The second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs begin Sunday, May 1st, with the tip off of the first game of the Oklahoma City vs Memphis series at 1 pm ET, and the much-anticipated Boston vs Miami playoff series scheduled for 3:30 PM ET. The remaining two quarterfinal (conference semifinal) series will begin on May 2nd-4th. A complete 2011 NBA playoff schedule can be found here.
With the exception of the No. 1 Western Conference seed San Antonio Spurs being down to the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies 3-2 and the No. 2 East seed Orlando in the same boat against Atlanta, the rest of the 2011 NBA playoffs have largely gone as expected, with Boston sweeping the Knicks and Miami and Oklahoma City each winning their series 4-1. But the competition gets stiffer in the quarterfinal round as the stakes increase and the pretenders are pushed to the side.
2011 NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Previews
Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat – Eastern Conference Semifinal Series Preview and Pick
Game 1, Sunday, May 1
Basketball fans have been talking about and looking forward to this Celtics-Heat match up since the preseason, and their wish has been granted. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat take on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and the Celts, and many NBA pundits are penciling in the winner of this series as the eventual 2011 NBA champion. That might be a little premature, but it is likely to be an epic series, and will almost surely go the full seven games.
Defense might well be the key to the series and the Celtics have a clear edge in that category. KG takes defense personally and that filters down to the rest of the squad, at least when they are clicking on all cylinders. Miami can play lights out defense as well…when they want to…and if they bring their A game on D as well as O, then Boston’s aging warriors will be hard-pressed to stop them. That said, while no one will argue that Miami doesn’t have enough talent to get the job done, the Heat were not particularly impressive in beating the Sixers and have not yet proven they have the heart to get it done in the NBA playoffs.
Prediction – Boston guts it out and wins the series in seven games.
Atlanta Hawks vs Chicago Bulls – Eastern Conference Semifinal Series Preview and Pick
Atlanta will be a big underdog in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Chicago Bulls, but the Hawks are used to the underdog role. Derrick Rose and the Bulls come in with a gaudy 62-20 regular season record, the NBA’s best, and look to prove that they are ready for prime time. Game 1 tips off Monday night in Chicago.
The Hawks won their first round series over Orlando 4-2, and they did it by playing smothering team defense and taking what the Magic gave then on offense. The bad news for the Hawks is they lost gutty veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich to a severe hamstring pull in the last game of the Orlando series, and he is not expected back for 7-10 days.
Derrick Rose was playing spectacularly despite being a little dinged up in the last couple of games in their series against Indiana, but had not been getting a lot of help from his teammates. The rest of team finally showed up in game five of the Pacers series as they blew out the Pacers to take the series 4-1. The Bulls are all about balance. They have some size, but do not generally play their biggest line up. They get it dome instead with athleticism, finesse and scrambling in your face D. Newcomer Carlos Boozer is nursing an injury for Chicago, but is expected to play.
The Pick – Chicago wins the series 4-2…too much talent to deny.
2011 NBA Western Conference Playoff Previews
Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Lakers – Western Conference Semifinal Series Preview and Pick
This series is Dirk Nowitzki’s chance at redemption. If he can lead the Mavs past the Lakers this time all past sins will be forgiven and Dallas will be back at the pinnacle of the NBA. But Kobe Bryant and company are a major roadblock to say the least.
The Mavs had a tough series with Portland, including a game in which they let Portland come back from an historic 23 point second half deficit. Dallas responded well to the debacle, however,and won the next two games to clinch the series. The Lakers were also challenged in their first round series against New Orleans, including getting blown out at home by Chris Paul and teammates in the first game of the series. LA also responded and ended up winning the series in six games. Andrew Bynum is back and healthy for the Lakers and that gives them a big boost on defense.
Prediction – Lakers in seven. The star-struck Mavs come up short in what could be another epic NBA playoff series.
Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder – Western Conference Semifinal Series Preview and Pick
This series boils down to Kevin Durant vs Zach Randolph. Sure, both teams have made good moves to surround their superstars with solid players, but it will still very likely come down to which superstar shines brighter. Both teams are young and hungry, but something has to give. The first game tips off Sunday afternoon.
The No. 8 seed Grizzlies tanked the last few games of the regular season to assure a first round match up with the No. 1 seed Spurs, and Memphis proved it was a sound strategy by closing out San Antonio in six games. Oklahoma City beat Denver in five games in their first round series, but four out of the five games were down to the wire.
Prediction – Oklahoma City wins the series in six games as KD outshines Zach Randolph.
For more on the NBA and the 2011 NBA Playoffs see:
Live NBA Playoff Scores – 2011 NBA Playoffs Results, Scores and Analysis
NBA Playoffs 2011 – Live Scores and Results
2011 NBA Playoffs Preview: Schedule, Preview, Predictions & Picks
The Decision – LeBron James Joins D-Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami