A look at some of the eye-catching first-round clashes
Updated: 2013-04-20 07:19
No 1 Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22) vs No 8 Houston Rockets (45-37)
Key matchup I: Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin vs James Harden.
Key matchup II: Russell Westbrook vs Jeremy Lin.
X-factor: Patrick Beverley. The Rockets aren't afraid to give the backup point guard big minutes, and might need to use him if Westbrook's quickness is too much for Lin.
Prediction: Thunder in 5.
No 2 San Antonio Spurs (58-24) vs No 7 Los Angeles Lakers (45-37).
Key matchup I: Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter vs Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
Key matchup II: Tony Parker vs Steve Nash.
X-factor: Steve Blake. He started in Nash's place down the stretch and was particularly good after Bryant was lost, scoring 23 and 24 points in his final two games.
Prediction: Spurs in 6.
No 4 Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs No 5 Memphis Grizzlies (56-26)
Key Matchup I: Blake Griffin vs Zach Randolph.
Key Matchup II: Chris Paul vs Mike Conley.
X-Factor: Marc Gasol. A strong defensive player of the year candidate, he shot 52 percent in the series against the Clippers last season. If he matches that, there will be an "upset" alert, though one 56-win club topping another would hardly be considered an upset.
Prediction: Grizzlies in 7.
No 1 Miami Heat (66-16) vs No 8 Milwaukee Bucks (38-44)
Key Matchup I: LeBron James vs Everybody.
Key Matchup II: Mario Chalmers vs Brandon Jennings.
X-Factor: Larry Sanders, only because he averaged one technical foul every 24 minutes against Miami this season, and he'll need to be on the floor if Milwaukee will succeed in its quest to at least slow Chris Bosh.
Prediction: Heat in 5.
No 2 New York Knicks (54-28) vs No 7 Boston Celtics (41-40)
Key matchup I: Tyson Chandler vs Kevin Garnett.
Key matchup II: JR Smith vs Jason Terry.
X-factor: Chris Copeland. The former pro player in Europe has become a surprising contributor in his rookie NBA season for the Knicks and seems to have found a place in the rotation. He scored 22 in the last meeting against Boston and had a pair of 30-point games to end the regular season.
Prediction: Knicks in 7.
(China Daily 04/20/2013 page24)