After a wild first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs, normalcy has returned for the conference semifinals.
Close, down-to-the-wire games have given way to blowouts, and the top teams have cruised for the most part, with the reigning conference champions Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs each just two wins away from returning to their respective conference finals.
However, with both series shifting to different locations this weekend, there's no telling what the postseason landscape will look like come Monday.
Below, you'll find the updated NBA playoff bracket along with the latest odds for this weekend's matchups.
2014 NBA Playoff Bracket (as of Saturday, May 10 at 9 a.m. ET)
|1st Round||Conf. Semis||Conf. Finals|
|(1) Indiana Pacers (Won 4-3)|
|(1) Indiana Pacers (Lead 2-1)|
|(8) Atlanta Hawks|
|(4) Chicago Bulls|
|(5) Washington Wizards|
|(5) Washington Wizards (Won 4-1)|
|(3) Toronto Raptors|
|(6) Brooklyn Nets|
|(6) Brooklyn Nets (Won 4-3)|
|(2) Miami Heat (Won 4-0)|
|(2) Miami Heat (Lead 2-0)|
|(7) Charlotte Bobcats|
|(1) San Antonio Spurs (Won 4-3)|
|(1) San Antonio Spurs (Lead 2-0)|
|(8) Dallas Mavericks|
|(4) Houston Rockets|
|(5) Portland Trail Blazers|
|(5) Portland Trail Blazers (Won 4-2)|
|(3) Los Angeles Clippers (Won 4-3)|
|(3) Los Angeles Clippers|
|(6) Golden State Warriors|
|(2) Oklahoma City Thunder (Won 4-3)|
|(2) Oklahoma City Thunder (Lead 2-1)|
|(7) Memphis Grizzlies|
|Sat, May 10||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|Game 3||Heat (-2.5) at Nets||8 p.m.||ABC|
|Game 3||Spurs at Trail Blazers (-1)||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun, May 11||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|Game 4||Thunder at Clippers (-5)||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Game 4||Pacers at Wizards (-4.5)||8 p.m.||TNT|
Defending East, West Champs Take Aim at Commanding Series Leads
Saturday's playoff action will feature two pivotal Game 3s in Brooklyn and Portland as the Heat and Spurs each look to move within one win of the conference finals.
It all starts at 8 p.m. ET with Game 3 of Miami and Brooklyn's Eastern Conference semifinal series. Although the Nets will have the advantage of playing at home in the Barclays Center, where they're 2-1 this postseason, they'll need to find a way to execute offensively if they are to have any chance of winning this weekend and making this a series.
Brooklyn is averaging just 84 points per game through the first two games of the series and lost the first two games by a combined margin of 33 points.
In Thursday's Game 2 loss, the Nets led by one point at halftime but managed just 36 points over the final 24 minutes, including just 15 points in the fourth quarter.
All eyes will be on Deron Williams in Game 3. The veteran went 0-of-9 from the field in Game 2, finishing with zero points. It's safe to say that Williams will have to be better on Saturday in order for the Nets to have a shot at holding serve at home.
Defensively, the Nets must find an answer for Heat veteran Ray Allen, who has come to life through the first two games of this series. Allen scored just 13 points in four games against the Charlotte Bobcats in Round 1 but scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor in Miami's Game 1 rout of Brooklyn and poured in 13 more points in Game 2.
Afterward, the 38-year-old sharpshooter emphasized the importance of playing at Miami's preferred pace, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "As the game wore on we started picking up the pace. We started to getting how we play basketball."
But scoring more points and limiting Allen off the bench will be much easier said than done for Brooklyn as Miami has now won eight consecutive playoff games dating back to last year's NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, the Spurs are just two wins away from reaching the Western Conference Finals for the third straight year. What's more, San Antonio has won three straight playoff games going back to Game 7 of its first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks.
Which team is more likely to sweep its Round 2 opponent?
But the Spurs haven't just won three straight; they've absolutely dominated in three straight blowout wins, including Thursday's 17-point rout of the Trail Blazers in Game 2.
Over their last three playoff games, the Spurs are averaging more than 116 points per game and are allowing just 95 points to their opponents. That's nearly a 20-point average margin of victory and suggests that Portland will need to make serious adjustments in order to avoid being swept out of the postseason.
The key for the Blazers is clearly LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland was 4-0 in the first round when Aldridge scored 29 or more points and 0-2 in the two games where he scored 23 and eight.
While the All-Star forward finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds in Portland's blowout loss in Game 1, a majority of his field goals came after San Antonio had already raced out to an enormous lead. And in Game 2, Aldridge scored just 16 points on a dismal 6-of-23 shooting from the floor.
As ESPN NBA reporter Marc Stein points out, much of the reason for Aldridge's poor performance was the superb defense of Tiago Splitter, who gave former NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki problems in Round 1:
Small but eye-catching sample size: LaMarcus Aldridge shot 2-for-14 in Game 2 when guarded by Tiago Splitter— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 9, 2014
Portland will need Aldridge to get back on track in Game 3 in order to have a shot at breaking up San Antonio's momentum.
Not only has no NBA team ever come back from an 0-3 series hole in the playoffs, but beating a deep Spurs team four times in a row, including twice on the road, would appear to be an impossible task regardless of how well the Blazers execute.
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