After a first round in which 62.5 percent of the series went seven games, the NBA’s conference semifinals kick off Monday night with two games: Wizards at Pacers (which you can read about here, here, here, here and here) at 7 at Clippers at Thunder at 9:30 (both games are on TNT). Here are some things worth watching.
1. Which Roy Hibbert will show up for the Pacers?
Hibbert, Indiana’s all-star center, scored just 20 points in his first six playoff games combined but rebounded slightly in Game 7 with 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in 31 minutes, the most he’s played since a regular season game in Miami on April 11. His eight first-quarter points Saturday were more than he had scored in Games 4-6 combined, but in the first round he became the first all-star with consecutive scoreless playoff games since 1968. Will a return to the Washington area — Hibbert played at Georgetown Prep and Georgetown — spark Hibbert?
2. What nickname will the Thunder’s Kevin Durant earn from the Oklahoman newspaper?
Kevin Durant went from “Mr. Unreliable” to “Kevin Up” late in Oklahoma City’s seven-game first-round victory over Memphis. How he does against the Clippers may depend on whom Los Angeles uses to defend him. Memphis’s Tony Allen did a great job against Durant in the first round, or at least in the first five games.
In the first five games, [Durant] averaged 28 points and shot 40 percent from the field. In the last two games, he averaged 34.5 points and shot 56 percent.
Memphis guard Tony Allen, who had success defending Durant, said the rest of the league could be in trouble.
“Should be easy for him, a lot easier for him now that I ain’t got to harass him,” Allen said.
3. Will the Miami Heat make any news at all?
The least newsworthy team in the first round was the one that everyone is usually talking about. Second-seeded Miami’s ho-hum sweep of Charlotte — the only first-round series settled in four games — barely made a blip because of the Donald Sterling affair plus Hibbert, Durant and, yes, our Wizards sucking all the air out of the room. The Heat will almost certainly be challenged more by the Nets in the second round, seeing as how Brooklyn swept the four-game regular season series with Miami. The Heat will have had an eight-day layoff between Game 4 of their first-round series and Tuesday night’s second-round lid-lifter with the Nets. Last year, the Heat swept the Bucks and also had an eight-day layoff, and they proceeded to lose Game 1 of their second-round series to the Bulls. Of course, Miami recovered to win the next four against Chicago and ended up winning it all a month or so later.
4. Can the veteran Spurs keep up with the younger Blazers?
The average age of the Spurs’ starting five is 29.4. The Blazers’ starters are 25.8, on average. San Antonio may be a little deeper, however, even though its bench didn’t do a whole lot against the Mavs in the first round.
Parker, Aldridge and Duncan all missed the team’s third meeting, a 111-109 San Antonio victory in Portland on Feb. 19.
Patty Mills had 29 points in place of Parker, helping the Spurs end their skid against the Trail Blazers.
San Antonio will need that type of production from its bench, which was a nonfactor against Dallas with the exception of Ginobili.
“Our ball movement is coming back and we’re going to need it against Portland because they are another great defensive team,” Parker said.