NBA Playoffs: The Second Round is Here

Durant and Z-Bo go at it again - Ronald Martinez

The second round gets underway on Sunday with two good matchups: Knicks-Pacers and Thunder-Grizzlies. Monday will bring us Heat-Bulls and Spurs-Warriors. Below are quick capsule previews of the four 2nd round series.

Grizzlies at Thunder: Noon Central Time

The Thunder obviously lost some luster with the injury to Russell Westbrook, and had some trouble dispatching the Rockets after going up 3-0 in that series. The problem is that without Westbrook, everything falls on Durant's shoulders. Good teams (and Memphis is a great defensive team) can take away everything else the Thunder can do. They finally beat the Rockets in game 6 because Kevin Martin had a big game to go along with Durant (and because Harden struggled). Scott Brooks is going to have to be a lot more creative then he's ever been for the Thunder to advance.

The Grizzlies looked fierce in taking four straight from the Clippers after going down 0-2 to start the series. Zach Randolph looked more and more like the Z-Bo of the previous couple of years as the series went on, and Mike Conley has emerged as one of the best two way point guards in the league. With the Thunder wounded, the Grizzlies have a great opportunity to make it to the conference finals for the first time in their history.

Pacers at Knicks: 2:30 pm

Both teams had hiccups in the middle of their first round series' after taking substantial leads before closing out the Celtics and Hawks in simultaneous game 6s on Friday evening. The Knicks especially were shaky after going up 3-0 and making the Celtics look broken. They stopped moving the ball to open shooters and began relying too heavily on Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith isolations for their offense. Even in their game 6 win, they almost allowed the Celtics all the way back from a 26 point deficit. They will need to get back to moving the ball and making 3s against a tough Pacers defense. The Knicks are expecting Amare Stoudemire to return perhaps in time for game 3 of this series. A mixed blessing at best, though the Pacers do have a lot of size.

The Pacers stifled the Hawks in the final two games of their series, holding them to 33% shooting in each contest. One of the key factors will be the Pacers offensive rebounding. They are not a good shooting team, but are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the league, while the Knicks protect the defensive glass very well. The Pacers will also have to limit turnovers; they tend to be loose with the ball, and the Knicks should have an advantage there. Frankly I expect a lot of ugly shots in this series; the team that makes more of them will advance.

Bulls at Heat: Monday, 6:00 pm.

As impressive as the Bulls were in beating the Nets despite their injuries, it's hard to see them giving the Heat any real trouble. Derrick Rose is not going to save them this season, and without him I can't see this being too competitive. Hopefully Luol Deng will be recovered from what is apparently a very serious case of the flu in time to play on Monday night. The Bulls will play defense and try, and maybe will get a game in Chicago, but this appears to be the most lopsided series of the second round.

Warriors at Spurs: Monday, 8:30 pm.

It's been a while since we've seen the Spurs, as they swept the Lakers easily and haven't played since last Sunday. One of the notable developments in that series was the awakening of Manu Ginobili, who apparently realized it was time to start playing. Golden State will try to wear them out with pace, but the Spurs are so deep and experienced, it's hard to see that working well enough for the Ws to actually win this series.

Still, that was pretty good against a short handed Nuggets squad. Stephen Curry was terrific, emerging as a real star as a lead guard and Golden state, even without David Lee, (who made an appearance in Game 6) were able to control the boards for the most part. That will be vital for them in this series, as they are going to have to shoot extraordinarily well and not give the Spurs second chances in order to compete.

Enjoy the games. This is the good stuff. Someday the Wolves will be part of it. Maybe. You know. Someday.

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