WashingtonWizards.com editors Jacob Raim and Jeremy Hyman break down the other matchups around the NBA.
First Round: Jeremy (6-1) | Jacob (4-3)
Second Round: Jeremy (3-0) | Jacob (3-0)
Third Round: Jeremy (2-0) | Jacob (1-1)
Heat vs. Spurs
Jacob: Nothing would really surprise me in this series, apart from one of these teams blowing out the other. If there is one thing I would say I can predict with a fair amount of certainty, it's that this series will not be a short one. This iteration of the Spurs seems to be slightly improved from last year with Ginobili in particular playing at a much higher level and their depth is improved. Slightly improved might be just enough as they were seconds away from winning last year. The big question mark for the Spurs and in this series in general is how healthy is Tony Parker? He's the engine that makes this Spurs team go and on many nights is their best player. Without him at 100% this series gets dicey. It's tough to pick this series without knowing his true status but that's what we're faced with. For the Spurs to win, they simply need a dominant Parker. They will also need to continue to move the ball like they have been this whole playoffs and shoot well enough to compensate for Miami's incredibly disruptive defense, both things which a healthy Parker makes much more likely. I'd say they need to limit James, but that may not be possible, so the things that are in there control are limiting turnovers so Miami doesn't get out on the break, and also making sure they don't get too many easy second chance buckets. Miami scores so well as it is, giving them free baskets could give them the series.
For Miami to win this series, the Heat will have to find a way to contain Parker and Duncan, limit Leonard's space and give zero room on the perimeter to gunners Ginobili and Green. That's a stiff task Wade has been tremendous so far and he's going to have to keep that up for another seven games to continue to take some pressure off James and create some space for him. But really, does James even need help? The way he's playing, it's very, very difficult for me to envision a scenario where James loses four games. With Parker potentially not at full strength, it makes it that much more difficult and makes me lean towards Miami. The Spurs may be deeper, but the Heat have the best weapons in this series. Heat in 7
Heat vs. Pacers
Jacob: This is a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals which the Heat won in seven games. Miami has yet to be tested during the postseason, having lost just one game combined during the first two rounds against the Bobcats and the Nets. The Pacers meanwhile, have played two tough series, and have played four more games than Miami over the same time frame. Paul George against LeBron James will be the matchup that everyone wants to see, and right now James is playing better than anybody else in the NBA. His PER of 32 is far better than anybody else's this postseason. For the Pacers to be competitive, George is going to have to figure out some way of slowing him down. Easier said then done. Wade and Stephenson will be another great matchup, which Wade should have the edge in if he's healthy. If he's not, Stephenson could bully him and create problems for Miami. Wade sure did look healthy in game 5 against the Nets. This will be a hard fought series, but the Pacers won't have enough to keep up with James and the Heat in the end. Heat in 6
Jeremy: Even though the Pacers took a longer than expected journey to get there, they did enough to make it and now we get the Eastern Conference Finals matchup we all predicted back in January.
The Pacers are a tough team to gauge. At times they look like a championship contender, but they also were blown our three separate times at home this postseason. Twice by the Hawks and once by the Wizards. That usually doesn't happen to championship caliber teams.
If they have any shot they'll need Roy Hibbert, David West and their bench to be physical inside and put an imprint on the series. They have experience and will certainly play with purpose, but will it be enough to overcome the Heat?
On the other side, Miami got to play a Bobcats team with a banged up Al Jefferson and breezed through Charlotte before beating the Nets in five games. Miami has looked vulnerable at times and D Wade isn't what he once was, but it's going to be hard to pick against the two-time defending champs in this series. Heat in 5
Thunder vs. Spurs
Jacob: What a tough series to call, this one should have just about everything. Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs young star, will be the key to this series, as for the Spurs to win, they cannot let Durant go nuts every single game. The Spurs have struggled at times with hyper athletic teams and the Thunder have that in spades. Parker's ankle sprain, however minor, could be a giant problem in keeping up with Westbrook, who despite the criticism he faces, is playing at an incredibly high level. Of course on the OKC side, Ibaka is out for the rest of the playoffs. That is a huge loss for them on both ends, as he's been a very efficient player on offense and would also have been tasked with guarding Duncan. A lot of that could now fall to rookie Steven Adams, who had a huge game 6 against LA and is a tough young player. Speaking of Duncan, he and Ginobili are still playing fantastic, and the Spurs capitalize on other team's mistakes better than anybody. The Thunder have limited their mistakes this postseason though, and forced a lot from Chris Paul and the Clippers. OKC won all four regular season matchups, and they'll find a way to win another four here, though it won't be easy without Ibaka. Thunder in 7
Jeremy: The Thunder were just given a devastating blow to their front court as Serge Ibaka was ruled out for the playoffs. That's a major loss to a Thunder team that probably would have been the underdogs in the series anyway. They still have their two-headed monster in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but losing Ibaka will hurt them on both ends of the court.
After the Mavs took them to seven games, the Spurs cruised past the Blazers in five and now look like the favorites to come out of the west again. They are more than experienced and know exactly what it takes to win in the postseason. Their offense looks as smooth as ever and as long as Tony Parker is not hampered by a sore hamstring, they are the pick to represent the west for the second straight year. Spurs in 6
Spurs vs. Blazers
Jacob: The Blazers are the young upstarts while the Spurs are old guard. The Blazers may have the best pick and roll duo in the NBA with Lillard and Aldridge, but they can't match the depth and experience of the Spurs. The point guard play will be phenomenal with the young Lillard going up against the veteran Parker. Lillard has clearly shown a penchant for clutch moments, highlighted by series winning buzzer beater against Houston, but he will have to go up against a much stronger defense in San Antonio than he saw in Houston. Spurs in 6
Jeremy: The Blazers are a fun team to watch and have two of the most gifted players in the league today in Dame Liillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The shot Lillard hit to send them to this series was one we'll watch for years to come. The Spurs just keep on winning. Year after year, their players get older but don't seem to show it and they still are a favorite to win it all this year. This should be a fun series and one that could go seven games. Spurs in 7
Thunder vs. Clippers
Jacob: While Westbrook and Paul will have a classic battle, the issue for the Clippers will be not having an answer for Durant. LA does not have a defensive stopper on the wing like Memphis had in Tony Allen, and Durant could explode offensively in this series. Griffin will have his hands full with Ibaka, who did a solid job of Randolph during the first round, holding him to 40% shooting before being suspended for game 7. This series will have no shortage of points, but the Thunder play better defense and will get the series. Thunder in 7
Jeremy: Lots of star power in this one and lots of offensive firepower. These two teams can run and gun with anyone and this series will probably end up leading the league in SpotsCenter's Top 10 plays. I still think the Thunder are the most dangerous team when they are right because of Durant and I'm picking them to advance to the Conference Finals. Thunder in 7
Nets vs. Heat
Jacob: While the Nets got all four regular season matchups, the Heat are built for the postseason and have had a week of rest, while the Nets have been through a hard fought 7 game series with the Raptors. It's possible and perhaps likely that James, Wade and Bosh will be the three best players in this series. The Nets are a team that is built around beating the Heat, with Pierce being a guy that has gotten the better of James before, but it hasn't happened in a postseason series since 2010. James was dominant against MKG and Charlotte averaging 30 points per game. Wade looked pretty healthy, wasn't overused and has now had a week off after averaging 17.5 points per game. The Heat will be too much for the Nets. Heat in 6
Jeremy: A lot is being made that the Nets beat the Heat four times this season, which included two games in Miami. While that is an impressive feat against the two-time defending champs, that's still the regular season. The playoffs are a completely different animal and while I think this series could be extended into six or seven games, I won't pick it. I think the Nets get a game and no more than that. Heat in 5
Pacers vs. Hawks
Jacob: Yes the Pacers have struggled of late. But there is simply too much talent on Indiana for an upset to occur. The Pacers still play great defense and the Hawks are still missing Al Horford. If Roy Hibbert gets it together during this series, the Pacers could go back to being a threat for the title just like that. Pacers in 5
Jeremy: This could actually be more interesting than we would have thought about six weeks ago. With that said, the Pacers managed to find their way in the last few games of the regular season, which included a win over a loaded Thunder roster. If the Hawks were completely healthy and had Al Horford, maybe they have a slim chance, but they've been depleted all season and just don't have enough to beat the Pacers four times. Could they get a game? Yes, but I don't think they do. Pacers in 4
Heat vs. Bobcats
Jacob: I think Al Jefferson gives the Heat a ton of trouble, to the point where they are sending doubles at him on just about every possession, but it's not nearly enough to get by James and Miami. But if Jefferson is unstoppable, MKG can at least contain James and Walker steals a game by getting crazy hot...not quite yet for Charlotte. The Heat look very ready for another deep playoff run. Heat in 5
Jeremy: Another series that if you would have jotted down at the beginning of the season, you'd give the Cats zero chance of winning. And while nor myself or any other pundits will pick the Bobcats to win, I think this will be an intriguing series. The Cats are playing very well right now and Al Jefferson is as good a big man as you'll find in the NBA. The Heat don't really have anyone who can stop him and I think the Bobcats beat Miami twice in the series. But, that's not enough to win a best-of-7 series and the Heat still have 'The Big 3' and are the two-time defending champs. Heat in 6
Raptors vs. Nets
Jacob: Yes, the Nets have all the experience, and yes their squad on paper is phenomenal. There is just something about this Raptors team though that makes me lean towards them, especially that scary backcourt of Derozan and Lowry. The Nets are also missing Lopez, who would be tasked with Valanciunas, who took his game to another level late in the season. This was the toughest first round series for me to pick, and I have Derozan and Lowry winning the backcourt matchup with Williams and Johnson, and therefore the series. Raptors in 7
Jeremy: This one could be interesting because the Nets backed their way into the six seed to get the Raptors, which some thought it was a way to avoid Chicago in the first round. The Raptors are no fluke and have a lot of talent, especially in the backcourt. I really like their team and think they play great team basketball. Nobody really knows what to expect from the Nets and how much they'll get out of the aging Kevin Garnett. If they had Brook Lopez healthy, it may be easier to pick them, but without him in the middle they could have trouble stopping Valunciunas. I'm going to go with my gut here and say the Nets manage to win in 7 in a very tight series with a few overtime games played. Nets in 7.
Spurs vs. Mavs
Jacob: The Spurs look so good, and are my pick to win it all right now (I know I'm really going out on a limb). The ageless three of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili still look great while Leonard has emerged as a star in his own right, plus the role players like Green, Bellinelli and Mills have all stepped up. Nowitzki will give the Spurs all they can handle of course but it won't be enough. I don't think the Mavs get a game. Spurs in 4
Jeremy: Every series in the West should be entertaining, the conference has had nine really good teams to watch all season long. The Mavs are very good, but the Spurs are great. I can't see how they slip up and lose 4 times to Dallas. Spurs in 5
Thunder vs. Grizzlies
Jacob: Gotta have one big upset, right? While the Grizzlies struggle to score, they play some of the best defense in the league. Durant looks unstoppable but if anybody is gonna do it, it's gonna be Tony Allen. Randolph and Gasol will give the Thunder a ton of trouble and the Grizzlies get a game seven win in OKC. Grizzlies in 7
Jeremy: The Grizzlies have a great defense and are finally healthy and playing at their best again. They can punish teams inside with their two mammoths down low and are never an easy out. But, Kevin Durant plays for OKC. Thunder in 5
Clippers vs. Warriors
Jacob: I might've gone in the other direction before Bogut got hurt, but he was so important to everything the Warriors did, particularly on the defensive end. Griffin and Jordan will take advantage of his absence. The Warriors will still be extremely tough with Curry and Thompson able to each steal games with their shooting, but Paul will control Curry just enough to get the series. Clippers in 7
Jeremy: A lot of people are calling this the series to watch in the first round and it may well be. These two teams are fun to watch and really don't like each other. I expect the intensity to be extremely high, a bunch of T's to be delivered, and the Clippers to pull it out in 7 games. Clippers in 7
Rockets vs. Blazers
Jacob: Who needs defense? This series is going to be played at a break neck pace. Harden and Howard both lit up the Blazers this year, as Harden averaged over 30 and Howard over 25 in their meetings. Terrence Jones may not be able to contain Aldridge, but a now healthy Beverley might just be able to slow Lillard and in the end the Rockets will score more and take the series. Rockets in 6
Jeremy: If you like 3-point shooting, watch Rockets - Blazers. Who will make more 3's? That's probably who wins the series. This is a tough one to predict and I really could see it going either way. I'm going to take Harden and Howard by a hair over Lillard and Aldridge and say Houston wins. Rockets in 7