Round 2 of the 2015 NBA playoffs officially starts with the number one seeds of each conference facing separate foes.
Tomorrow's match-ups feature two teams who've had a week's rest against two teams whove have just finished their own first round series. Funny thing is not both number one seeds are the ones who've been resting for a week.
The NBA's top seeded Warriors swept the Pelicans and are the #1 team who's well rested. Their Eastern conference counterparts, the Hawks, weren't as lucky as them. Atlanta had to fight through a tough Brooklyn team before winning in six games. They will now face the Wizards who have been waiting for them for a week now after upsetting and sweeping the Toronto Raptors.
But while the Warriors and Wizards had the luxury of rest, they are also at a risk of cooling down and losing continuity after a week of inactivity. On the other hand, the Hawks and Grizzlies may have the momentum of their recently concluded series but may be fatigued to play on short notice.
Which will be a factor tomorrow: Rest or Momentum?
We''ll help you answer that question with this post and preview both Game 1s with this post. We'll also give you the SportHold Super Prediction score to help you out with your picks for Sunday's games.
The SportHold Super Prediction score is based on the collated predictions of SportHold users. Our users enter their predictions in our challenges page and we come up with a set of picks based on those. Those picks become our voice- or the voice of the crowd. The more predictions we get, the stronger our voice is. Remember that there is strength in numbers. Here at SportHold though, we just don't come up with a voice, but our users compete with others in our leaderboard. We give out points to every prediction you make, depending on the accuracy. Users also get points when they test their Sports IQ at our mini-games and even get a chance to win cash prizes by predicting the exact scores of NBA games. To get you started, here is the Prediction Data for May 2 to help you out:
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A couple of days after dispatching a game Brooklyn Nets' squad in the first round of the playoffs, the Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks immediately face the well-rested Washinton Wizards who have been waiting for them for a week now. So while the Wizards can boast of a well-rested unit, Coach Mike Budenholzer hopes that the momentum of their emphatic Game 6 close out of the Nets would push them to a win over the Wizards.
The Hawks exploded in the third quarter of Game 6 to break wide open a six point game and win by a 111-87 blowout in what was their best performance in nearly a month. Atlanta had struggled to finish the season after locking up their conference and then had to survive the 8th seeded Nets who nearly took them to the seven game limit.
The Hawks had the Wizards' number during the regular season, winning their first three regular season meetings before losing their final encounter in Washington with their starters resting on the bench. While the Hawks won 14 more games than the Wizards, Washington's 46 win season was their best since 1979 when they won 54 games and reached the NBA finals.
Credit Washinton's renaissance to their dynamic backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal, but it's been veteran forward Paul Pierce who's ignited their fire in the playoffs. Pierce didn't just play mind games with the Raptors, his clutch three pointers beat Toronto in Games 1 and 3. The Truth will be the Wizards' X factor in this series.
Wall's match-up against Jeff Teague should be crucial in the series. John Wall averaged 17.3 points and 12.5 assists in the Toronto series. On the other hand, Teague scored 20 points in Game 5 and then dished off 13 assists in Game 6 to lead the Hawks. The winner of this one on one duel is likely to have the winning team in this series.
Aside from that, the Wizards need to utilize their big frontline of Nene and Marcin Gortat against Atlanta's undersized forwards. The Hawks are 8th among 16 playoff teams in rebounding and were #28 in that same category during the regular season.
The Hawks meanwhile hope that DeMarre Carroll continues to make his baskets in Round 2. The only starter not to make the all-star team, Carroll led the Hawks in scoring during their first round series against Brooklyn with 17.5 PPG while shooting 14-30 from three point distance.
The Hawks haven't lost in their homecourt this postseason but don't tell that to the Wizards who are 7-1 on the road this past two post seasons, giving coach Randy Wittman the best ever playoff start on the road by any NBA coach.
Like the Wizards, the Warriors are the beneficiaries of a one week rest after similarly sweeping their first round opponents in the New Orleans Pelicans.
If the Wizards had Paul Pierce as their X-factor, the Warriors had Stephen Curry who made that memorable three pointer that sent Game 3 to overtime. That triple capped off a come from behind character defining OT win where the Warriors erased a 20 point fourth quarter deficit.
Stories of performances like that have made Curry a legend of sorts this season, aside of course from the fact he is one of the top candidates for MVP. Against the Grizzlies though, Curry will be matched up against a two-way PG in Mike Conley who has been the key to the Grizzlies' offense. However, Conley is a doubtful starter in Game 1 after undergoing facial surgery to repair broken bones in his face.
What the Warriors are sure about though is facing Memphis' bruise brothers. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are two of the most imposing frontline in the NBA. Gasol was the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year while Randolph has been averaging 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in the first round. But then Golden State's top rated defense is anchored on their frontcourt of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green who are among the Top 5 in defensive efficiency.
But it wasn't just their defense which made the Warriors the best team in the NBA during the regular season. Stephen Curry broke the single season record with 283 three pointers this season while his backcourt partner Klay Thompson ranked second with 239 makes. Both Splash Brothers lit up the nets in the first round, hitting 41.7% and 48.5% in the playoffs. If both stay hot in this series, Tony Allen should have his job cut out for him.
Marc Gasol should play a big role for Memphis especially with Conley hurt or not 100%. Gasol has scored at least 15 points and 7 rebounds in this year's playoffs including a big 26 point night during their close out Game 5. But for Gasol (and Radolph too) to operate effectively down low, SG Courtney Lee must continue to hit his shots. Lee shot 31-47 from the floor including 6-11 from three point range against the Blazers.
The Warriors won their regular season series 2-1 with a win at home and in Memphis. A major problem for Memphis tomorrow is the venue of Game 1 which is the Oracle Arena because the Warriors have won 20 straight games there and have lost just twice this season (41-2 including the playoffs).
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