Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> After five Game 7s in the first round, what’s the one conference semifinal that you expect to be closest?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Give me Clippers-Thunder. I think the talent level is close between the two teams (slight nod to OKC). And we’ve got big-time semi-intangibles in play – the emotional turmoil-turned-energy burst of the Donald Sterling controversy for the Clippers, the MVP specialness of Kevin Durant and the mission he and his teammates have undertaken because of it. As potent as Durant and Russell Westbrook are, I’m not sure the Thunder have enough other sources of offense, so I’m guessing Clippers in 7.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Thunder-Clippers has all the earmarks of a series that will go the distance. Rather than take them down, Donald Sterling affair seems to have brought he Clippers together with more of a purpose. The Thunder don’t seem to have a rhythm or flow to their offense, but with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s 1-on-1 skills quite often don’t need it. They’ll go back and forth, winning on each other’s court, and OKC uses the advantage of Loud City to pull out another Game 7.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Oklahoma City and the Clippers, to me, are so evenly matched and have players on both sides — Chris Paul for L.A.; Kevin Durant for OKC — who are desperate to move on.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Clippers-Thunder. I would have thought it would be evenly matched anyway, but seeing both pushed to the limit in the first round, and maybe even to the point of exhaustion, created another obstacle that should keep it close. It may not be a bad obstacle of sloppy play as much as making it hard to see either side winning more than two in a row. It sets up for a lot of back-and-forth. Oh, and Clippers in 7, which I said before L.A. won the opener.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Thunder-Clippers. These are two of the three teams that ranked in the top seven on both ends of the floor, and one of them won’t make it to the conference finals to (presumably) face the third (San Antonio). I like both team’s offense against the other’s D, and the team that wins will be the one that manages to get a few stops here and there. I originally picked OKC in 7 and I won’t change that now, but Chris Paul looked a lot healthier in Game 1 than I remember him looking in the first round.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The first round spoiled us all. There’s no way that was going to be duplicated in the conference semifinal round. Just no way. The Clippers-Thunder series is the one semifinal that I think is going to be the closest, whether it goes six or seven. The Thunder will bounce back from that Game 1 blowout loss. Chris Paul caught them napping in Game 1 and did what you expect one of the game’s best to do in that situation. But the newly minted MVP (Kevin Durant) won’t go down without a furious fight. That said, I’m going with the Clippers in six.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: Before last night, I would have said Miami/Brooklyn, because the Nets have history on their side — we know they can match up against the Heat, we know they have players who can cause match-up problems for the Heat, and then there was that whole 0-4 regular-season record thing. But then last night, the Heat looked like they were running lay-up drills after traffic cones. I’ll still roll with the Nets, I guess, because a comeback now would mimic their regular season, when they struggled early and turned things around. And I still think they have the best chance of anyone in the East to beat the Heat.
Selcuk Aytekin, NBA Turkiye: I believe the Clippers-Thunder series will be very tight. With Durant now in possession of his first MVP, he will step up and play like it. On the other hand Chris Paul started the second round about as well as someone can. That scoring duel will be very interesting to watch, and we’ll see at least 6 games.
Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: I hope it will be the Heat-Nets-series. The West is so hard. Every team has to go over the limit to get in the next round. That takes a lot out of them. On the other side the Heat could rest for a long time after their sweep in Round 1. Brooklyn will challenge them more and that’s good for the Finals, so we won’t have a well-rested Heat team against a leached West team.