The stage has been set for both the Eastern and Western Conference Semifinals. Here is a look at the four series that will take place.
Wizards vs. Pacers
The Wizards may have been one of the more surprising teams during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. They easily dispatched the Bulls, despite being underdogs when the series first began. They got a ton of production out of Nene, who had a career play-off high during Game One, which helped the Wizards gain momentum throughout the series. The Wizards have also had tons of time off, considering their series was just five games long. On the other hand, the Pacers have only had two days to rest since they completed their series with the Atlanta Hawks. While the Wizards may have been surprising with how easily they dismantled the Bulls, the Pacers were equally as surprising with the difficulties they had with Atlanta. There has been tons of controversy surrounding Indiana in the previous months, stemming from a trade of Danny Granger that disrupted the entire balance of the team. However, they are still the top seed in the East and are favored by four points in this one versus five matchup. The Wizards have worked their way all the way up to 25/1 odds to win the NBA Championship, and they’d love a win in Game One on Monday to set the pace of the game. The Pacers sit at 15/1, which is some of the lowest odds they’ve been at all season.
Clippers vs. Thunder
Both the Clippers and the Thunder were pushed to the brink during their conference quarterfinals matchups, and they are both coming off seven game series that likely took a lot out of them. However, considering both teams played on Saturday, they both just had one day off to rest and get ready for this matchup. Oklahoma City is favored in the first game by five points, which certainly is due to their home court advantage. However, this Clippers team has looked like one of the most solid in the league over the last few months, as Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan and the rest of their team keep learning to play better with one another. The Clippers will also be looking to finally shed the racial remarks that were released during their playoff series against the Warriors. That certainly had to have some effect on them, which was obvious when they lost by 30 the same evening that the reports came out. We can probably expect a ton of points in this series. The Clippers, who are led by Griffin and Paul, lead the league with 107.9 points per game. The Thunder, who have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, rank 5th at 106.2 per game. The Clippers’ Jordan will also have to matchup against Serge Ibaka, who finished fourth in the league for the Defensive Player Of The Year award. The Clippers and Thunder split their season series, 2-2, including both teams going 1-1 on their respective home court.
Nets vs. Heat
The team that has had the most time to rest and recover was the Miami Heat, after they swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round. Now the Nets, who just finished up a tough seven game series against Toronto, will have to head to Miami for Game One on Monday. The Heat have arguably looked like the most well-rounded team in the playoffs, which is why they heave a league-best 29/20 odds to win the NBA Championship. However, Brooklyn has played great since January 1st, 2014, and they have a 4-0 record against the Heat this season. Whether or not their success in the regular season will follow over to the postseason is yet to be seen, but there is the possibility that there will be some sort of emotional edge that the Nets will have in this one. That said, LeBron James has been on a tear since the playoffs began, averaging 30 points per game. He’ll look to keep that up as the Heat seek their third consecutive NBA Championship. Be sure to check back with sportspicks.com handicappers before Game One tips off in Miami on Tuesday, to get insight into this game and all of the others in the NBA.
Trail Blazers vs. Spurs
The Spurs had much more difficulty than many originally thought in their series, as the Mavericks were able to push them to a Game Seven on Saturday. However, after routing Dallas in that final game, the Spurs now look to have awoken and seem to be ready to make a run at a second straight Western Conference Finals. But in order to get there, they’ll have to make their way through Portland, who was able to knock off Houston in just six games. Part of the reason that Portland was able to upset Houston was because of the play of LaMarcus Aldridge. Aside from the LeBron James, Aldridge has been the most effective player in the NBA Playoffs, averaging 29.8 points per game and pulling down double-digit rebounds in four of the five games in the first round. Aldridge will hope to keep up that effort against one of the games most respected players in Tim Duncan. In the first two games that these teams played in the regular season, Aldridge had huge games, scoring over 20-points, which resulted in Portland winning. However, in the last two games the Spurs were able to get wins, including a 13-point victory back on March 12th. The Spurs are second in the league with 4/1 odds to win the NBA Championship, but the Blazers are a respectable 20/1. If Portland wants to be taken seriously and give San Antonio a scare, they’ll need to start by making a statement in Game One.