bobcats helps, but Wade is and will always be a ticking time bomb for the rest of his career. It is the same song and dance as before, if he can go then the Heat are going far, if he can’t I don’t think LeBron has enough to carry this team to the next round.
Deron Williams was the x-factor for the Nets in the first round, and he showed up and played very well for the Nets. Someone who people say that played well, because of the press, but really did not was Paul Pierce. I could focus on KG, who arguably played worse, but I want to focus on Pierce because he will be crucial for the Nets against the Heat. Pierce averaged 13 points a game against the Raptors, and that will not cut it against the Heat. Pierce is still going to need to shoot around 46%, like he did, but he needs to raise that point total. For a team like the Heat that can absolutely torch a team wit scoring, the Nets need to make sure they have all hands on deck and Pierce has to help lead the way, along with Joe Johnson in scoring for the Nets. If Pierce cannot pick up his game then this could be a shorter series than the Nets would like.
Brooklyn in 7
This one truly is, UPSET CITYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!! Personally, I think that the Nets are nearly the perfect team in the East to play the Heat in the playoffs this year. They can score, play decent defense, are a good all around team, and most importantly they are gritty and hard-nosed. This Nets team can get under your skin and for a player like LeBron, and a team like the Heat who are known to get rather, heated (pun COMPLETELY intend) when teams try to get under their skin, it can prove to be a very rough and tough series for the Heat. The way the Heat played in the first round will not fly here. The Nets will pound them inside, but still have enough to shoot your lights out some nights. Now of course the Heat have LBJ so this will be no walk in the park, but ultimately the Nets will prevail and move on to play the Wizards in the Eastern Conference Finals (wouldn’t that be awesome?).
There you have it, my very ambitious predictions for the second round of the playoffs. So do you agree? Do you not? What do you think will happened? Let us know by commenting and giving us feedback on everything and anything we do. We also ask that you Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe on Reddit.
All stats and information courtesy of espn.com