Capsule Previews of the NBA's second-round series Print
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Saturday, 04 May 2013 10:17
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 A capsule look at the NBA's second-round playoff series that begin Sunday:
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EASTERN CONFERENCE
No. 2 NEW YORK KNICKS (54-28, 4-2) vs. No. 3 INDIANA PACERS (49-32, 4-2)
Season series: Tied, 2-2. The Knicks shot just 37 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3-point range. They sustained their worst loss of the season when the Pacers beat them 125-91 on Feb. 20 in Indianapolis, but managed to split the series and wrap up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 90-80 home victory April 14. Carmelo Anthony averaged 22 points but was only 4 of 17 on 3-pointers (23.5 percent), while Paul George scored 20 a game for the Pacers.
Story line: Back in the second round for the first time since 2000, the Knicks face a regular playoff rival from the 1990s, whose team president, Donnie Walsh, got them started on their return to prominence when he held the same position in New York from 2008-11. One of these teams will have to look sharper than it did in the first round to make people believe it would have a chance in a presumed conference finals matchup with Miami.
Key Matchup I: Tyson Chandler vs. Roy Hibbert. Chandler says he's fully recovered and finally looks it after he was sidelined for much of the end of the regular season with a bulging disk. He averaged 12.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in three appearances against the Pacers and outplayed Hibbert, who shot only 42 percent and averaged 5.5 points and 6.3 boards against the Knicks.
Key Matchup II: Anthony vs. David West. The Knicks' small lineup gives Anthony advantages on offense against power forwards but makes him susceptible to getting banged around on defense covering bigger guys, and he's battling left shoulder pain after Kevin Garnett pulled on his arm during the first round. The Knicks may consider a conventional lineup with Kenyon Martin - or even Amare Stoudemire if he can return from knee surgery - getting minutes against the rugged West.
X-Factor: Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni. They combined to shoot just 6 of 25 against the Pacers during the season but look much more ready to contribute offensively now. Shumpert scored 17 points and Prigioni had 14 in the Knicks' Game 6 clincher against Boston, combining for seven 3-pointers.
Prediction: Knicks in 7.
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WESTERN CONFERENCE
No. 1 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (60-22, 4-2) vs. No. 5 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (56-26, 4-2)
Season series: Grizzlies, 2-1. Oklahoma City's only win in the series came in the Grizzlies' first game after trading away leading scorer Rudy Gay and before Tayshaun Prince and their other acquisitions arrived. Memphis won 107-97 on the Thunder's home court in November and 90-89 in their own gym in March on Marc Gasol's tip-in at the overtime buzzer. There were nine technical fouls called in the three games, and that was just a hint of the hostility between these teams.
Story line: The Thunder managed to make it into the second round after losing All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to a knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of the playoffs. Now, they must face Memphis, which has been emerging as a chief rival since the teams met in an epic seven-game series two years ago in the West semifinals. That series featured one triple-overtime game and another with a single overtime before Westbrook produced a triple-double in Oklahoma City's Game 7 win.
Key Matchup I: Kendrick Perkins vs. Zach Randolph. These two don't seem to like each other one bit. In the first meeting of the year, both were ejected for an on-court altercation, then ran into the back hallway of Chesapeake Energy Arena to continue it. Randolph was later fined for confronting Perkins outside the Thunder locker room. More importantly, the Thunder will depend on Perkins' post defense to slow Randolph, who has averaged 24.8 points during Memphis' current four-game winning streak.
Key Matchup II: Kevin Durant vs. Tony Allen/Prince. With Westbrook out, the Grizzlies could have the luxury of deploying both of their well-respected defenders at times against the league's second-leading scorer. Durant has averaged 35.5 points in the four games since Westbrook had surgery, and Oklahoma City still went just 2-2.
X-Factor: Reggie Jackson. After outlasting Chris Paul in the previous round, Memphis' Mike Conley would normally be prepping to face another All-Star, Westbrook. Instead, Jackson - a second-year point guard - is filling in. Westbrook averaged 19.3 points, 7.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds in the regular season against Memphis, and Jackson's ability to fill that void will go far in determining how the Thunder fare.
Prediction: Grizzlies in 6.
 

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