Metta World Peace, who was suspended at the end of the regular season for his elbowing of OKC’s James Harden.
Similar intrigue can be found in the next series for the Spurs, who enjoy a comfortable 2-0 lead on the Utah Jazz. San Antonio will likely have the luxury of resting for a while, as they await the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers & Memphis Grizzlies match-up. After two thoroughly entertaining games, the series is nodded up at one game apiece. With each team being very evenly matched, this series has a strong possibility of going the full seven games, which bodes well for the veteran Spurs. After being eliminated by Memphis in last year’s playoffs, it will be interesting to see how the Spurs respond if the two franchises square off once again. Head Coach Greg Popovich was recently named NBA Coach of the Year and will undoubtedly be put to the test, no matter who his team faces in round two.
On the Eastern side of the tournament, the Miami Heat is coasting into the next round while the rest of the conference battles it out. With a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Knicks, Miami will likely wrap their first round match-up with Sunday’s game four and await the winner of the Pacers versus Magic series. Indiana stepped into the driver’s seat after taking game three in blow-out fashion. Orlando, who is without their star big man Dwight Howard, was able to steal game one on the road, only to drop the next two games by a combined 38 points! It seems as though Indiana has awaken and will be taking their talents to South Beach very soon.
As Chicago wrapped up game one of their match-up versus the Sixers, they saw their leader tear his ACL as time wound down in the fourth quarter. Derrick Rose was immediately ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs, which resulted in a much deflated Bulls team being blown out in game two. The match-up will shift to Philadelphia on Friday, along with the series momentum. Although the Bulls are a very formidable opponent without the leadership of the reigning MVP, this series has “upset” written all over it.
Similar to the Bulls and Sixers, the four-five match-up between Atlanta and Boston could also result in an upset. The Hawks jumped all over the Celtics in game one and defended their home-court with a nine point victory. With Rajon Rondo suspended and Ray Allen out with an injury, all the odds were in Atlanta’s favor to take command of the series in game two. However, behind veteran leadership and phenomenal coaching, the Celtics were able to pull out a victory in the arena known as “The Highlight Factory.” An untimely injury to Josh Smith and the likely return of both Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, the possibility of an upset looks very bleak for Atlanta. After these next two games in Boston, the final highlight seen in the Peach State may be that of the doors closing on the Hawks’ 2012 season.
Steve Rivers has contributed to The Source, ESPN Rise and a host of other online publications. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidSkoob.