You can never count a top team out of the race in the 2014 NBA playoffs.
After barely making it past the Atlanta Hawks, the Indiana Pacers are alive again. Up 2-1 in their series against the surprising Washington Wizards, it appears as if they might have finally figured it out. Chemistry has been the biggest issue for them recently. It looks like it's coming together.
Some of the Association's other top teams are still going strong this postseason as well, and they have yet to skip a beat. Their odds at winning the NBA Finals are continually improving as the odds of their opponents continue to spiral downward.
Here are every remaining team's updated odds, via Odds Shark, to win the NBA championship.
|NBA Finals Odds|
|San Antonio Spurs||+253|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+515|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+1020|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+8150|
|OddsShark.com, via May 10|
The Wizards might as well not have even shown up to Game 3 against the Pacers. They scored just 63 points (less than 20 in every quarter), as Paul George and Roy Hibbert dictated the flow of the game on defense.
"Listen, we don't worry about if we're looking good for TV. The other teams can do that, can fill that void with fancy basketball. We don't worry about that. We're OK with this. We can win games in the 80s."
They say that defense wins championships, so as long as Indiana can score one more point than its opponent, it'll be fine. That said, it won't be easy should Indiana advance. The Miami Heat appear to be the likely winners of their series against the Brooklyn Nets, and it's nearly impossible to contain a team led by LeBron James to under 80 points.
That'll be the Pacers' toughest test in the next round, but they'll need to finish off the Wizards before really worrying about that yet.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Exciting basketball has been a staple of the series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, and Matt Moore of CBS Sports points out that Game 3's 118-112 Thunder win highlighted the best for both squads:
In Game 3, we got the best both of these teams have to offer in the Western Conference semifinals. The Thunder weren't shackled by the stylistic muzzle of the Grizzlies, the Clippers weren't swooning from the emotional drain of the Donald Sterling drama. Both teams came ready to play. It wasn't a perfect game from either team, but it was a high-execution game from both teams. It was better, from both teams.
And in the match of the Clippers' better vs. the Thunder's better, the Thunder's better was better.
This series will be close, even if OKC's ability to win when the Clippers were at their best is impressive. Sure, it'll set the tone for Game 4 and beyond, but I'm not ready to count out a team led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
That said, it's equally as difficult to pick against a team with the NBA's MVP that is playing well. Kevin Durant has been fantastic all postseason, and Russell Westbrook has been great at times as well. He'll need to be great all the time to really give OKC the edge, however.
This series is closer than it might appear, but picking the Thunder is the safe bet.
Give Lebron James and the Heat a 2-0 series lead, and they'll win. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald points out that this series might as well be over already:
The frustrations for Brooklyn must be — or should be — mounting in this second-round NBA series, which feels over now with a 2-0 Miami lead. The Heat in the LeBron era never has lost a postseason series when up by that margin.
The future is bleak for Brooklyn. The Heat don't lose after going up 2-0. They have veterans that simply know how to close out games and step on the throats of the opposition—kick them while they're down, if you will.
Miami appears destined for yet another trip to the NBA Finals. Indiana and Washington can't keep up with them right now, and Brooklyn is clearly no match.
The winner of the Western Conference (whoever it may be), on the other hand, could potentially give them issues.