1. Have Closer, will travel- Denver, Portland, and Indiana all can make cases they could have won their series or at least extended them all to game 6 or 7. Indiana can even make the case that they outplayed chicago for 3.5 plus games....The problem with all 3 of these teams, no one to close the show in the 4th quarter. Brandon Roy's brilliant 4th quarter in game 4 aside, none of these teams had the ability to finish games. Denver, had leads in 4th quarter every game except for game two....Indiana led going into the fourth in games 1, 2, and 3...But the NBA is still a stars league, you can have all the gallinaris, millers, grangers you want, give me a Durant, Nowitzki, or a Rose surrounded by guys who understand their roles and coaches who know how to get their star player the ball. The Grizzlies have to show they can close. they have outplayed Spurs for more than 75% of this series and truthfully , series should be over. How will they respond?
2. The Lakers are still the Best Closeout Team on the Road- In order to beat the Lakers, you have stockpile your wins early in the series. No one in the NBA is better after Game 4 than the Lakers especially on the road. I know it gets tired but its the truth, they can flip the switch (especially on D) better than anyone. Kobe 24 isn't Kobe 8 but he is still capable of game turning plays (The Okafor Dunk) and big shots on demand.. The new development of Bynum as a go-to offensive threat is a scary proposition
3. Say what you want about the Kendrick Perkins trade- But at least Danny Ainge didnt cut his entire rotation, which is what Otis Smith did when he pulled off the Arenas-Lewis trade and the Carter-Richardson trade. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were over-the-hill and overpaid respectively, but had to be respected enough to open things up for D12. Pietrus was a very good wing defender and deadly from the corner on 3's and Gortat was Magic's remaining size. Hedo and Gil Arenas made Magic just another team in the East and the Hawks picked them off. If you are Dwight Howard, those moves have to be in back of your mind as you creep toward free agency and you wonder does SVG survive?
4. You may be tired of the Hype--- But Miami vs Boston should be a classic. Now i know in my playoff predictions, i had Heat in 5. But the combination the ease that Boston dispatched New York and the still suspect end of game execuion of the Heat, bother me if I am a Heat fan. A now rested Boston team which like LA can still flip the switch and they execute in half court as well as anyone which serves them well in what should be 7 close games. I am going to hold with the Heat but make it 7 instead of 5. I have a feeling Wade or James has one magical game and Bosh has been steady. Heat will hold serve at home to win series but doesnt bode well for Conference Finals
5. Watch this Space- Russell Westbrook believe he should be option 1 and it will be demise of Thunder. Game 4 vs. Denver, Westbrook shoots 30 times, Durant shoots 18 times. Thunder lose and there are several dirty looks shot his way by Durant and teammates. Game 5 with Thunder down 9, Durant takes over the final stretch while Westbrook looks mildly interested. There is an undercurrent growing in OKC over whether Westbrook is truly the right type of sidekick for Durant and there have been times when the two have seem disconnected. While its obvious who is Option 1, Option 2 doesnt always understand that and its a problem.
6. Even as a Bulls fan, I hope this is wrong- Atlanta vs Chicago has the potentially to be one of the uglier first conference semifinals of all time. both won their series mainly on the defensive end and except for the Bulls game 5, rely on a lot of isolation sets for Rose, Crawford, and Johnson which can make for some bad offensive possessions. The Hawks are as inconsistant as team, not just game to game , but literally by the minute. This series could be a repeat of Orlando's thrashing of Atlanta last year, it could be the Heat vs Hawks series in '09 which was a 7 -game series that featured 7 double digit differences. I am picking Chicago in 6 but have a sneaking suspicion I will be wrong and this series is a sweep or 5. The maddening nature of the Hawks will be on full display.