After three weeks, the 2013 NBA Playoffs field narrows down to eight, as the Conference semifinals begin, giving us two number one seeds (Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder), two number two seeds (New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs), one number three seed (Indiana Pacers), two number five seeds (Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies) and one number six seed (Golden State Warriors).
Considering their sweeps in the first round, it might be safe to say and assume that at the moment, the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs are the favorites to make it through their conference minefields and reach the NBA finals.
The Bulls are the only team that needed 7 games in order to make it out of the first round, beating the Brooklyn Nets 99-93 in the final game of the series, being one of the three teams that made it past their rivals without home court advantage, not to mention with ridiculous amount of playing on the injury list. The Bulls were a fifth seed in the Eastern conference after a 45-37 season. They’re in the conference semifinals for the second time in three years, playing against the Miami Heat, with whom they are 2-2 during the regular season. Their leading scorer in the postseason so far is Carlos Boozer with 17.4 points per game, followed by Nate Robinson, averaging 17.
Golden State Warriors
The only sixth seed still remaining in the postseason, the Warriors surprised the favorite Nuggets by being a lot more physical than anyone expected, winning the series in six games. The Warriors finished the regular season with a 47-35 record, helping them make the postseason, and eventually the conference semifinals, for the first time since 2007. They haven’t won two playoff series in one year since 1975, when they took the NBA title. Stephen Curry, averaging 24.3 points per game, is their leading scorer in the postseason, followed by Jarrett Jack with 18.8.
The Indiana Pacers needed six games to get past the Atlanta Hawks, making it into the conference semifinals for a second consecutive year, the first time that’s happened since 2005. They finished the regular season with a 49-32 record, their highest win total since the 2003-2004 season. They’re facing the New York Knicks next, going 2-2 against them in the regular season. Their top scorer so far in the playoffs is Paul George with 18.7 points per game, followed by David West, scoring 15.7.
The Heat had no problems asserting their dominance in a clean 4-0 sweep over the Milwaukee Bucks, showing that their 66-16 record during the regular season and being the number one overall seed wasn’t a fluke. It is the third consecutive season in which they’re reached the conference semifinals, reaching the NBA finals the last three times they’ve reached this stage. Their next opponents are the Chicago Bulls, a team they are 2-2 against during the regular season. LeBron James, averaging 24.5 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer in the postseason, followed by Ray Allen with 16.5.
The Grizzlies came back from 0-2 down to take the series from the Clippers, entering the conference semifinals for the second time in franchise history as the hottest team in the West. Their 56-26 record in the regular season was a new franchise record, and they’ve beaten their next opponents, the Oklahoma City Thunder, two times in three games during the regular season. The Thunder are also the last team they faced in the conference semifinal (2011), losing in seven games. Zach Randolph, averaging 20.3 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer in the postseason, followed by Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, both scoring 17.3 per game.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks needed six games to beat an old and injured Boston Celtics team in the first round, following their excellent 54-28 regular season, earning them the second seed and the home court advantage in their series with the Indiana Pacers, a 2-2 draw between them during the regular season. This is the Knicks’ first appearance in a conference semifinal since 2000. Carmelo Anthony, averaging 29.2 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs, followed by Raymond Felton with 17.2 points.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Unlike the number one seed in the East, the Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t heading into the semifinal with too much of momentum, barely scraping through their series with the Houston Rockets. Without Russell Westbrook, they’re probably the underdogs heading into the series with the Memphis Grizzlies, who they’ve beaten only once in three tries this season. The Thunder are in the conference semifinals for a third consecutive season, getting past that round one the previous two times. Kevin Durant, averaging 32.5 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs so far, followed by Reggie Jackson with 14 per game.
San Antonio Spurs
It was easy to forget the Spurs are still in the playoffs because they swept swiftly through their series with the Los Angeles Lakers. Finishing second in the Western conference, the Spurs now advance to play against the Golden State Warriors, a team they went 2-2 against during the regular season. It’s the Spurs’ third time in the last four years they’ve reached the conference semifinals. Tony Parker, averaging 22.3 points per game is their leading scorer, followed by Tim Duncan with 17.5.