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Knicks/Pacers is the Only Interesting Second-Round Series

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One look at the second-round series odds has this writer yearning for the Conference Finals.

Don't get me wrong. I like me some Stephen Curry. I think Marc Gasol is a perfectly fine individual. And if Joakim Noah wanted to take me out to dinner, then by (Paul) George, I'd accept in a heartbeat. That's not the issue.

The problem is that none of their teams are likely to come within a stone's throw of the NBA Conference Finals.

Sure, funny things happen on the basketball court. The Warriors were our third-least likely team to make the second round, after all. After taking a look at the odds for each of the four series as they stand, however, you should be better able to understand my reservations about these four playoff matchups.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Most Likely Result: Oklahoma City Thunder in 5

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Oklahoma City16.09%28.14%16.62%17.96%78.81%
Memphis0.00%2.97%9.34%8.88%21.19%

Why Memphis Won't Win: They Can't Make Shots

Seems so simple, and yet so true: when you hold OKC to a .444 effective field goal percentage (eFG%), beat them in offensive rebounding percentage, and almost beat them in turnover percentage in Game 1, and still can't turn out the victory, you have a problem. That problem is just as simple: an inability to put the ball in the bucket.

The Grizzlies may have finished with the third-best defensive eFG% during the regular season at .475 eFG%, but their offense actually shot .003 worse than they allowed defensively. Of the seven key players in the Grizzlies' rotation, only one - Quincy Pondexter - finished the season above .500 eFG%. And the Grizzlies as a team only shot above .500 eFG% in 28 of their 82 games, or 34 percent of the time.

Against the Thunder, that simply won't get the job done. OKC finished the regular season with only a .469 eFG% allowed to opponents, second-best in the NBA. Of the Grizzlies' three regular-season games against the Thunder, two saw them shoot less than .400 eFG% from the field (the other was a .511 eFG% outlier).

For the Grizzlies to beat the Thunder, they will need to consistently shoot better than the .470 eFG% they managed in Game 1. I'm not quite sure they have it in them.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors

Most Likely Result: San Antonio Spurs in 5

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
San Antonio12.59%22.67%18.46%20.26%73.98%
Golden State2.31%4.60%10.08%9.03%26.02%

Why Golden State Won't Win: Good Luck With That Shooting

Steph Curry had a .573 eFG% in six games in the first round. Jarrett Jack was at .553 eFG%. Klay Thompson was at .538 eFG%. Draymond Freaking Green had a .704 eFG% that I'd even have trouble replicating on NBA 2k13.

Good luck gaining those numbers again against the Spurs, boys.

According to 82games.com, opposing point guards are only shooting .470 eFG% against the Spurs this season. Shooting guards aren't much better at .488. And in fact, there isn't a single position on the floor where opponents are shooting above .500, with .494 eFG% at center as the highest. That tight defense is the biggest reason the Spurs finished third in overall defensive rating, only allowing 101.6 points per 100 possessions this past season.

For a team that relies on their shooting as much as the Warriors, the Spurs will be a tough nut to crack. Remember, the Warriors only committed a fewer percentage of turnovers in one of their six games against the Nuggets last series, and their rebounding via David Lee isn't in tip-top shape. They don't have many other ways to win if the shooting isn't there, and it's less likely to be there than it was against Denver.

Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls

Most Likely Result: Miami Heat in 5

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Miami21.91%32.43%18.30%15.16%87.80%
Chicago1.00%1.65%5.22%4.33%12.20%

Why Chicago Won't Win: Miami's Offensive Advantage

Yeah, I remember that win streak-busting win. To my dismay, I haven't been under a Hunger Games-themed rock with Jennifer Lawrence the past three months. But know what it took to win that game? Miami scoring about seven less points than expected given 93 game possessions, Chicago grabbing double Miami's percentage offensive rebounds, and the Bulls shooting .041 eFG% higher than their season average. Good luck replicating those results.

Over a seven game sample size, seeing the mean statistics is much more likely than a one-game sample. And those mean statistics are that Miami had the league-best effective field goal percentage (.553), the second-best points per 100 possessions rating behind OKC (112.3), and were also in the top half in both offensive turnover rate and free throw factor (FT/FGA).

Chicago, meanwhile, finished just 23rd in offensive rating (8.8 points per 100 possessions lower than Miami) and next-to-last in effective field goal percentage (.083 eFG% lower than Miami). I don't care that Chicago allowed 0.5 points fewer per 100 possessions - that type of offensive advantage is next to impossible to overcome given a large enough sample size.

But yeah, the streak-busting win and what-not. Keep feeding that to me. Want to know just how unlikely that win streak-busting shooting performance was from both sides? Chicago's .517 eFG% in that game was their 17th-best mark of the regular season. Miami's .526 eFG% in that game was their 57th-highest single-game percentage.

New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers

Most Likely Result: Indiana Pacers in 6

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
New York0.00%6.32%10.25%18.18%34.75%
Indiana13.93%16.54%22.17%12.61%65.25%

Why this one is interesting: Offense vs. Defense

San Antonio is better than Golden State in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Oklahoma City is eight points per 100 possessions better than Memphis on offense while the Grizzlies are only two points better on defense. The Heat have Chicago crushed on offense as measured above. Efficiency-wise, only one team has a clear advantage in each case.

In the Knicks/Pacers series, however, each team has a clear advantage. The Pacers can't hold a candle to New York's offense, with the Knicks scoring 6.8 more points per 100 possessions. On defense, however, Indiana has the clear edge at 6.5 fewer points per 100 possessions allowed. In terms of net difference, they're essentially dead-even.

Indiana won Game 1 because the Pacers had a much higher offensive rating than expected (about eight points per 100 possessions better, in fact). However, all stats going back to their mean eventually, that result isn't as likely to happen in Game 2 as the average 104.3 points per 100 possessions that they had during the regular season. Close games should be the norm.

And it's that lack of a clear advantage that makes this series exciting. It also makes it the only series whose most likely result is over five games played. Buckle in, because this one should be good... even if it's the only series I can say that about.

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In This Article

Jarrett Jack
G, Cleveland Cavaliers

Quincy Pondexter
GF, Memphis Grizzlies

Stephen Curry
G, Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson
GF, Golden State Warriors

Carmelo Anthony
F, New York Knicks

Paul George
GF, Indiana Pacers

LeBron James
F, Miami Heat

Tyson Chandler
C, New York Knicks

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