Welcome back to your source for everything basketball here on BSN, "As the Basketball Turns". On Sunday, the Thunder eeked out an unconvincing win over the Grizzlies, and the Knicks played just as I expected: poorly. Today I will preview the matchups between the Bulls/Heat and Warriors/Spurs.
If you missed Part 1, click here.
(5) Chicago Bulls vs. (1) Miami Heat
In news no one considered shocking, LeBron James won the 2013 NBA
MVP. It was his fourth MVP in five years. He joined Michael Jordan, Bill
Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to
win four MVPs. He and Russell are the only two to win it four times,
and he and Chamberlain are the only ones to win it consecutive times on
The scary part? James doesn't know his own ceiling.
He's only 28. Jordan won his first MVP at 25, and didn't get his second
until 28. Jordan's last MVP came at 35 in 1998. A fully healthy James
would likely shatter MJ's 5 and breaking Jabar's 6 would be a very
realistic goal. James, along with Shaquille O'Neal, missed being
unanimously voted MVP by one vote.
The best players shrug off a loss and learn from it, like LeBron did
after their 27 game win streak was snapped versus the Bulls back on
March 27th. It was the first time during the streak that a team had
gotten in his grill and roughed him up a little. It was hard foul after
hard foul. Kirk Heinrich tackled him. Taj Gibson near decapitated him.
This Bulls team against LeBron played very similar to the "Bad Boy"
Pistons with Isaiah Thomas and Bill Lambeer of the late 80's/early 90's.
While James and his crew got even on April 14th in a 105-93 win over
the Bulls, that game didn't have the hype their previous match-up had or
the level of anticipation now that the stage is the NBA playoffs. A
4-4-4-4 run for this Heat team is not out of the question, either.
Coach Erik Spoelstra has geared an offense around the abilities of
all of his players, and the traditional line-up with a defined position
for each player is thrown out the window.They rank 5th in the league in
scoring and 7th in assists. They are 2nd in the league in offensive
rating at 112.5 points per 100 possessions. This is due to their
incredibly dangerous fast break, tough defense and accurate shooting.
James and Wade are the maestros, orchestrating fast breaks, alley-oops
and keeping the team in complete harmony. They make passes others can't and stretch the court.
Another reason why the Heat have the advantage over teams? It has
nothing to do with the game of basketball. It has to do with one word:
This team is fully aware that this game is not just a game, but also a
business. On the court they blend together the perfect mix of a high
octane offense and an efficient one. Everyone knows where they have to
be and holds each other accountable. There are no dramatic personalities
or bad apples. One-time "bad boy"
Chris Andersen has had a resurgence of sorts with the Heat and James'
lobs for alley-oops as well as inspired defensive play on the other end.
The Heat only allow 95 points per game, good for 5th in the league.
The Heat play the best small-ball in the league when James and Wade
direct the offense and look for their shooters on the outside. Why is it
they can score so much and have so many assists? Because for all the
glory James, Wade and Bosh get, they really don't care who scores- and
it shows.They have no qualms when there are precious seconds left and
have to kick the ball to a shooter. Here's why:
Shane Battier: 43%
Mike Miller: 42%
Ray Allen: 42%
Mario Chalmers: 41%
Norris Cole: 36%
Rashard Lewis: 38%
James himself is 40%, a massive improvement from years ago when he'd
crank up three's and barely crack 30%. Just don't expect Wade to be
consistent. He's only shooting 26% on the year, which is about par for
WOW's career three-point course.
When they aren't busy kicking it out, James and Wade enjoy attacking
the lane with dunks, layups or getting to the line. The team shoots
around 75% at the line, which makes fouling them at all, especially in
late game situations almost impossible. Who do you foul?
The one weak spot for the Heat is their rebounding. At 38.6, it's
30th in the league. A small quip, but a minor window for the Bulls to
take advantage of.
This team would be a lot to handle for the most efficient and healthy
NBA squad. The fact that the Bulls aren't healthy only makes it a
matter of time before the Heat are through to the Eastern Conference
Derek Rose news these days either flips between "will he or won't
he?" I advise the young Bull to just stay on the sidelines. Learn from
Gilbert Arenas and RG3- rushing yourself back only does harm to your
career. Even if his Bulls had the talent of the Pacers, Spurs or
Thunder- I'd still tell him to save his knee.
The Bulls are also going to miss Luol Deng and Kirk Heinrich in Game
1. While they are expected to be ready for Game 2, the Heat would have
to either A, all get food poisoning or B, get locked in their locker
room to lose this opening game.
The Bulls are the opposite of the Heat in terms of scoring. They only
averaged 93.2 points per game (29th) during the regular season. Their
142 points in a triple overtime win versus the Nets in round 1 was a
definite exception. Nate Robinson like Carmelo and JR Smith is very
streaky. You cannot depend on him game in and game out to score 30 or
The saving grace for them is they have an advantage on the boards at
43 a game (8th) and defensively they are ranked 3rd at 92.9 points
allowed per game. Their home crowd can be absolutely raucous, and if
somehow (against my wishes) Rose returned with the rest of his gang, the
Bulls would have a chance to steal one at home. Yes, I realize I just
said steal one at home. That's how good the Heat are.
Their defense might keep them in games, but at the pace the Heat play
at, Miami won't get bogged down in a half-court style game for long.
Expect them to wear the Bulls down on their way to the Eastern
Final Verdict: Miami wins, 4-1.
(6) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs
The biggest question facing this Spurs team in 2013 is a lot like
someone asking why your grandfather is out at 1 a.m. on a Friday night
at the club: Aren't you too old to be here this late?
Every season NBA fans and pundits such as myself wonder how Greg
Popovich and his team do it. They play stellar regular seasons and have
deep runs into the playoffs, when logic tells us they have no reason to
be this good. The only way they could be so dominant in the first round
is if they played a team whose star player was out and whose second best
player lacked any and all motivation- right?
Wrong. The Spurs are this good. This is no fluke. They, like
the Heat, know their roles. The Spurs are like the Steelers of the NBA:
no frills. Even in off years (which are very rare), they are not
rebuilding, just reloading. They beat the Lakers by an average of 18.4
points per game. Yes, LA was missing pieces- but something tells me the
way their season was going, they'd have a hard time winning even at full
health with Kobe.
Duncan was a sleeping monster. Last year I thought he was on the
fringe of retirement, but this season he was incredible: 17.8 ppg, 9.9
rpg and 2.7 bpg. He is a gamechanger on both sides of the ball as long
as he's not in foul trouble. In Parker's absence due to an ankle injury
Duncan carried the team when many thought they would struggle. Before he
got hurt, Tony Parker was playing like one of the best point guards in
the league. He ended the season averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 assists
and continues to be one of the craftiest and hardest of guards to defend
in the league.
They finished the year 54-28, 35-6 at home. Good luck, Stephen Curry and company at trying to steal one in San Antonio.
I'd like to say they were perfect and don't turn over the ball- but
they do. The Spurs turn it over 14 times a game, and logic tells me they
cannot do that against a young Warriors team bent on scoring as many
points as possible.
On the other side, we have a very young Warriors team.
Richard Jefferson is their oldest player at 31. Their average age is 25.
As young and fast-paced as they are, the Spurs still beat them in
scoring per game, 103-101.2.
This season and these playoffs have been a coming out party for one
Stephen Curry. It started in MSG against the Knicks when he dropped 52,
and only continued against Denver. He put up 25.2 points a game against
the Nuggest in six games while shooting a ridiculous 45% from the
three-point line. Don't bother fouling him either- he's perfect this
post season at 20-20.In Game 4, he scored 22 points alone in the third
quarter on a bum ankle and propelled them to victory.
This underdog Warriors team beat a Nuggets team favored to reach the
Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets made too many mistakes and while I
give credit to Golden State, the blame lies solely on how badly the
Nuggets gave games away- even when the Warriors were trying just as hard
to give them back.
I view Golden State as Knicks West. They both rely on hot shooting to
keep themselves in games, and when their shots aren't hitting, they
become a shell of their former selves. They lose inspiration on defense
as well. The difference? The Warriors are deeper.
Harrison Barnes struggled at times in the regular season, but against
Denver he was nothing short of sensational, avergaing 16 points and 6
rebounds a game while shooting 85% from the line and 37% from deep. Klay
Thompson in his second year has been great statistically, but has yet
to take over any games for them when Curry is off. If they want a chance
to win this series, Thompson will need to play a bigger role for them.
Jarret Jack also is a very capable scorer. Rookie Draymond Green and
veteran forward Carl Landry don't get as much love, but play vital roles
off the bench and can anchor the team with their hustle and size.
While the Spurs boast a solid overall team, they still lack
rebounding and are 21st in the league. The Warriors led by Andrew Bogut
are 3rd in the league at 45 a game. Bogut's most recent 14 point, 21
rebound effort was huge in their win as the team had ten 4th quarter
turnovers, almost giving the game away at home. Bogut has struggled with
a myriad of injuries in his time in the NBA, but so far from what I
have seen this season, he is chomping at the bit for postseason success.
A sidenote: Oracle Arena is a devastating home crowd. This year's
playoff atmosphere is almost identical to the frenzy of fans back in
2007 when the Warriors handled the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks.
There's just something about Oakland.
Based on previous seasons, the Spurs are a smart team that break down
against younger, talented teams (see: 2012 Spurs vs. Thunder) and this
Golden State team plays above their 6th seed ranking. I'm going out on a
Final Verdict: Golden State wins, 4-3.
The games begin at 7 pm tonight with Miami hosting Chicago. The
Warriors visit San Antonio at 9:30 pm. Enjoy the rest of the second
round and keep coming back to BSN for your NBA fix.
Like it? Love it? Hate it? Contact me on Twitter @SeanNeutron