Western Conference Semifinals
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Thunder finally overcame a stubborn Houston team to advance 4-2 in a hard-fought series. Oklahoma suffered a major loss in Game 2 when superstar point-guard Russell Westbrook suffered a knee injury, and, as a consequence, will be out indefinitely.
This series will be a lot tougher for Oklahoma to win without Russell Westbrook in the lineup. Reggie Jackson has the unenviable task of filling Westbrook's shoes in this series. He is a second-year guard with no experience at this level and will need to raise his game markedly.
All the pressure will be on Kevin Durant to put his team on his back and carry them through this difficult series. Durant is more than capable, but it will not be easy.
The Grizzlies bulldozed the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2, despite falling behind 0-2 in the series. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are playing physical basketball and will give the Oklahoma City pair of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins all they can handle in the paint.
I think Memphis can upset Oklahoma City. They are playing some outstanding defensive basketball and can get the job done in six games.
Prediction: Memphis Grizzlies 4-2
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
The Spurs destroyed the Lakers 4-0 with some clinical basketball. Point-guard Tony Parker was in sensational form, averaging 20.3 points, along with 7.6 assists.
The water gets a little deeper against the upstart Warriors, but they have the experience and the all-important home-court advantage.
The Golden State Warriors dismissed the Denver Nuggets 4-2 in a thoroughly entertaining series. Point-guard Stephen Curry was in irresistible form and has rapidly developed into one of the most explosive players in the game. Curry is averaging 24.3 points per game and shooting an incredible 43.4 percent from downtown in his first playoff series.
The Warriors have done well to reach this stage, but I think they face a tall order against San Antonio. They do not have the depth or the experience to handle a team like the Spurs.
Prediction: San Antonio Spurs 4-1
New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers
The Knicks finally overcame the Boston Celtics 4-2 in a pulsating series. At times, it was not pretty to watch, but it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Superstar guard Carmelo Anthony was a little disappointing in parts of this series, but he will need to be at his very best against Indiana. Anthony has struggled in the playoffs in recent years, so the pressure will be on him to deliver.
J. R. Smith is having a decent series and should provide plenty of points from the bench. He is an explosive player who is capable of scoring heavily.
The Indiana Pacers dispatched Atlanta 4-2 with a gutsy display of basketball. The Pacers are coming good at the right time and will give New York all they can handle.
David West and Roy Hibbert will have plenty to say in the paint. These two big men are bound to cause problems for New York on both ends of the floor.
I think Indiana can pull the upset in this one and should be backed accordingly.
Prediction: Indiana Pacers 4-2
Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
The Heat dispatched Milwaukee 4-0 with deadly precision. Miami completely outclassed the Bucks in every department. It was business as usual for the great LeBron James, who had a superb series.
It is hard to pick holes in this team because they have few weaknesses. They are well-rested ahead of this series and should easily march into the Conference Finals.
The Chicago Bulls beat the Brooklyn Nets to advance in an epic Game 7 on Saturday night. Joakim Noah was the hero for Chicago recording a double-double.
Chicago has done well to reach this stage but it is hard to imagine them troubling Miami in this series.
Prediction: Miami Heat 4-1