Akshay Manwani Freelance writer based in Mumbai

In an attempt to rid himself of the perils of performance appraisals, Akshay ventured into the world of freelance writing where he combined his twin interests of sports and cinema. He has since contributed to The Caravan, BCCI.tv, Business Standard and Man's World, among other publications. He has followed the fortunes of the NBA since the early ’90s, an experience that has given him extraordinary moments of joy in an otherwise mundane existence.

All season long, Akshay will cover the League from the point of view of a basketball expert living in India. Follow him every week on NBA.com/india!

Weekend at the Playoffs: June 2-4

The first week of the 2012 Conference finals saw some spectacular individual play with both higher-seeded teams pulling away to a 2-0 lead against their opponents. Where Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker came up with memorable performances in Games 1 and 2 respectively of the Western Conference Finals to inspire San Antonio to a two-game cushion, LeBron James was his normal, MVP self as he helped the Heat surge to consecutive wins over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

Here’s a look ahead at the upcoming action in both conference finals over the weekend:

June 2, 2012

Eastern Conference Finals - Miami Heat (2) v Boston Celtics (4) – Game 3:
When: June 2, 2012 – 6:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Ten Sports
Where: TD Garden, Boston
Series Score: Miami lead 2-0

Preview: An epic performance by Boston point guard Rajon Rondo in Game 2 and yet the Celtics couldn’t level this series before the action shifts to TD Garden. The Celtics are mainly hurting on two counts. Their bench is hardly contributing, with just 21 points to show versus a combined 41 points by the Heat’s reserves in the first two games. Ray Allen is the other reason why the Boston offense has struggled. With his ankle injury severely limiting his ability, Allen has gone just 6-for-18 from the field and 3-for-9 from the 3-point line. With no help coming any time soon from their bench, the Celtics will need Allen to produce something special if Boston are to make a contest of this series.

Miami have continued to surge ahead even without the availability of Chris Bosh. LeBron James has done a terrific job in defending Paul Pierce and even Kevin Garnett on the switch pick-and-roll. Dwyane Wade, similarly, has been impressive with his defense on Allen and Rondo while Mario Chalmers (averaging 15.5 points and 5.0 assists) and Mike Miller (6-for-12 from the field) have played crucial support roles for the Heat. The one thing the Heat must look to avoid is getting caught in the half-court offense, which Boston forced them into for much of Game 2. Also the Heat, who were just 31-for-47 (66 percent) from the free-throw line in Game 2, could do better in that department.

The Stat: 42.3 MPG – Having played all 53 minutes of Game 2, the first time he’s played every minute in a game, Rajon Rondo leads all players for most minutes-per-game played in the 2012 postseason. Rondo has played 591 minutes in all over 14 playoff games. LeBron James at 41.1 MPG comes in second for most minutes on an average in the 2012 playoffs.

June 3, 2012

Western Conference Finals - San Antonio Spurs (1) v Oklahoma City Thunder (2) – Game 4:
When: June 3, 2012 – 6:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on SIX
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
Series Score: San Antonio lead 2-0

Preview: Right now, this series is shaping into one team matching up against three men on the other side. Yes, San Antonio, with Tony Parker leading the way, have been just too good for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. If Stephen Jackson did a stellar job in defending Durant in Game 1, then Kawhi Leonard proved equally effective on limiting the three-time scoring champion in Game 2. Ginobili has topped 20 points in two straight games having gone for 20 only once in the previous two rounds.

OKC’s problems are compounded by the fact that their starters alongside Durant and Westbrook haven’t been able to provide them with any kind of offense. Kendrick Perkins (2-for-9), Thabo Sefolosha (4-for-11) and Serge Ibaka (4-for-14) have given the Thunder only 30 points cumulatively in two games. Another area where the Thunder can do better is to force the ball out of Tony Parker’s hands rather than allow him to make his way to the basket or play the pick-and-roll game.

The Stat: 49.4 percent – That is San Antonio’s shooting percentage from the field in 10 games in the 2012 postseason. It is the best performance by any of the 16 teams who made it to this year’s playoffs. The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers come in at a distant, joint second with a 45.8 percent shooting accuracy. Against OKC itself, the Spurs are shooting a phenomenal 50.3 percent in two games.

June 4, 2012

Eastern Conference Finals - Miami Heat (2) v Boston Celtics (4) – Game 4:
When: June 4, 2012 – 6:00 AM (IST) -- Watch it LIVE on Ten Sports
Where: TD Garden, Boston

All stats are after games played on May 31, 2012 (IST)