NBA Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview
Down to the Final 4 in the NBA! The Pacers seemed like the most worthy candidate all season to challenge Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals and now the moment presents itself. The Heat and Pacers played each other in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and the Pacers were up 2-1 but never won another game while the Heat went onto win the title. The Thunder, who most thought would represent the West, were eliminated by the sizzling hot Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies take on the Spurs, who eliminated the “Splash Brothers” in 6 games, in a rematch of the 2011 First round where the 8th seeded Grizzlies upset the #1 San Antonio Spurs.
WESTERN CONFERENCE Finals
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs thoroughly defeated the Grizzlies in game 1 but unlike the NCAA Tournament, the NBA Playoffs are a best of 7 series. The Grizzlies have now gone 0-3 in Game 1s this season but are 8-1 in every other game with their only loss being a game they blew to the Clippers where Chris Paul hit an incredible buzzer beater. The Grizzlies have too much size down low and Zach Randolph wont continue to struggle like he did in Game 1. The Spurs cant defend Gasol & Randolph consistently, they don’t have the bodies for it, there is only so much the old and improved Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter can handle. The Spurs clear advantage of Memphis was at point guard with Tony Parker over Mike Conley but those days are gone because Conley is now a top 10 point guard and arguably top 7. Conley is doing it all for Memphis this postseason from setting up his teammates, scoring on his own, and being a great on ball defender. The Spurs advantages seem to be perimeter shooting with Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner but Memphis has a great close out defense led by Tony Allen. The Spurs have championship pedigree but this Memphis team isn’t any spring chickens. Game 1 is over and the Spurs clearly won but Memphis has Grit N Grind.
Grizzlies in 6
Miami is the last sexy team standing in this postseason and the league needs them to get to the Finals for ratings. The thing is, the Heat are really good so it will happen. Miami survived the depleted Bulls and gave Dwayne Wade time to recover his ailing Knee. The Pacers closed out their series Saturday night and go into Miami trying to catch the Heat napping. The Heat have trailed in 4 of their last 5 series but have won them all and I could see that happening again. The Pacers have to come into Miami like the Bulls with the need to steal Game 1. Miami like its attendance seems to arrive late to the games and the Pacers need a quick start in game 1 to have a chance in the series. The war of words between Pacers Coach Frank Vogel and MVP LeBron James isn’t helping the Pacers case. LeBron is in a different mode now and has taken the Michael Jordan approach to psych himself into hating his opponents even if that means taking words out of context or making up words in general. The Pacers NEED TO WIN THE BATTLE OF THE BOARDS to even have a chance of winning the game. The Pacers have size and that’s a weakness in the Heat armor but Miami has LeBron James. Paul George and the self proclaimed “LeBron Stopper” Lance Stephenson will do their best to contain James but LeBron will be able to create for others. I wouldn’t be surprise to see LeBron average less than 20 ppg but see his assists and rebounds jump closer to 10 a game, giving him a shot to average a triple double. Expect the close games to be in the low 80’s but I expect there to be at least one blowout in the Heat’s favor. Roy Hibbert and David West need to have the games of their lives to have a chance because they are the Pacers best option against Miami. This series has potential to be an appetizer for Miami as they could face the even bigger Memphis Grizzlies in the finals.
Heat in 5
Photo Credit: Andrew Shackley