The Chicago Bulls wrapped up a thrilling first round of the NBA’s postseason on Saturday by beating the Brooklyn Nets in game seven, setting up a second round date with the defending champion Miami Heat. Now, there are just eight teams vying for the 2013 NBA title and only four will advance to the conference finals. Who will those four be? Let’s take a closer look at each match-up.
#1 Miami Heat vs. #5 Chicago Bulls
Many are already handing the 2013 championship to the Heat, especially after their impressive sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks in round one, but the Bulls have been one team that has given the South Beach boys some trouble with their ultra-physical play.
After winning two of four games against the Heat during the regular season, the Bulls proved they can hang with the league’s best. Of course, now they’ll have to do it on the big stage and against a Heat team that is as hot as ever. Can the Bulls pull off the postseason’s biggest upset?
#2 New York Knicks vs. #3 Indiana Pacers
Both the Knicks and Pacers dominated the beginning of their first round series against the Celtics and Hawks, respectively, but the had some trouble closing out their opponents, exposing some flaws that each will look to exploit in their battle against one another.
With J.R. Smith receiving a one-game suspension, missing game-four, he not only put his team at a disadvantage, but he also showed a lack of composure and maturity. If the Knicks are going to beat the Pacers, they’ll need all of their best players on the floor in crunch time and they’ll need to keep cool heads in the most intense moments.
Meanwhile, the Pacers struggled mightily away from their home floor in the opening series and the bad news for them is that New York has the home court edge in this series. Can Indiana alleviate their road woes and defeat the Knicks?
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies
After taking a 3-0 series lead against the Rockets in round one, the Thunder looked like an instoppable force that was destined for the NBA Finals, but after losing star guard Russell Westbrook to injury, they struggled to close out Houston and now their 2013 playoff future is a little hazier.
On the other side of the floor, the Grizzlies are just starting to hit their stride. Their highly-touted defense woke up during game three of their series with the Clippers, sparking a four-game winning streak to close out L.A. in six games. Now, the Grizzlies look like they could be the dark horse pick in the West, but will Kevin Durant’s determination to reach the finals be enough to stop them?
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #6 Golden State Warriors
After another stellar regular season, the Spurs picked up right where they left off in the first round of the playoffs against the injury-ridden Lakers, eliminating them in a four-game sweep with double-digit victories in each game. The Spurs proved to be one of the deepest and most disciplined teams in the playoff field, not to mention the most experienced.
Their second round opponent is short on experience, but big on talent. The Warriors pulled off the only true shocker of the first round, knocking off three-seed Denver in six games, but with a reliance on outside shooting, will the Warriors stay hot enough to compete with the venerable Spurs?
With four great series to check out, which one are you looking forward to watching most?