Five NBA playoff storylines to watch
We're into the semfinals of the NBA playoffs, and Sunday marks the start of a whole new set of dramatic and intriguing storylines to keep an eye on, from hungry Heat players to rowdy Hawks centers. Here's what we're looking at:
1. Hunger for moreNo. 2 Heat vs. No. 3 Celtics
According to LeBron James, the Philadelphia 76ers were just breakfast. Now the Heat prepare to take on a hearty lunch -- a well-rested Celtics squad in the semifinals. The Celtics, the only team to sweep their first-round opponent, are waiting to pounce like a lion in the tall grass. Boston represents a real threat to the Heat, having taken the regular season series 3-1. Boston head coach Doc Rivers hopes Shaquille O'Neal will return from an extended injury layoff to play in Games 1 or 2. If the Big Leprechaun doesn't return, Jermaine O'Neal will hold down the middle against Miami's Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
2. Let's get ready to rumbleNo.1 Bulls vs. No. 5 Hawks
No, you didn't just accidentally turn to an NHL game while watching this series; the matchup is just that physical. Hawks center Zaza Pachulia has been doing his best WWE impersonation, bumping heads with players during the first round and shows no signs of slowing despite receiving a one-game suspension from the league. Bulls forward Joakim Noah is a known irritant and could get under Pachulia's skin, making for an explosive semifinal series. Noah might even play tag team and get Carlos Boozer in on the action. Watch for Derrick Rose to own the point -- with Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich doubtful for the semifinals (hamstring), the Hawks have no answer for him defensively.
3. Who's the postseason boss?No. 4 Thunder vs. No.8 Grizzlies
No matter the outcome of this series, Memphis is winning. For the first time in franchise history, the Grizzlies have advanced to the second round. After going six games with the Spurs, Memphis will have to tap into its reserve energy tanks to keep up with a quick Thunder team. That said, Memphis has had a leg up on Oklahoma City this year, winning the regular season series 3-1.
4. Wipe your feet in my house2 Lakers vs. No. 3 Mavericks
If anyone on the Mavericks think he's the answer to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, please raise your hand. Anyone? All things considered, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood are the best weapons in the Mavericks' arsenal against the Lakers' version of the twin towers, and that's not saying much. If the Lakers are smart, they will play this game from the inside out and let their 7-footers do the work. Bynum and Gasol should start having their mail delivered to the paint, because it's their house for the semifinals.
5. The envelope please ...
Half of the individual awards have already been dished out, but the biggies, such as Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and the coveted MVP are still to come. The social media world has spoken and feels Rookie of the Year and MVP are already locked down. However, Coach of the Year is still surrounded by a cloud of mystery. Expect to see at least one of these titles awarded in the second round.