Although the second round of the 2014 NBA playoffs hasn't quite lived up to the same standard as the opening round, there's a good chance some drama is still on the horizon. And the teams playing on Sunday are the ones likely to provide it.
The overarching question, however, is whether there's a team capable of derailing a rematch between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. They have once again looked like the best teams in their respective conferences to this point in the postseason.
With that in mind, let's check out all of the important schedule information for the second round, along with an updated look at the bracket. That's followed by a preview and prediction for the two games on tap for Sunday.
|2014 NBA Playoffs: Schedule for Round 2|
|1||Clippers at Thunder||May 5||Clippers 122, Thunder 105||Clippers 1-0|
|2||Clippers at Thunder||May 7||Thunder 112, Clippers 101||Series tied 1-1|
|3||Thunder at Clippers||May 9||Thunder 118, Clippers 112||Thunder 2-1|
|4||Thunder at Clippers||May 11||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|5||Clippers at Thunder||May 13||TBD||TNT|
|6*||Thunder at Clippers||May 15||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Clippers at Thunder||May 18||TBD||TNT|
|1||Blazers at Spurs||May 6||Spurs 116, Blazers 92||Spurs 1-0|
|2||Blazers at Spurs||May 8||Spurs 114, Blazers 97||Spurs 2-0|
|3||Spurs at Blazers||May 10||Spurs 118, Blazers 103||Spurs 3-0|
|4||Spurs at Blazers||May 12||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|5*||Blazers at Spurs||May 14||TBD||TNT|
|6*||Spurs at Blazers||May 16||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Blazers at Spurs||May 19||TBD||TNT|
|1||Wizards at Pacers||May 5||Wizards 102, Pacers 96||Wizards 1-0|
|2||Wizards at Pacers||May 7||Pacers 86, Wizards 82||Series tied 1-1|
|3||Pacers at Wizards||May 9||Pacers 85, Wizards 63||Pacers 2-1|
|4||Pacers at Wizards||May 11||8 p.m.||TNT|
|5||Wizards at Pacers||May 13||TBD||TNT|
|6*||Pacers at Wizards||May 15||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Wizards at Pacers||May 18||TBD||TBD|
|1||Nets at Heat||May 6||Heat 107, Nets 86||Heat 1-0|
|2||Nets at Heat||May 8||Heat 94, Nets 82||Heat 2-0|
|3||Heat at Nets||May 10||Nets 104, Heat 90||Heat 2-1|
|4||Heat at Nets||May 12||8 p.m.||TNT|
|5*||Nets at Heat||May 14||TBD||TNT|
|6*||Heat at Nets||May 16||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Nets at Heat||May 19||TBD||ABC|
|NBA.com; *Denotes if necessary|
|First Round||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals|
|(1) Pacers 4|
|(8) Hawks 3|
|(1) Pacers 2|
|(4) Bulls 1||(5) Wizards 1|
|(5) Wizards 4||TBD|
|(3) Raptors 3|
|(6) Nets 4||(6) Nets 1|
|(2) Heat 2|
|(2) Heat 4|
|(7) Bobcats 0|
|First Round||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals|
|(1) Spurs 4|
|(8) Mavericks 3|
|(1) Spurs 3|
|(4) Rockets 2||(5) Trail Blazers 0|
|(5) Trail Blazers 4||TBD|
|(3) Clippers 4|
|(6) Warriors 3||(3) Clippers 1|
|(2) Thunder 2|
|(2) Thunder 4|
|(7) Grizzlies 3|
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers
As expected, this has been an exciting matchup with an up-tempo pace that's allowed the stars on both sides to shine. Both teams have scored over 100 points in all three games. It's a trend that's likely to continue throughout the series.
One factor that's really stood out in the first three games is the immense importance of Oklahoma City's role players. Everybody knows what Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are capable of, and Serge Ibaka is a solid third option and rim protector. They can't win the series alone, though.
The Thunder count on players like Thabo Sefolosha, Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson to provide the rest of the production. They weren't able to do so in Game 1, and it's no surprise that's the only game Oklahoma City has lost in the series so far.
Down 2-1, the pressure is obviously on Los Angeles heading into Game 4. It can't allow the Thunder to return home with an opportunity to close out the series. In turn, the Associated Press (via USA Today) passed along comments from Durant, who knew a very tricky challenge was on the horizon:
"We did a good job of weathering storms throughout the game and sticking together. We're going to have to do that even more next game if we want to win. It's probably going to be the toughest game of the series."
If the Clippers are going to level the series, they must do a better job on the glass. The Thunder won the rebounding battle by 43 over the first three games combined. It's hard to overcome that type of edge consistently. Los Angeles doesn't need to win the battle, but it must become more competitive.
Knowing their season is likely on the line, expect to see a far more complete effort from Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Co. on Sunday. It should be another close game in a series that will be filled with them, but the Clippers will find a way to come out on top.
Prediction: Clippers 108, Thunder 103
Indiana Pacers at Washington Wizards
It would be difficult to find another set of two series in the same round with such an extreme contrast. The Thunder and Clippers are lighting up the scoreboard. The Pacers and Wizards are slugging it out in a series where any type of offensive rhythm as been fleeting.
The good news for Indiana is that Roy Hibbert is finally showing signs of being a useful player again. After scoring no points in three of the team's first eight playoff games, the center has scored 42 points over the past two, both Pacers wins.
On the flip side, the Wizards are struggling mightily to find their collective outside shooting stroke. They are 9-of-37 (24 percent) over the past two games after hitting 10 of 16 (63 percent) attempts in their Game 1 win.
They don't have a big enough inside scoring presence to overcome struggles from long range. Even knowing that, Game 3 was a major low point. ESPN Stats and Info notes that performance was one of the worst in playoff history during the shot-clock era:
Washington finds itself in the same position as Los Angeles. It needs to level the series now, or it will need to win three straight games against an Indiana squad that might be rounding into form. So the pressure is undoubtedly rising.
The Wizards ranked fourth in three-point percentage during the regular season. In other words, they are due to bounce back after a couple poor shooting performances. Look for Bradley Beal to lead an offensive resurgence as Washington evens the series.
Prediction: Wizards 96, Pacers 92
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