Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Predicting The Eastern And Western Conference Finals

Fact: Matt Bonner's New Balances do not add inches to his vertical leap. (

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: What teams will make it out of the Eastern Conference Finals and Western Conference Finals to face each other in the NBA Finals?

Eastern Conference Finals:

The Indiana Pacers will not fumble away a 2-1 series lead against the Miami Heat this season because they will never have one. It will take the Heat five more games to close out the Pacers, 4-2, featuring numerous nail-biters. Indiana is a team built to contend with the Heat. It is no fluke the Pacers have claimed a high playoff seed in consecutive seasons; they have even made strides this season, re-tooling the bench and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, though that may be due to the luck of not running into Miami in the semifinals again.

That being said, there is no team in the East capable of stopping LeBron James' march to a third consecutive NBA Finals appearance. He's playing too well and, along with a healthier-than-he's-looked-in-a-while Dwyane Wade, the Heat's supporting cast is full of players who could be starting on multiple teams if they played elsewhere: Shane Battier, Ray Allen, even late free agent pick-up Chris Andersen. Mario Chalmers' unavailability to play allowed Norris Cole to show the progressions he has made as a defender, which opens up even more doors for a team that's championed the "positional revolution."

Western Conference Finals: 

Oddly enough, the Pacers' Western Conference doppelganger is still in the title hunt, as well. The Memphis Grizzlies are a team with a high caliber defense and an offense that seemed to be climbing the ladder toward equal footing until the San Antonio Spurs made it sputter in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs' core cannot have much left in the tank, but this series is the reason why coach Gregg Popovich rested his stars during the regular season. San Antonio has the experience necessary to make it out of this series alive and, thanks to Pop, its players also have the requisite stamina. Memphis will have its time -- soon -- but when convincing arguments could be made for Tony Parker and Tim Duncan being viable league MVP candidates at separate times during this season, the Spurs are playing like (for lack of a better term) a team of destiny.

Eastern Conference Finals:

Indiana had plenty of chances to win game one of the series. There was a better chance of Mario Chalmers dunking on Roy Hibbert for the win than Ray Allen missing a free throw followed by Paul George hitting the desperation and tying 3-pointer after the Pacers ran around the perimeter for eight seconds. Yet that happened and still a blown defensive play allowed LeBron James one of the easier layups he will ever take to win the game.

The Pacers say it will make them better, more confident. It could also crush their spirits being so close to taking a critical early game on the road. This probably won't be a blowout series. Indiana has played well against the Heat and Hibbert's size can be an X factor down low. But the Pacers still look inexperienced and uncomfortable, as proven at the execution late in regulation and overtime. This series will be close, but Miami wins it in six.

Western Conference Finals:

It feels like it's been the "last ride" for the aging San Antonio Spurs stars for two or three years now. This is a young man's game and Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are running out of time. Well, maybe not quite yet. It's not time yet when Parker gracefully dishes out 18 assists and Duncan efficiently tallies 17 points and nine rebounds in game two of the Western Conference Finals. They've proven that.

Meanwhile, Memphis' offense is MIA as the Grizzlies have failed to crack 90 points in either game this series. Give credit to Popovich's defense and planning for that. Memphis needs more from its role players like Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince if it hopes to get back into this series. Everyone was expecting Oklahoma City to meet Miami again in the NBA Finals, but I think the fans will do OK with a Spurs/Heat matchup after San Antonio finishes off this series with relative ease.

Eastern Conference Finals:

I see the Heat winning the series, but it might take them seven games. The Pacers lost Game 1 in overtime in Miami from a last second layup by LeBron James. However, this defeat did not demoralize the Pacers. After the game Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel said he was, "Very encouraged, our belief in our ability to beat this team has strengthened after Game 1. Our familiarity in the playoffs, in the playoff series grows with each day, grows with each game, and there's a lot of things we can definitely do better."

Even with the win, the Heat had a problem shooting the ball. Shane Battier went 0-4 and Ray Allen went just 1-8. If their shooters can “heat” up from outside, expect them to win in 7.

Western Conference Finals:

The Spurs are up 2-0, but the series is now heading back to Memphis. The Spurs have played great basketball. They are well coached and have the right players to make any adjustment that needs to be done.

When asked if the Grizzlies will make any big adjustments to their lineup, coach Lionel Hollins responded with, “It’s not something I’m ready to do. We want to come out and play much more aggressive, much more confident. There’s no need at this point to change the starting lineup. I mean, we lost an overtime game and we got blown out in a game. We’ve got to come here and hold serve. We have to play better obviously. We’ve got to play better earlier and we’ve got to play better later.”

The Spurs have looked great, but the Grizzlies have shown that they can grind out a game and get the win. Can they do that over a whole series to get into the NBA Finals? Spurs in 6.

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