What's next: Breaking down the NBA conference semifinal matchups
Wilfredo Lee, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A capsule look at the Eastern Conference and Western Conference semifinal matchups in the NBA playoffs:
No. 1 INDIANA PACERS (56-26 regular season, 4-3 in playoffs) vs. No. 5 WASHINGTON WIZARDS (44-38, 4-1)
Season series: Pacers, 2-1. Indiana routed Washington at home twice during its sizzling start before the new year, then lost on the road during its late-season slide. The Wizards shot under 40 percent in all three games and averaged 70.5 points in their losses, when John Wall shot 8 of 29. Wall rebounded with 20 points and eight assists in the Wizards' 91-78 home victory on March 28.
Story line: Forced to seven games in the first round before getting by a 38-win Atlanta team, the Pacers will try again to find the level they played at in the first half of the season. The Wizards had a surprisingly easy five-game victory over Chicago and are in the second round for just the third time since 1979.
Key matchup I: Roy Hibbert vs. Marcin Gortat. After a mostly miserable series against the Hawks' nontraditional centers, maybe Hibbert will be more comfortable and effective in this round against someone who plays more his style. Gortat had a pair of 17-point games against Indiana during the season and averaged 10.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in the first round.
Key matchup II: Paul George vs. Wall. Besides his six double-doubles in the series, George defended Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, and sticking with that strategy means trying to cool off Wall, who averaged 18.8 points in his first postseason series. George struggled a bit against the Wizards, shooting 2 for 14 and 6 for 22 in the final two games.
X-factor: Trevor Ariza. The Pacers gave up a number of open 3-point looks to the Hawks and will have to keep a better eye on the Wizards' swingman, who was 13 of 28 behind the arc against Chicago.
Prediction: Pacers in 6.
No. 2 MIAMI HEAT (54-28, 4-0) vs. No. 6 BROOKLYN NETS (44-38, 4-3)
Season series: Nets, 4-0. And that doesn't even count a 2-0 mark in the preseason. It's one-sided in terms of wins and losses, and really not in most other categories. Three of Brooklyn's wins in the regular season were by a single point, and the fourth was in double overtime. Dwyane Wade played in only two of four games for Miami, and Brooklyn's Kevin Garnett also missed two meetings in the series.
Story line: Brooklyn has already won four games that count against Miami. Can the Nets do it now when it really counts? The Nets are coming in after going on the road and winning a Game 7 against Toronto, while Miami will have had more than a week off after sweeping away the Charlotte Bobcats.
Key matchup I: LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce. This is the fifth time those two will duel in the postseason, Pierce (with Boston) ending James' season (with Cleveland) in 2008 and 2010. James, after joining the Heat, returned the favor with Miami topping Boston in 2011 and 2012. There's no question who the better player is today, but Pierce has a knack for coming up big at the biggest time of year.
Key matchup II: Wade vs. Joe Johnson. When Wade is good, Miami tends to be great, and Wade says he's feeling good physically after getting more time off between rounds. Johnson had 13 points in the final 12 minutes of Game 7 at Toronto, and if he gets hot, Miami will certainly have some headaches.
X-factor: Bosh. Miami is 38-12 this season when he scores at least 15 points, 19-14 when he does not.
Prediction: Heat in 6.
No. 1 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (62-20, 4-3) vs. No. 5 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (54-28, 4-2)
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