Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers
This matchup intrigues me because both teams play great defense (Heat are better) and feature strong offenses that were rated . The Pacers are one of, if not the, deepest teams in the NBA, but lacks a true star--Danny Granger is very good, but like a Joe Johnson he is miscast as a franchise player. Meanwhile Miami, minus Chris Bosh who is out indefinitely with an abdominal strain, will rely on Dwyane Wade and three time MVP LeBron James, its tandem of superstars, to win games. Indiana needs to exploit an obvious mismatch in the frontcourt, where they have All-Stars Roy Hibbert and David West lined up against the likes of Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and Ronny Turiaf. They caught a big break with Bosh's injury, which further depletes Miami's already weak bench/frontcourt, but they couldn't capitalize on Bosh's absence in the second half of Game 1 and blew a nine point first half lead. Bosh was always the third wheel, anyways. Ultimately James and Wade will be too much for the Pacers to handle, as the duo showed by scoring 22 of the Heat's 25 fourth quarter points. Depth is nice for the long, grinding regular season, but in a short playoff series the teams blessed with elite players typically have the upper hand.
Heat in five
Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers
Already previewed the series in greater detail. Liked what I saw from the Celtics in the second half of Game 1, especially Rajon Rondo's relatively quiet triple double, but they have to play better tonight. The Sixers should have won but made some costly mistakes down the stretch, and their inexperience could come back to bite them. With Andre Iguodala locking down Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett will need to sustain his excellent play of late and Avory Bradley has to find a way to contribute offensively if he's going to start over Ray Allen.
Celtics in six
San Antonio Spurs vs Los Angeles Clippers
The well-rested Spurs take on the battle-weary Clippers, who barely managed to outlast the Memphis Grizzlies in a hard-fought seven game series. Chris Paul and Tony Parker both finished in the top five of the MVP voting and are clearly two of the best point guards in the game right now, so that matchup should be fun to watch. I believe Tim Duncan will do a good job of containing Blake Griffin and limiting his impact down low. Both teams have good benches, too, so in that regard neither side holds an advantage. Speaking in general terms, it's clear that San Antonio has the superior playoff pedrigree; they're polished, efficient, function much better as a unit, and can tap into a deep well of playoff experience. The Clippers, on the other hand, are rougher around the edges with their shoddy free throw shooting and suspect defense. Don't overlook the coaching matchup, either, where Greg Poppovich dominates the borderline incompetent Vinny Del Negro. This will be a good series, but I think the Spurs will be better prepared.
Spurs in six
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Lakers
The Thunder are young and rested, while the Lakers are slow and tired, but this will still be a great series to watch. The up-and-coming Thunder, poised to launch a dynasty of their own, are challenging one of the NBA's most successful franchises for supremacy in West. We get to see the top two scorers in the league, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, duke it out. With Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins the Thunder have the length and size to matchup with LA's twin towers, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and potentially neutralize them. Russell Westbrook should have his way with Ramon Sessions.
Thunder in seven