Wizards should have the edge on Pacers
The second round of the NBA playoffs begins tonight – without the Bulls, obviously.
The first game to tip off is Washington at Indiana. Based on the teams’ performance in the first round, this looks like a great opportunity for the Wizards to reach the conference finals.
As the Bulls know very well, John Wall and Bradley Beal are the NBA’s best young backcourt. Maybe they’re due for a slump after playing so well in Round 1, but it seems as though both players are rising to the occasion of their first trip to the playoffs. They should be able to outplay Indiana’s George Hill and Lance Stephenson.
David West will be important for the Pacers. Washington has two starting-caliber centers in Nene and Marcin Gortat, so it’s tough to imagine any sort of Roy Hibbert revival in this series. The Wizards showed against the Bulls they can thrive in a physical style.
On top of that, Trevor Ariza is a pretty good choice to defend Paul George, the Pacers’ top scorer. Depth isn’t as big a deal in the playoffs, but Washington is in good shape there, too, with point guard Andre Miller and annoying, but effective, Trevor Booker inside.
I’ll pick Washington in six games.
The other game tonight is the Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City. The Clippers have gotten a little better this year under Doc Rivers, but their offense still jerks and sputters quite often.
If J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford can consistently knock down long-range shots, the Clippers have a chance, but I’m not picking against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant might feel as though he’s been released from a straitjacket, not having to deal with Memphis’ Tony Allen again.
Look for an MVP-worthy performance from Durant as the Thunder win in six games.