Atlanta Hawks (1) vs Washington Wizards (5)
Surprisingly, the Atlanta Hawks had quite some trouble putting away the Brooklyn Nets in the first round (4-2), and they will face a better and more confident team in the Washington Wizards in their second round. The Wizards swept their first-round series against the Toronto Raptors and will start against the Hawks well-rested and well-prepared, as their latest game was almost a week ago.
John Wall has been playing great and will cause Atlanta’s Jeff Teague a great deal of trouble the entire series long. The fight inside will be interesting, with Nene and Gortat battling the banged-up Millsap and Horford. Washington will play a lot of small ball, with Pierce at the 4 to be able to guard Millsap on the perimeter.
Atlanta won three of the four games during the regular season, but it seems that the Wizards are clicking and will present a huge challenge for the No.1 seed. Healthy, rested and hungry, the Wizards will take advantage of the Hawks’ injuries and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in almost four decades.
Prediction: Wizards in 6
Game 1: May 4, 3:00 AM AEST
Golden State Warriors (1) vs Memphis Grizzlies (5)
The Golden State Warriors have been almost unbeatable at home during the regular season, and that didn’t change in the first round against the Pelicans, who were dispatched in four games. Stephen Curry has lived up to the expectations so far, averaging almost 34 points per game, along with 7 assists.
Memphis didn’t have too many problems with the injury-depleted Portland Trailblazers, winning the series 4-1, but have come out bruised. Their starting point guard Mike Conley had surgery during the series and it is unsure whether he will be able to play in the second round. Without Conley, the Grizzlies won’t have a chance as the Warriors’ back court is too talented.
During the regular season series, Memphis won one of the three games. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will pose some match-up problems for the Warriors, but the clear-cut favorites in this series are the Warriors.
Prediction: Warriors in 5
Game 1: May 4, 5:30 AM AEST
Houston Rockets (2) vs Los Angeles Clippers (3)
The Rockets didn’t have a lot of problems with the Dallas Mavericks (4-1) in the first round and James Harden and Dwight Howard have been looking dominant. Harden is averaging 28 points and 8 assists these playoffs, while Howard has been a beast down low, grabbing almost 14 rebounds per game in addition to his 16.6 points. Houston had great contributions from their bench, whether it was Josh Smith or Corey Brewer. Their last game was six days ago, so they will be well rested.
Their opponent in the second round, the Los Angeles Clippers just won one of the greatest first-round playoff series in NBA history, defeating the defending champions Spurs in seven games. They will only have two days off and the main worry in Clipper Nation will be the health of Chris Paul. Paul injured his hamstring in game 7 but was able to finish the game, albeit hobbled. He will be expected to play against the Rockets, and together with Blake Griffin, he has been instrumental for the Clippers. Griffin posted averages of 24 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists to write NBA history.
An offensive series is expected, with two confident teams who like to shoot from behind the arc. The absence of Houston guard Beverley (who is out for the season) is huge, as the Rockets will struggle to contain Paul.
Prediction: Clippers in 6
Game 1: May 5, 3:30 AM AEST
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs Chicago Bulls (3)
The Cleveland Cavaliers disposed of the Boston Celtics in four straight games, but it came at a very high cost. Kevin Love got injured in game 4 and will be out for the remainder of the playoffs, while JR Smith was suspended and will miss the first two games of the second round. Lebron James and Irving will have to play heavy minutes, but James seems healthy and will be well rested, ready for a gruesome battle with the Bulls. If anyone can handle the increased responsibility that comes with injuries, it’s King James.
The Bulls did not take care of business properly in the first round against the Bucks (4-2), but showed in game 6 that they are a team that should be taken into account, destroying Milwaukee 120-66 on the road. Without Kevin Love, the length of Chicago’s front court (Gasol, Noah) will be too much to handle and Butler has shown that he can bother James on the defensive end. Rose has been inconsistent and it will be interesting to see how he matches up with Irving.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 7
Game 1: May 5, 9:00 AM AEST