Despite the Indiana Pacers’ best efforts, LeBron James and the Miami Heat pulled off a miraculous last-second victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. With a heartbreaking loss to fall behind early in the series, the Pacers will have a long way to go to take Game 2 in AmericanAirlines Arena and pick up momentum for their return trip.
The Memphis Grizzlies are facing a similar situation, though they already dug a 2-0, out from which it will be nearly impossible to climb. The San Antonio Spurs locked up both home games to start the Western Conference Finals, and Memphis now has to secure two home victories to feel confident in its ability to overtake the West’s No. 1 seed for a spot in the NBA Finals.
But if the 2013 playoffs have taught us anything, it’s this: both series are far from over.
Indiana and Memphis both play tremendous defensive basketball—the type of basketball that has the potential to neutralize any offense in the league. Miami and San Antonio are terrific squads, but neither is immune to its counterpart's stifling defense.
Let’s take a look at the next game in each matchup and offer a preview for each matchup, complete with viewing information and predictions for the weekend’s NBA action.
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena; Miami, Florida
When: Friday, May 24, at 8:30 p.m. ET
Series: Heat lead 1-0
It had to be LeBron James.
As well as Indiana played in the first game of the series Wednesday night, the league’s preeminent superstar closed the door on an Indiana upset bid with a late-second layup in overtime to give the Heat a 1-0 series advantage.
James scored 30 points and added 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the contest. If Indiana hopes to upend the Heat in Game 2, it will have to find a way to shut down James. The Pacers played him tough throughout the regular season, and they’ll have to duplicate that defensive tenacity at AmericanAirlines Arena Friday night.
It wasn’t all bad for the Pacers Wednesday night, though.
Froward Paul George proved he can’t be taken lightly in this series, first with a 32-footer to send Game 1 into overtime and again with three clutch free throws to nearly seal the deal for his team with almost no time remaining in the overtime period.
George did allow James to blow past him on the game’s final play, but that defensive letdown shouldn’t negate what he did at the other end of the floor. If George can duplicate his Game 1 performance Friday evening, the Pacers will find themselves once again in a down-to-the-wire playoff affair.
Nothing about Indiana’s play suggests it can’t pull off an upset in Game 2. In fact, nearly finishing off the Heat on their home floor in Game 1 was a warning shot across Miami’s bow. The Pacers aren’t going to let this series slip away in short order.
Look for Indiana to put on a similar performance Friday night and edge out Miami to even the series at 1-1 in an extremely close contest.
Game 2 Prediction: Indiana 93, Miami 91
Series Prediction: Miami in seven
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Where: AT&T Center; San Antonio, Texas
When: Saturday, May 25, at 9 p.m. ET
Series: Spurs lead 2-0
As poorly as Memphis played in its 105-83 Game 1 loss to the Spurs, Tuesday’s overtime defeat had to be extremely deflating for the Grizzlies.
Despite outscoring the West’s No. 1 seed 21-9 in the fourth quarter of Game 2, the Grizzlies let the victory slip away in an overtime period that saw them score just four points.
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As has been the case throughout the playoffs, Tony Parker was magnificent in both conference finals contests. He tallied 20 points and nine assists in San Antonio’s Game 1 blowout win, and followed that with a tremendous 15-point, 18-assist effort on Tuesday night. Memphis fielded the league’s No. 2 defense in the regular season, but it doesn’t stand a chance against the Spurs if Parker continues playing at that level.
But things are likely to change when the action returns to Memphis this weekend. The Grizzlies posted a 32-9 home record in the regular season and haven’t dropped a home contest in the playoffs to this point. While the Spurs have played well on the road in the playoffs (4-1), it’s hard to imagine Memphis dropping two must-win games on its home turf.
Expect the Grizzlies to rebound with a decisive victory in Game 3 to cut the series lead to 2-1.
Game 3 Prediction: Memphis 92, San Antonio 85
Series Prediction: San Antonio in six