ROUNDING UP ROUND TWO

2023-04-30 · 3 min read · NBA/Basketball
LeBron James and Jalen Brunson

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports | Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With the first round now officially over, it’s time to look ahead to round two, as we move deeper into a very intriguing postseason thus far, that’s already provided plenty of upsets. So without further adieu, let's get right into it.
Boston Vs. Philly (Game 1 on Monday)
These two teams have been on a collision course for much of the second half of the season, as both were firmly locked into the 2nd and 3rd playoff spots. All that’s to say, this series isn’t much of a surprise.
That doesn’t mean it isn't interesting though. Boston comes into this after being somewhat surprisingly pushed to 6 games by the Atlanta Hawks. They’ve gotten great production from their two stars Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown, and backup guards Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White have been godsends for this team. All four players present serious matchup problems for the Sixers, who don’t have a ton of plus defenders on the perimeter.
Up front, the Celtics will need a big series from both Al Horford and Robert Williams, who will be tasked with the daunting job of stopping Joel Embiid. But they already got a gift with Embiid slated to miss game one. If Embiid isn’t at full health, and with the way James Harden has looked offensively (he can’t seem to get by anyone anymore), it's just hard to envision the Sixers pulling this off against a Boston team that's without a doubt the deepest in the conference.
Pick: Boston in 6
New York Vs. Miami (Knicks lead 1-0)
This is the series no one expected to see, with Miami’s shocking beatdown of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games blowing up the east bracket. And they just kept the magic going in an impressive 108-101 game one victory in the Garden, despite a late ankle injury to Jimmy Butler.
Kyle Lowry looks rejuvenated, putting up 18 points, 5 boards and 6 assists off the bench while hitting some massive shots down the stretch in game one
Jalen Brunson seemed very frustrated against the collapsing defence of Miami. They seemed to get hands in on nearly every drive to the lane Brunson had, and forced him to kick out to shooters, and the Knicks role players couldn't knock down shots.
Despite being down in the series, the Knicks aren’t going to shoot that poorly from beyond the arc again (they shot just 7-34 from 3), and Jalen Brunson should be better as well, but this series will really come down to injuries. As mentioned, Jimmy Butler’s ankle looked rough after rolling it in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in game one. His status will certainly be in question as the series goes on. Also in question, is the status of Julius Randle, who didn’t even play in game one due to an ankle injury of his own.
If Randle can come back, and the Knicks can figure out how to hit some shots, I still like their chances despite the game-one setback.
Pick: New York in 7
Denver Vs. Phoenix (Nuggets Lead 1-0)
What was made clear in Denver’s 125-107 game one win, is that they clearly have the depth advantage in this series. The Nuggets had six players in double figures, led by Jamal Murray’s 34 points. Murray was the best player on the court in a game with Nikola Jokic, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. If he continues to be that guy, it's going to be hard for any team remaining to beat Denver.
Speaking of Booker and Durant, both had solid performances in game one combining for 56 points, but once you get beyond those two, Phoenix just doesn't seem to have the pieces to hang with this Denver team.
Deandre Ayton is overmatched against Jokic, Chris Paul at this stage of his career can’t be counted on to carry that much of a load, and the bench is flimsy at best beyond that.
It’s only one game, but Denver looks to be the class of the West. Phoenix does have two players that can win any game against anyone at any time, but the Nuggets simply just look too good.
Pick: Nuggets in 5
Warriors Vs. Lakers (Game 1 on Tuesday)
What an absolute treat for basketball fans to get Lebron/Curry in a second-round matchup, harkening back to the good old days in the late 20-teens when those two went head to head every year.
Of course, it’s a different Lebron now, but Steph is arguably playing the best basketball of his career, dragging his team past the upstart Sacramento Kings with a brilliant 50-point performance in Game 7. In fact, he averaged a ludicrous 33.7 points per game so far this postseason.
He presents a serious matchup problem for the Lakers, and I wouldn't be surprised if they have to send two at him and force Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins to beat them.
On the wrong night, the Warriors' lack of depth can be a major issue, and they can be exposed on the defensive end, looking old and slow. But with Steph at the helm playing at this level, they can beat anyone on any night.
The Lakers on the other hand have depth on their side, as they’ve figured out a nice mix of size, defence and scoring with their 8-man rotation. Anthony Davis has struggled offensively, but he was downright awesome on the defensive end against Memphis, controlling the paint with a whopping 4.3 blocks per game. He should be able to continue to do so with the Warriors' lack of a stretch big to pull him out on the perimeter.
Lebron has been okay, he’s certainly picking his spots, but he doesn’t have to do as much with the number of options the Lakers have, and he can turn it on for 6 minutes when he has to.
But If the Lakers are going to win this series, it has to come from those on the roster not named Davis or James, as it did against Memphis.
This one is a true toss-up. Both teams are flawed but can rise to championship-level play when things go right.
Pick: Lakers in 7
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By: Eddie Huband

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