This is why we love we love the NBA. So far we have seen 8 games and all were for the most part close games won by the home teams. We have seen heartbreaking moments, overtimes, incredible shots, and everything in between. In this lockout shortened season, the NBA must be ecstatic about how the playoffs are turning out because every game is a can’t-miss. In this article, I will talk about each series and about what each team needs to do if they want to advance to the NBA finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs tied 2-2.
This series has lived up to its high expectations so far, with every game going to the home team. The Spurs jumped out quickly on the Thunder and this series looked like it could have been over quickly, but the Thunder calmly returned home to tie the series. One major note is that after taking the first two games of the series, the Spurs were riding a 20-game winning streak going back to the regular season, including a perfect 10-0 to start the playoffs. That is an unbelievable streak and they deserve a lot of credit, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Since their win streak was snapped, the Spurs have looked very old and very similar to the team that lost in the first round last season to the Memphis Grizzlies. Luckily, San Antonio still has time to turn things around and two of the final three games of the series will be in San Antonio, but it is not looking good for them right now.
The biggest reason why the Spurs have slowed down once getting to Oklahoma has been Tony Parker. In the first two games of the series, Parker scored a combined 52 points with 14 assists. In Oklahoma, he only had 28 points with 8 assists in both games combined. He is the key to the team and they need him to pick things up if they want to advance to the NBA finals.
For Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant has been the key player, as expected. He had one of the best fourth quarters in recent memory in Game 4 to put the Spurs away and he has averaged nearly 30 ppg in the series. He is also shooting over 50% from the field in the series, which is so impressive for a guy who takes a good amount of jump shots. The big surprise in Game 4 was the contributions by Serge Ibaka, who was 11-11 from the field, and Kendrick Perkins, who had 15 points and 9 rebounds. Even though it’s great that those players had such good games, it is not going to happen again, and the Oklahoma City will need more from one player specifically to win these games.
That player is Russell Westbrook. He has disappointed me so far in the conference finals and he is going to need to have a big Game 5 if the Thunder are going to win on the road. After a huge series against the Lakers, Westbrook has shot the ball very poorly this round, prompting some to call him West-brick. After averaging nearly 24 ppg in the regular season, Westbrook scored a total of 17 points in the two games in OKC. He is fortunate that Durant and the role players played so well, because if the Thunder were down 3-1 right now, all the blame would be on him. I expect Westbrook to come out looking for his shot in Game 5 and I think he will have a much better game.
What the Thunder need to do to win: This is simple. Get Russell Westbrook more involved and get him into a rhythm. He needs to shoot at a better percentage and if he can shoot anywhere near where Kevin Durant is shooting this series, the Thunder should be able to close out the series in 6 games. The contributions from role players help, but this series will ultimately come down to Westbrook and Durant for Oklahoma City.
What the Spurs need to do to win: Get Tony Parker playing at an MVP level again. He was playing at that level when San Antonio took the first two games of the series, but really slowed down in Oklahoma. At this age, I believe that Tim Duncan is more of a role player than a star, and Manu Ginobili is a role player because he comes off the bench. Tony Parker is the star for this team, and he will need to play like it. If Parker can start the offense moving again with quick, accurate passes like they were doing in Game 1, San Antonio should be able to win this series.
Prediction: Thunder in 6. Before this series began, this was my prediction and I am sticking by it. I think that the Thunder are going to go down to San Antonio tomorrow night and finally win there, before coming back home to close out the series. San Antonio had a great run, but the Thunder are the more talented team and I believe they have figured out San Antonio’s offense to some extent. Russell Westbrook will play better in the rest of this conference final and the NBA finals will make its first ever trip to Oklahoma City.
Boston Celtics and Miami Heat 2-2.
What a series this has been! I didn’t think that Boston would be able to compete at this level this late in the season, but they continue to prove me wrong. I thought that after losing Game 2, where Rajon Rondo scored 44 points, that the Celtics were done, but they have valiantly fought back to tie the series up at home. Game 4 was a classic and both teams showed a strong will to win, but Boston, the more desperate team, came out on top. Miami is the more talented team, and they really should have taken at least one of the games in Boston.
I believe that the Miami Heat deserve to be ranted at Stephen A. Smith style (imagine Stephen A saying this while you are reading it). What are you guys doing foolin’ around with a team like Boston? I know they have great veterans and have won a championship, but that was 5 years ago!! Even though Rondo has improved since then, this team is well past its prime and the Miami Heat with Lebron James and Dwyane Wade should be able to dismantle Boston! In the first round, the Celtics lost twice to a mediocre Hawks team that is always terrible in the playoffs. In the second round, they needed 7 games to beat the PHILADELPHIA 76ERS. That was the worst playoff team in the eastern conference and the only reason they even made the second round was because Derrick Rose was injured. Boston has no business being in the conference finals, and now they are only two wins away from being in the NBA finals! Meanwhile, Miami has fooled around, losing a game to the New York Carmelo’s, and losing two games to the no-name Indiana Pacers. No offense to the Pacers, but Lebron, are you really going to let Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert win two games against you? You shouldn’t. That is a nice team, but Miami had no excuse to drop two games against them. It seems like this Miami team only wins once it is an absolute must-win, so I do expect them to win Game 5 at home, but this is not how a championship team should play. With the eastern conference so weak this year without Derrick Rose or Dwight Howard in the playoffs, Miami should have strolled into the finals. Instead, it is going to be a battle.
Now I will talk about some of the players from both teams who have made the biggest impacts. For Boston, you obviously have Rajon Rondo. This guy has been amazing and it is unbelievable how much he has improved every year. He might have the best court vision in basketball, and even his shot has gotten better. Paul Pierce’s scoring numbers have been there for Boston, but he has not taken big shots for this team in the 4th quarters. Kevin Garnett has continued to defy his age by posting double-double’s in 3 of the 4 games so far in this series. If he retires after this season, I will be surprised. One big role player for Boston so far has been Mickael Pietrus. Boston does not have a deep bench at all, and Pietrus has not scored very much, but his defense has been good enough and he hustles for every loose ball. Marquis Daniels has also been getting bigger minutes in this series.
For Miami, everything comes down to Dwyane Wade and Lebron James. Both have been good in this series, especially Lebron, who continues to put up eye-popping stats. However, without Chris Bosh the Heat have really needed a boost from their bench, and they haven’t gotten the boost they have needed so far. One player who has played very well so far is Udonis Haslem, who has 2 double-double’s in the series. Haslem is also not afraid to take big shots, which is something Miami needs to improve on. Mario Chalmers has scored in double-digits in 3 of the 4 games in this series.
What the Celtics need to do to win: Eiher get Paul Pierce more involved or continue having non-human-like performances from Rondo. Pierce is right about at his season averages in this series, but it always seems like Rondo is taking the big shots in the 4th quarter. This used to be Pierce’s job, but Rondo may have replaced him. If Rondo can continue either getting 30+ points or 12+ assists, Boston will have a chance to win the series and shock Miami.
What the Heat need to do to win: Get Chris Bosh back immediately. With Bosh out of the lineup, Kevin Garnett has averaged a double-double in the series and he should not be able to do that at this age. After missing this entire series with an injury, I expect Bosh to play in Game 5 when Miami will need him most. Lebron and Wade have really done all they can so far, but it has not been enough to beat Boston. If Bosh doesn’t come back, Miami may not even get a chance to go to the finals this year.
Prediction: Miami in 6. The more talented team will advance and Miami will end the Celtics’ unbelievable run. If Bosh does not return in Game 5, he should be back for sure in Game 6 in Boston, because Miami does not want to go to a Game 7. The Heat have only lost at home once in the playoffs so far, and I think they should be able to beat Boston at home in Game 5 even without Bosh. The question will be if they can win in Boston without him. Even if this series does go 7 games, I will be shocked if Miami is not in the finals.
Enjoy the rest of these conference finals, because these are some of the best in recent memory! I will give further updates when I deem necessary.