2013 NBA playoffs: Previewing Heat vs. Bulls and Spurs vs. Warriors

Why the Heat will win in five: With four-time MVP LeBron James focused on another ring, playing freely and dominating, the Heat doesn’t appear to have a legitimate threat on its title run. Even with Derrick Rose down, Chicago has been a worthy adversary to the Heat in the regular season and ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak on March 27. The Bulls showed their mental toughness in overcoming injuries and illness to defeat Brooklyn in seven games in the first round. But they won’t have enough to challenge the superior Heat in a playoff series — especially if a weakened Luol Deng is unable to affect James.

Difference maker: Dwyane Wade, Heat. Wade missed Game 4 of Miami’s sweep of Milwaukee with a sore right knee that has hampered him throughout the season. He averaged just 14 points against the Bucks and remains day-to-day despite extended rest. The Bulls’ gritty defense could pose problems for the Heat if Wade isn’t at full strength.

Schedule

Game 1: Chicago at Miami, tonight, 7 p.m. (TNT)

Game 2: Chicago at Miami, Wednesday, 7 (TNT)

Game 3: Miami at Chicago, Friday, 8 (ESPN)

Game 4: Miami at Chicago, dates, times TBA

Game 5*: Chicago at Miami, TBA

Game 6*: Miami at Chicago, TBA

Game 7*: Chicago at Miami, TBA

* If necessary

Western Conference

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs
vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors

Why the Spurs will win in six: San Antonio was untested in the first round and its aging roster is now well-rested in duel with the upstart Warriors. Golden State used small ball and Steph Curry’s hot shooting to upset Denver but the Spurs have the discipline and sophistication on both ends to adjust to any style. They have also won 29 straight over Golden State in San Antonio. Tim Duncan dominated in three games he played against the Warriors, who will have a limited David Lee.

Difference maker: Manu Ginobili, Spurs. Ginobili missed nine of the final 10 games of the regular season with right hamstring injury but has had plenty of time to rest since averaging 11.3 points in limited minutes of San Antonio’s four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs will need a perimeter counter to Warriors guard Jarrett Jack, who torched the Nuggets.

Schedule

Game 1: Golden State at San Antonio, tonight, 9:30 (TNT)

Game 2: Golden State at San Antonio, Wed., 9:30 (TNT)

Game 3: San Antonio at Golden State, Friday, 10:30 (ESPN)

Game 4: San Antonio at Golden State, TBA

Game 5*: Golden State at San Antonio, TBA

Game 6*: San Antonio at Golden State, TBA

Game 7*: Golden State at San Antonio, TBA

— Michael Lee