The San Antonio Spurs could soon be waiting for their NBA Finals opponent.
Three more losses.
Following a weekend of conference finals action, the Memphis Grizzlies are a loss away from being swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat are just two wins away from moving past the Indiana Pacers and back into the NBA Finals.
The final two teams could be set as early as Thursday if the Spurs end the series in the next two games and the Heat win both Games 4 and 5.
But neither the Pacers nor the Grizzlies will roll over so easily, right?
For now, each team still has at least a shot at an NBA title.
The Memphis Grizzlies currently trail the San Antonio Spurs 3-0
The historic odds say zero percent.
No team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit in NBA playoffs history.
Of course, Memphis was down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round before winning four straight. The team also lost Game 1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder before winning out.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the final moments of close games have not gone their way in the conference finals. This, after all four wins in the semifinals came by six points or fewer, including an overtime win.
Against the Spurs though, they lost Games 2 and 3 in overtime after being blown out in Game 1.
The Grizzlies have a good shot to win at the Grindhouse in Game 4, as they had been 5-0 at home in the postseason before the Game 3 loss. Dating back to February, they'd also lost just one of their last 20 at home.
For the Grizzlies to rally back, they must get something from their perimeter offensive shooters. The Grizzlies are shooting just 34.1 percent from mid-range this postseason and 32.2 percent from three-point range.
Because of the poor range of the Grizzlies, San Antonio has been able to hang deep into the interior and limit Memphis' points in the paint.
Stat that hurts: Zach Randolph is averaging 10.3 points on 30 percent shooting versus the Spurs.
What they’re saying: “We have a lot of pride in this team, in this city," Mike Conley said (h/t Huffington Post). "It's more than just basketball here, and we owe it to ourselves, owe it to the fans to not get swept and get embarrassed on our home court."
The Indiana Pacers trail the Miami Heat, 2-1
The Pacers became the newest postseason darling after two games against the Heat, displaying momentum as the next potential giant slayers of the postseason.
Then the Heat responded.
After taking the Heat to overtime in Game 1 and winning Game 2, the Pacers lost 114-96 in Game 3 and are again playing from behind.
What happened to the defense?
The Heat’s offensive output of 114 points was the most Indiana has allowed this postseason. The Pacers defense entered Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals holding postseason opponents to just 90 points per game.
Indiana isn’t good enough offensively to slip so far defensively.
The Pacers had been 6-0 in Indianapolis before not showing up defensively for their first home game of the series. They allowed a franchise-record 70 points in the first half.
Paul George used his length to limit James through two games, but it was James' strength that pushed to get the ball inside on Sunday. James scored 22 total points, and the Heat scored 52 in the paint against Indiana, which was thought to be the tougher of the two teams in the interior.
George didn't perform offensively either, shooting 3-of-10 for 13 points in the loss.
Indiana is battling the best, and to win it’s going to take top-tier defense matched with at least competitive offense.
The Pacers still have a shot at an upset, but they cannot afford to lose again at home on Tuesday considering they're just 2-5 on the road this postseason.
Stat that hurts: The Pacers have scored 100.4 points per game at home this postseason but just 87 points on the road.
What they’re saying: "If you're not perfect guarding them, they'll do what they did to us tonight," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, via ESPN.com. "Sometimes when you are perfect with your coverages, they still find a way to make baskets. But we didn't have a great defensive night."
The San Antonio Spurs currently lead the Memphis Grizzlies 3-0
"Been there, done that" certainly means something at this point.
San Antonio has Memphis hanging vulnerably in the conference finals, and one more win will place the Spurs in their first NBA Finals since 2007. It ma also create what could be an incredible championship matchup between the Spurs and Miami Heat.
The two teams have never met in the postseason, and it seems appropriate that one of the greatest dynasties of the last 15 years will likely meet the current dynasty-in-the-making.
It’s never too late to reclaim the torch, and the essence of San Antonio’s success continues through the evergreen talents of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Those three led the Spurs to their last title in 2007, when they were already labeled "too old."
The trio continues to headline the Spurs’ narrative. But it’s been guys like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and other supportive parts that continue Gregg Popovich’s run of success. Leonard, in particular, is averaging 13.2 points on 55.6 percent shooting, including 1.1-of-2.6 (41 percent) three-pointers in the postseason.
The multiple offensive threats and the motion of San Antonio has misled the Grizzlies defense.
Widespread attacks of misdirection, sharp cuts off screens and all those other pieces your J.V. basketball coach screamed are what make San Antonio an efficient offense. Parker is one of the best point guards in the league, and he may be the best in terms of footwork and angling.
Stat that helps: Five players are averaging double-digit scoring this postseason (Parker, Duncan, Leonard, Ginobili and Green). Four average more than one three-pointer per game (Green, Ginobili, Leonard and Matt Bonner).
What they’re saying: “I’m not worried about how old I am or whatever, whatever it may be,” Tim Duncan said, according to New York Post wire services. “I’m very focused on having another opportunity to make it to a championship and try to win, that’s all.”
The Miami Heat lead the Indiana Pacers, 2-1
A multitude of potential postseason scenarios have been presented throughout the entire NBA season, but one unchanging constant has been the presence of the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
After a Game 3 victory, Miami is now two wins away from its third straight NBA Finals appearance and an opportunity to defend last season’s championship.
Similar to the Heat’s first-game loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Chicago Bulls, the whirls of "oh my gosh, this could happen" posturing poured out following a Game 2 loss in Miami to the Pacers.
But just like the Heat have done all season, they bounced back with seeming ease. The Heat took care of Indiana on its home court 114-96 and now lead the series again.
If the Heat win a pair more and move on, the San Antonio Spurs likely await. It would create another interesting matchup for Miami, as San Antonio spreads the ball well and would be the best offensive team the Heat have faced this postseason.
The Heat wouldn't be heavy favorites, and neither team has faced an opponent better than one another this postseason, but the athletic edge of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would put Miami as probable winners. Both offensively and defensively, the Heat provide greater pressure.
As dominant as James continues to be—and he was, with 18 points and a plus/minus of plus-21 in the first half of Game 3—he went 0-of-4 from the field for no points in the third quarter and Miami still outscored the Pacers 21-20 in that quarter.
It’s a short stint emblematic of the problems Miami can create. Even when the offense isn’t clicking, the Heat are still too tough defensively for the poor perimeter shooting of the Pacers.
Relieving further pressure from James in Game 3 were the performances from his fellow starters. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers combined to shoot 26-of-42 (61.9 percent) for 64 points. Prior to Game 3, James' fellow starters averaged 40.2 points.
Stat that helps: The Heat bench had averaged more than 36 points per game prior to scoring 28 points in Game 3. In last year's postseason, Miami's bench averaged just 18.2 points per game.
What they’re saying: "We were more focused to getting to our identity (on offense),” Heat coach Erik Spoelsta said, according to FortWayne.com. “We were more committed to not settling, not letting them off the hook with shots they want us to take. They've a very good defensive team. We have to be committed to move the ball and let other people make plays."