The Conference semi-finals are underway, but who will progress?
The numbers have dwindled down to eight and the Conference semi-finals have begun, but there were plenty of surprises in Game 1 to suggest that things may not be as predictable as first suggested.
In the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks suffered a disappointing defeat to the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday heaping pressure on Mike Woodson’s men to deliver in the second of the potential seven-game series.
Indiana undoubtedly have a size advantage, and they used their length and athleticism to great effect to out-rebound the Knicks and dominant inside the paint as they went on to draw first blood.
More concerning for New York though, will be the recent shooting form of their regular season scoring leader Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony has made just 35 of 110 shots over his last four games, and his shooting percentage for the post season is down to 38 percent overall. Having switched to a smaller line-up, the Knicks rely on their shooting, particularly from three-point range, and that will be a worry for Woodson ahead of Tuesday night’s clash.
It is an equally intriguing situation in the other semi-final in the East, with the Chicago Bulls snatching a win on the road at the AA Arena against the Miami Heat on Monday night.
Despite being without Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, the Bulls picked up from where they left off against the Brooklyn Nets and came out on top against a rusty Heat side playing their first game in almost ten days.
Miami remain favourites for the series and will look to bounce back immediately in Game 2 on home court, but the Bulls have already silenced a few critics with their belief and execution to find a way of defeating the defending champions, and we may yet see an appearance from Derrick Rose before the season is over.
Over in the West, a Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City Thunder team are fighting their way through the field without star point guard Russell Westbrook.
Despite losing the 24-year-old for the remainder of the season, OKC have found a way to win in his absence and having battled past the Houston Rockets in the last round, they sealed a 1-0 advantage after the first game with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies possess arguably the best defence in the league, and will prove to be a tough outfit to overcome with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph finding form at just the right time. The pressure will remain on Durant to deliver offensively, but if he can continue to do so then the Thunder will fancy their chances of being able to hold off Memphis to advance to the Conference Finals.
Perhaps the most exciting match-up at this stage is taking place in the other semi-final in the West, with the San Antonio Spurs coming up against the Golden State Warriors.
Gregg Popovich has been boosted by the return to fitness of key individuals, including Game 1 hero Manu Ginobili who drained a game-winning three in the final seconds of double overtime to seal a 129-127 win.
However, the Warriors have shown already by eliminating the Denver Nuggets that they are a dangerous proposition, and with shooting machine Stephen Curry leading the way they are a dangerous collection of young and determined players who will push the Spurs all the way.
At this stage, the initial favourites in each match-up are still being backed to prevail despite some experiencing more problematic opening games than others.
However, there has been enough on show to suggest that there may well be a surprise casualty in the not too distant future as the intensity and importance continues to increase with each passing game.