I did pretty well in Round 2 (4-0, in fact and was bang on with Heat in 5 and Spurs in 6) bringing my playoff series prediction record to 10-2. But as we move to the NBA’s final four, here’s where it gets at least a bit trickier.
Eastern Conference Final
Miami vs. Indiana
This one should be closer than you’d think. It’s a superteam vs. an expertly constructed, balanced group that excels because of contributions from everybody.
Miami doesn’t really have an answer for Roy Hibbert, who has been playing some fantastic basketball throughout this post-season, but LeBron James makes a bigger difference than anybody in the league, and that’s why the Heat will prevail. Yes, the superb Paul George will slow James down a bit if matched up with him, but I see LeBron and Dwyane Wade getting Hibbert into foul trouble.
David West vs. Chris Bosh also will be an interesting matchup. Don’t expect Bosh to dominate, West will give him a challenge at both ends.
It’s too bad George Hill isn’t 100% healthy (even though he passed his concussion tests), because he’s a guy that could really give the Pacers a boost.
This is going to be a battle and this Indiana group probably knocks off last year’s Miami squad, but with Ray Allen and Chris Andersen providing lots of help off of the bench this year and James continuing the ascent that began with his dominating finals performance, Miami has enough to survive. They might be tested as much here as in the final though.
Heat in 7
Western Conference final
Spurs vs. Grizzlies
I’ve made a habit of counting out the Spurs in recent years – and regretting it – but, here I go again. The Grizzlies will upset the Spurs again. Marc Gasol is playing at a spectacular level and even though Tim Duncan has the best chance of just about anybody of neutralizing him, Zach Randolph will be there to pick up the slack and Tiago Splitter isn’t going to be stopping Z-Bo.
In a long, brutal series, which this one will be, I like Memphis’ youth over San Antonio’s vast experience. I’m not sure Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will be healthy enough in the latter half of the series after the pounding they will take to get the Spurs through. Early on in the series, Gasol will deter that backcourt from entering the lane and Tony Allen will make life tough for Manu.
The main reason for doubt is Memphis’ lack of a closer and Parker and Ginobili’s history of coming up huge in the biggest moments. Plus, homecourt advantage always helps and the Grizzlies don’t have a particularly fearsome bench.
The Spurs have the experience edge, but Gasol is an international champion and Tayshaun Prince has brought Memphis a proven winner with veteran savvy to help counter-act San Antonio’s pedigree. Prince has faced the Spurs on the biggest stage before and helped frustrate them with his defence.
Don’t expect high-scoring games and the Spurs might make me look foolish again, but:
Grizzlies in 6