May 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) is congratulated by fans at the end of game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Warriors 126-121 to win the series 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs: Predicting Conference Semifinals

Although the Utah Jazz aren’t participating in this year’s NBA Playoffs, this has got to be the most exciting playoffs that we’ve been able to watch in a long time. A record setting five first round series went to seven games. The seventh and final games in each of the first round match ups were exciting to watch. Will the incredible NBA Playoffs continue to stay exciting?

Starting Monday night, the NBA Playoffs will be entering the conference semifinals. The remaining eight teams have put on quite a show so far, but how do they fare against their upcoming opponent? We take a look below.

Indiana Pacers vs Washington Wizards

You can call it a surprise, or you can call it a disappointment, but the Indiana Pacers were terrible in the first round of the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks outplayed them for most of the series. Paul George had a fantastic game in game seven to help the Pacers close out the series, but in my personal opinion, Indiana didn’t deserve to win this series. Roy Hibbert was an All-Star this season and if you watched him in that series, he sure didn’t look like one. If the Pacers don’t get better production from their big man, they could have problems.

The Washington Wizards will be the team that gives the Pacers those problems. The Wizards proved everyone wrong by winning three games on the road and defeating the Chicago Bulls in the first round. John Wall and Bradley Beal looked like one of the better back courts in the league during the first round. Meanwhile, Nene Hilario played so well that Joakim Noah didn’t look like he was the Defensive Player of the Year. Add in the other big man for Washington in Marcin Gortat, and the Pacers could have problems.

With the downward spiral that Indiana has been on, and barely sneaking out of the first round against a Hawks team that wasn’t even above .500 this season, I am not really that high on the Pacers getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. They focused all season on getting the number one seed so they could have home court against Miami, but how they’ve played lately, I don’t think they’ll have to worry so much.

Prediction: Wizards win series 4-2

Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets

LeBron James and the Miami Heat have been kicking back and relaxing for a little while now as they were the only team in the first round to complete a four game sweep of their opponent. The two-time defending NBA Champions sure looked like they were focused in making easy work of the Charlotte Bobcats. One thing that needs to be said about Charlotte though, is Al Jefferson was a man in this series. The injury that he sustained and still came out and played well, he deserves a lot of respect for that.

However, when it comes to the Heat, the regular season doesn’t mean a whole lot. Once the playoffs start, the Heat turn on the switch and become a different kind of team. Miami’s big three of James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh played fantastic in the first round and they also got some nice help from their bench.

The Heat are meeting a Brooklyn Nets team who swept them in the regular season, and who also just came off an exciting and intense first round series against the Toronto Raptors. Paul Pierce blocked the shot attempt of Kyle Lowry‘s at the buzzer to seal the game seven victory. The Nets also got a great game out of Joe Johnson who went on a run of his own late in the game to help push the Nets lead to double digits. The Nets spent all that money on the contracts of Deron Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brooke Lopez for a championship this season. Lopez has been out and will be out for the rest of the season, but Brooklyn knows they’ve got a chance, and they have confidence going into this series against a team they know they can beat. However, I don’t know if they can beat a Heat team that is as good as they are and have been sitting there resting.

Prediction: Heat win series 4-2

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Clippers

The first round series for the Los Angeles Clippers was in one word, exciting. The Clippers went head to head with the Golden State Warriors for seven back and forth games. Game seven of this series was one of the more exciting games to watch in the entire first round. DeAndre Jordan is a stud. Jordan averaged 15.1 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game for the series to go along with 12.1 points per game. Chris Paul had a good series as well, but did have some problems defending Steph Curry throughout the series, like most people would. The biggest thing I like about the Clippers is how deep their bench is. Their bench unit could probably beat most the NBA teams in the league’s starting unit. Guys like Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Glen Davis, and Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford makes the Clippers a dangerous team.

The Oklahoma City Thunder had a pretty tough match up themselves in the first round when they went seven games with the Memphis Grizzlies. After a local Oklahoma City newspaper posted a headline titled “Mr. Unreliable” over a picture of Kevin Durant, the Thunder responded. Durant even admitted after their game seven win that the title motivated him to step up his game. He did just that in the final two games of the series and if he continues that in the next round, the Thunder are going to be tough. If Paul had a tough time guarding Curry in their first round series, he could have an even tougher time defending Russell Westbrook in this series. Westbrook is athletic and can power his way to the rim. It could be a tough match up for Paul.

I think the Thunder have a great opportunity to win this series. The big men of the Clippers really helped win that series for them, but the Thunder have a couple big men that will cause problems for Blake Griffin and Jordan. Serge Ibaka is one of the best defending big men in the game and while Kendrick Perkins may not be as good as Ibaka, he is a big body that can cause problems in the paint. The series could come down to the bench and the Clippers may have an advantage there. In my personal opinion, whoever walks out of this series the winner, I think will go on and win the whole thing.

Thunder win series 4-3

San Antonio Spurs vs Portland Trail Blazers

Another exciting end to a first round series was when Damian Lillard hit that game winning shot in game six at the buzzer to win the series. With 0.9 seconds remaining on the clock, and the Houston Rockets just hitting a layup on the other end to take a two point lead, Lillard came off a screen and knocked down the long fade away three. For Lillard’s first ever playoff series, you couldn’t even tell. The kid from Weber State looked poised the entire series. Another poised guy for the Blazers was LaMarcus Aldridge. The first two games of the series, Aldridge scored more than 40 points in each. The two losses that Portland had, the Rockets managed to limit Aldridge. In this next round, Portland will need to have these two guys really play well for them to have a chance.

The San Antonio Spurs got more of a test in the first round than I think a lot of people thought against the Dallas Mavericks. The series ended up going to seven games, but the Spurs were able to put on a show in the final game to clinch the series. Tony Parker made things look easy throughout the series as he got to the rim a lot. During the regular season, the Spurs and Blazers split there season series 2-2. The Blazers won both of their games early in the year, while the Spurs two wins came towards the end of the season.

This match up to me is a toss up. The Spurs entered the playoffs as the number one overall seed as they won the most games in the regular season. In their first round series, there were games they looked extremely sharp, and other games they looked terrible. Portland however, looked really good even in their two losses to the Rockets. I really like the Utah ties on the Blazers team as well with Lillard, Mo Williams, Earl Watson, and Wesley Matthews. I think this could be a fantastic series and I think there could be an upset brewing here.

Blazers win series 4-2

The conference semifinals of the NBA Playoffs begin on Monday night. If the upcoming series looks anything like the series we witnessed in the first round, we could be in for a lot more fun.

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