Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs: Conference Finals Picks

Every HEAT playoff run comes down to big games from Dwyane Wade. The HEAT will need a few of those to beat the Indiana Pacers in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.

HEAT vs. Pacers
Prediction: HEAT in 6

Explanation: Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are the keys to Miami HEAT winning this series if LeBron James plays like the MVP while Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem battle the Pacers big men to a draw. The HEAT can't win if Wade and Allen don't outplay the Pacers on the perimeter. Wade's production has declined a little from last season's playoff run-to-date (5.3 Win Score per 48 minutes in 2013 vs. 5.0 WS48 in 2014), so he needs to step up his game for the Eastern Conference Finals. Allen was a non-factor vs. the Bobcats but dominated the Nets and was the 2nd most productive player in the series after LeBron. Another key for the HEAT will be Erik Spoelstra's point guard rotation. There's no room for Norris Cole in this series. He's had zero impact in 191 minutes this postseason with an estimated 0 wins produced. Spo needs to rely on Wade and Allen to handle PG duties when Mario Chalmers sits and give Cole's minutes to James Jones. Jones leads the HEAT in shooting efficiency at 64% in the playoffs. HEAT-Pacers is a matchup of the best offense in the playoffs vs. the best defense in the playoffs. Forcing turnovers and protecting the defensive glass will be important, but Spo has to trust his offense to get the team to its fourth straight NBA Finals.

Thunder vs. Spurs
Prediction: Thunder in 6

Explanation: I was extremely confident that OKC could run through the Spurs with Serge Ibaka. Without him, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will need to prove they're the best players in the Western Conference. Durant has to dominate both forward positions - which won't be easy with Kawhi Leonard in silver and black, and Westbrook has to be twice as productive as Tony Parker. #PointGodzilla aka Westbrook has a chance to dominate his matchup if Parker's hampered by his hamstring strain. We'll see if Durant can grab enough rebounds and block enough shots to dominate the paint and the perimeter for his second trip to the NBA Finals. Seems like Scott Brooks should go small early and often in this series. It will be interesting to see if he out-coaches Gregg Popovich for the 2nd time in his career.

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