Bulls in 5
No player in this series will be more motivated than Kurt Hinrch, who was traded by the Bulls after last season to clear salary cap space. Problem is he likely won’t see the floor with a hamstring injury. Hinrich who was acquired at the deadline by the Hawks would also be a key player in his team’s hopes to contain Derrick Rose. The lack of a play making point guard will make things even harder for the Hawks who would have needed a perfect series to begin with to have to upset the top seeded Bulls. I sense this one being over quick with the Bulls winning in five.
Lakers in 5
It’s been a long road for the Lakers as they try to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year and complete a three-peat. Like a race car that many miles begin to take their toll at some point, and Kobe Bryant’s suddenly balky ankle is a symptom of this. The Lakers coasted at time during the regular season, but got the second seed in the West and when they need to win games, they usually bring their A game. The Mavericks cannot handle the Lakers A game, and the Mavs a team full of vets are the perfect patsy for the Lakers who will smell blood and make it a quick five game series to earn some rest.
Celtics in 6
One of the themes of the season for the Miami Heat was their failure early in the season against the Celtics. The Celtics took the first three games this season before the Heat won in April to take second seed and perhaps more importantly home court for Game 7 in this series. In the first round both teams played well, but for the Celtics the best sign was how they took apart the Knicks on the road in the last two games. This series will live up to the hype and come close to going the distance, with every game coming down to the final seconds. Which is where the Celtics, will win it LeBron James, biggest flaw is his lack of aggressiveness in the final seconds of close games, in a series this tight he will need to get over that. However, based on his closing performance in the Game 4 loss to the 76ers in Round 1, the Heat will walk off the floor in Game 6 wondering what if as LeBron’s big game failures become an increasing monkey on his back.
Thunder in 6
The Thunder are the Lakers heir apparent in Western Conference as the team to beat. Whether it be this year or next, the Thunder are close to becoming the type of team that is a threat to be in the Finals every year. One of their primary challenges may be the team they see in the second round, as the Grizzlies showed the changing of the guard in the West has already began by stunning the top seeded Spurs. Though they managed to win three of four against the Thunder in the regular season, it will be hard to imagine they can replicate the success in the playoffs as the addition of Kendrick Perkins have helped the Thunder on the boards. Also key was that Kevin Durant average more than 30 ppg against the Grizzlies. If the Griz are to have a chance that has to change. The Grizzlies are improving and should win a game or two, but they won’t be able to stun the Thunder who win the series in six games.