The 2013 NBA playoffs provide us with fascinating matchups in the conference finals.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat remain the Association's best team, but they face a tough challenge in the Indiana Pacers. The West has already completed one game, where Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs dump-trucked the Memphis Grizzlies 105-83.
Still, don't expect Memphis to go quietly. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder learned exactly that in the conference semifinals.
As a result, let's predict each series to see who will square off in the 2013 NBA Finals.
Eastern Conference: Pacers vs. Heat
Tipping off on Wednesday, the Pacers and Heat match up as two defensively sound teams backed by reliable offense.
This will be an intriguing battle as well, because Indiana brings the physical game to match Miami at each end. Ranked No. 1 in rebounds (45.9) during the regular season, Indiana won the board battle in five of six games versus Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
The Heat ranked No. 30 in rebounds (38.6) but have done a better job through the postseason. Even better, Miami's offense is much more efficient than Indiana's, and its defense acts as a strong complement.
Also, Norris Cole's dynamic play takes immense pressure off James and Wade. Although Indiana presents a solid defense to minimize the Heat's second-chance opportunities, Miami doesn't miss often either.
In turn, Miami is able to get back defensively. Factor in their overall athleticism, and the Heat possess a key advantage in transition, as well.
That should be enough to move them past the Pacers in a hard-fought series.
Prediction: Heat in six games
Western Conference: Grizzlies vs. Spurs
Despite being down 1-0 in this series, Memphis finds itself in a deja vu situation.
The Grizzlies were also down 1-0 against the Thunder in their last round, then rolled off four straight wins over the West's No. 1 seed to set up a series with San Antonio. The Spurs, on the other hand, received a complete effort from the Golden State Warriors but pulled away to win 4-2.
In Game 1, the Spurs dominated in every facet and controlled the pace from the tipoff. They were also lights-out from downtown.
As for the remainder of this series, San Antonio must simply replicate its early Game 1 production. Coach Gregg Popovich's crew bolted out of the gates and went up 31-14 after the first quarter.
For as dominant as Memphis has proven to be defensively, it doesn't have the offense to match that pace every game. Plus, the Spurs play much better defense than given credit for.
Possessing the experience and instincts to prevent second-chance opportunities, San Antonio's overall discipline suffocates each dimension. And when the Spurs control of the ball, Tony Parker isn't the only one who knows how to dish the ball around.
The Spurs ranked No. 1 in assists (25.1) and recorded 28 to open this series. Memphis didn't have to face that against Oklahoma City.
With veteran experience and purposeful ball movement, the Spurs have the advantage over the Grizz.
Prediction: Spurs in six games
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