Despite the could have beens and should have beens that have drawn some media attention so far in the playoffs, it’s hard to take anything away from the eight teams who’ve managed to advance to the second round and are now competing for spots in the conference finals.

When the Sixers and Pacers each advanced through the first round, I expected them to function as tune-up’s for the Celtics and Heat respectively as they began preparation for the conference finals, but this hasn’t been the case at all. Since the Bosh injury, the Pacers have exposed Miami’s lack of front court depth and Roy Hibbert has had a field day. Meanwhile, Philadelphia have shown just how far a cohesive defensive system with balanced contributions on the offensive end will take you, putting the Celtics in a best of three series which could swing either way.

Just imagine for a second an eastern conference finals matchup of Indiana vs Philadelphia…

3 votes – Kobe Bryant. Despite managing 36 points on the night, by no means did Kobe light it up from the floor. It was the work he did at the foul line (18 of 18) which gave the Lakers an edge over the Thunder when push went to shove – much to the distaste of James Harden, who found himself on the wrong side of a handful of Kobe Bryant foul calls.

2 votes – Andre Iguodala. Iggy’s eight point explosion in the last three minutes of regulation was enough to earn himself a pair of votes, and more importantly, a series tying win. Iguodala is known for doing the little things on a basketball court; scrapping for loose balls, running down the lane in transition and chasing after long rebounds. Today he did all of that and more, icing the game for Philly with two huge three’s down the stretch.

1 vote – Pau Gasol. Pau’s performance in game three was much more impressive than his stat line suggests (12 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists). There were a few key moments in this game where it looked as if the Thunder might have gone on a run, but Pau frequently made the right play at the right time which pumped the brakes on any momentum that might have been brewing for the Thunder. If he can be as dependable as he was today, expect the Lakers to go back to Oklahoma City with the series knotted at 2 a piece.

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