The first round of the 2013-14 playoffs is in the books and the second round will start on Sunday. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs look like the overwhelming favorites to reach the Finals, but like Westbrook’s injury showed us, one play can shift the odds the other way. Here is how they rank going into the second round:
1) Miami Heat - Lebron James will receive his fourth MVP and the Heat are flying high going into the series against the Bulls. Their series versus the Bucks was never in question. The biggest worry is Wade’s knee, which appears to be bothering him. Heat in 5.
2) San Antonio Spurs – The playoffs are playing out perfectly for the Spurs: 1) they got an injured Lakers team and swept them, 2) Westbrook is gone for the remainder of the playoffs, and 3) they get a young Warriors team that might be satisfied with getting past the first round. Ending the series early has to be a priority for the Spurs because the Conference Finals will be a physical burden. Spurs in 5.
3) Memphis Grizzlies - The Grizzlies are a physical, aggressive, and passionate team that will defend hard and beat you up on the offensive boards. Their two big men will force OKC to play Perkins big minutes which will lead to a Memphis win. Memphis in 6.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder - The story in the series versus the Rockets was Westbrook’s injury and the offensive burden that is on Durant’s shoulders. Memphis is a great defensive team that will not let Durant beat them single handedly, and the Thunder will not have enough firepower to beat the Grizzlies. Makes one wonder: is Westbrook under-appreciated in OKC?
5) New York Knicks – The Knicks will go as far as Melo and Smith will take them. The defensive effort will need to be consistent and they will need to hit their three pointers. Expect a physical series that will come down to Melo being the best player on the court. Knicks in 7.
6) Indiana Pacers – After two games, the Pacers appeared to be a veteran playoff team on the verge of sweeping the Hawks. Games three and four showed that they are not ready to compete for an NBA championship.
7) Golden State Warriors - Upsetting the Nuggets was a huge surprise, but the injury to Lee might be more glaring versus the Spurs because they will find a way to neutralize Curry. There should be zero pressure on the Warriors as they have already surpassed expectations.
8) Chicago Bulls – The series versus the Nets will be discussed in Chicago for years and will be a defining moment for Noah’s career. Heart and guts will only get you so far against Miami because they too will play with plenty of passion. It will be surprising if they win one game.
9) Houston Rockets – The future in Houston is bright, but they would have been swept if Westbrook did not get hurt. The Rockets were the youngest team in the playoffs and have enough money to sign a max player in the off-season. Could the Rockets sign Dwight or Paul this off-season?
10) Denver Nuggets -All season long, we have admired the Nuggets for winning without a superstar. The loss to Gallinari was bigger than expected and they lost to a team with a superstar.
11) L.A. Clippers – The Clippers were who we thought they were. A young team that wins during the regular season because of their athleticism. But in the playoffs, one must be able to score in the half court. The Grizzlies defense was too much even for Chris Paul. The Clippers have to replace Del Negro and resign Paul if they are going to take the next step.
12) Boston Celtics – The questions were being asked before the game even ended. What will the the Celtics do with Paul Pierce, will KG retire, and how soon can Rondo return? At the end of the day, all three will return as Boston tries to make another run at a ring next year.
13) Brooklyn Nets – They should be ashamed of losing game 7 at home to a depleted Bulls team. They have the talent to compete in the East, but it is now fair to question their heart.
14) Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks showed a little pride tying up the series at 2 games, but they do not have the talent to keep up with the Pacers.
15) L.A. Lakers – When a team has a bad coach, losing your floor leaders will cripple your team. A very interesting off-season starts early for a team that had championship expectations at the start of the season.
16) Milwaukee Bucks – The under .500 Bucks showed very little resistance in being swept by the Heat. Odds are that they miss the playoffs next year.
Ruben Parga @RFParga82
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