The second round of the NBA Playoffs signaled a changing of the guard, with last year’s NBA Finals teams bowing out, the champions doing so especially embarrassingly. Four new teams are in the Conference Finals this year. Coming in just under the wire, it’s time to Fully Recondition the predictions for the second round, and drop some more predictions for the Conference Finals.
Grading the Second Round – The Western Conference
(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks
Prediction: Lakers in 7
Actual Result: Mavs in 4
Well, this happened. The Lakers fell apart completely after being close in the first couple of games, and ended the sweep in a series of boneheaded technical fouls that saw Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum ejected, and Phil Jackson’s final days as the coach of the Lakers not with a fourth three-peat in his career but just shaking his head at how it all ended. The Lakers fell apart, that much is true, but plenty of credit should go to the Mavericks, in particular the Navy SEAL-on-bin-Laden outside shooting of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki’s robotic perfection. They now look like the team to beat, not the team that gets consistently beaten.
(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Memphis Grizzlies
Prediction: Thunder in 6
Actual Result: Thunder in 7
The Memphis Grizzlies were this year’s Cinderella story, upsetting the top-seeded Spurs in the first round. They managed to take OKC to seven games, but in the end, when it was working, the Durant-Westbrook duo was too much, Durant putting up points from all over the floor and Westbrook notching a triple-double in the deciding game.
Western Conference Average Grade: C-
Grading the Second Round – The Eastern Conference
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Prediction: Bulls in 6
Actual Result: Bulls in 6
The Bulls had a little bit of trouble with the Hawks, but in the end they dispatched them as they should have, closing out the series on the road in a near blowout. Derrick Rose is the NBA MVP for a reason.
(2) Miami Heat vs. (3) Boston Celtics
Prediction: Celtics in 6
Actual Result: Heat in 5
Rajon Rondo’s injury, combined with a very Heat-like final possession to end regulation in the fourth game of the series when they had a chance to tie it, helped to put the end to the Celtics’ season. It wasn’t just the Celtics not playing well, though; the suffocating defense of the Heat made them look incapable of scoring either in transition or in the half-court offense, and LeBron and Wade looked more like the stars they’re supposed to be than they have most of the year.
Eastern Conference Average Grade: C
Overall Average Grade: C
Conference Finals Predictions
(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder
The Mavericks slayed the dragon of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in convincing fashion. The Thunder fought off a Grizzlies team that was much tougher than anyone thought coming in. Both teams have great scorers, tough defenders, and plenty of talent to go around. This should be an explosive series, one full of seven high-scoring games, with the Mavericks reaching the finals on the back of Dirk’s veteran presence and unstoppable shooting.
Prediction: Mavs in 7
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Miami Heat
Thus far in the playoffs, the Heat have looked like the better team of the two remaining Eastern Conference heavyweights, which may be purely because they are less one-dimensional on offense. They don’t have anyone who can really guard Rose, though, and the Bulls should clog up the lane and make it harder for LeBron and Wade to drive to the basket. The Heat may still need another piece of the puzzle, and the Bulls look like a team.
Prediction: Bulls in 7
So, there it is: Mavs and Bulls in the NBA Finals. Check back in a couple weeks to see the condition of these Fully Reconditioned predictions.