The first round of the NBA playoffs are complete meaning teams are one step closer to their dream of lifting the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy. Here is your Australian television guide to follow the excitement of the NBA Conference Semifinals.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston CelticsThe 76ers knocked off the the Eastern Conference's top seed Chicago Bulls in their opening round series, while the Celtics knocked off the Atlanta Hawks. Both series went six games, but it appears to me that the teams are heading in the opposite direction. Philadelphia is playing with house money and are extremely confident after becoming only the fifth No. 8 seed in NBA history to win a playoff series. Boston meanwhile is dealing with a host of injuries, the biggest being to Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Who to watch for: I really want to say Rajon Rondo, but I'm going to go with his opposite, 76ers points guard Jrue Holiday. This kid has really come into his own over the course of the season. He has a huge opportunity to blow up in this series. Holiday is a big point guard who attacks on offense and is a solid defender. He will put tremendous pressure on Rondo on both ends of the court. Prediction: The Celtics have legitimate title aspirations but the injury bug has hit the men in green. The 76ers struggled to get into the playoffs but have righted the ship and are on a roll. With injuries affecting 2 of the Celtics' big 4, I'm predicting an upset in this series, with the 76ers winning in 6 games.
Indiana Pacers vs Miami HeatThe Heat and Pacers both closed out their opening round matchups in 5 games. Indiana dropped the opener to the Orlando Magic before reeling off 4 consecutive wins, while Miami won all 4 of their games by double digits over the Knicks. The Heat are a defensive juggernaut and when they have their offense clicking they are downright scary. The Pacers are a deep team who could present some problems for Miami, particularly at the point, but will they be able to slow down LeBron and D-Wade? Who to watch for: LeBron James has been awarded his third career MVP award and after his 1st round performance, he could be in line for his first NBA Playoffs MVP. The Pacers will throw various defenders at LBJ in hopes of slowing him down. Prediction: The Eastern Conference is opening up nicely for Miami. The Pacers will put up a tough fight, but I think Miami is too strong for them. The Heat to win this one in 5 close games.
Los Angeles Clippers vs San Antonio SpursThe Clippers finally managed to close out the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7, after being 3-1 up earlier in the series. This was their 3rd ever postseason series win, and their 2nd since moving to Los Angeles. San Antonio cruised to victory in their matchup with the Jazz, taking the series 4-0. They're in sizzling form having won their last 14 games by an average margin of 18 points. Who to watch for: Chris Paul finished third overall in the MVP voting this year. His ability to lead by example will be a huge bonus to a relatively inexperienced team, and the Clippers will need him to fire if they are to be competitive against the #1 seed in the West. Prediction: The Spurs are simply too polished, too efficient and physically more fresh than the Clippers, who had trouble closing out Memphis after taking a commanding lead early in the series. Look for LA to come out firing, but as the series goes on San Antonio will simply be too good.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City ThunderThe Lakers ground out a Game 7 win against the solid-all round game of Denver. Kobe managed to bail them out - even playing through sickness - but lacklustre performances here and there from Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have hurt them. Last year, Dallas and Oklahoma City faced off in the Western Conference Finals. Dallas took the honours and went on to win the title. This time it was OKC, demoralising the reigning champs 4-0, in a possible changing of the guard out West. Who to watch for: In a young team full of up and coming stars, Kevin Durant has always been the go-to-guy. We know he can take over any game at will, but this playoff campaign will define him. Under his leadership, the Thunder will need to show they are more than talented upstarts. Prediction: If the Lakers supporting cast can help instead of relying on Kobe to cary them then this will be a tight series. But OKC are too quick and talented to let this chance pass. Their heartbreaking loss to the Mavericks last year will spur them on. OKC to beat LA.
This Weeks TV Guide
Please note times are in Sydney/Melbourne EDT timezone and are subject to change