The second round of the 2014 NBA playoffs hasn't contained as much madness as the one before it, but watching these great teams and trying to figure out how it will all unfold still makes for really compelling television.
Both the nail-biters and the blowouts are producing drama—be it rooted in how two contenders could be so evenly matched or how one team could beat down another so resoundingly at the highest level.
The San Antonio Spurs are making a very good Portland Trail Blazers team look insignificant.
The Indiana Pacers may be regaining elite form.
The Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets are locked in an intriguing stylistic duel.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are currently creating a supernova of star power with their series.
And this is just the conference semis.
As we look ahead, the games will mean more and the matchups will be even better. In this postseason, the entertainment ante just keeps getting upped.
|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||Clippers 101, Thunder 99||Series tied 2-2|
|5||Clippers at Thunder||May 13||9:30 p.m.||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||Pacers 95, Wizards 92||Pacers 3-1|
|5||Wizards at Pacers||May 13||7 p.m.||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|
|First Round||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals|
|(1) Pacers 4|
|(8) Hawks 3|
|(1) Pacers 3|
|(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 2|
|(2) Thunder 2|
|(2) Thunder 4|
|(7) Grizzlies 3|
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder
These two teams play such exciting basketball that they've managed to cram blowouts and nail-biters into the same game.
OKC jumped all over the Clippers early in Game 4, taking a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter. That's when Doc Rivers put Chris Paul on Kevin Durant and threw constant double teams at the league MVP, welcoming his Thunder teammates to beat L.A. instead. KD's buddies went 5-of-14 in the fourth, and the Clips snuck away with the series knotted up.
This is going to remain a superstar battle.
If Paul and Blake Griffin can keep Durant and Russell Westbrook in check, the Clippers will take control and win the series. That's a monumental task, though, and pitting a point guard on the 6'11" Durant is not going to work forever.
The Thunder duo is at the height of its powers right now, and no tandem in the Association can equal them when they are. But Rivers has a clear edge on Scott Brooks as a strategist, so L.A. still has a good shot to limit KD and Russ. At least a little.
Between the clashing elites and the coaching chess match, this series is absolutely going seven. It's a coin toss at that point, but more likely than not, the greater talents win out.
Thunder in 7
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers
This series also features a ton of great players, except it's basically already over.
After dueling Rick Carlisle's pesky Dallas Mavericks for seven games, Gregg Popovich has Carlisle disciple Terry Stotts' number.
Stotts can't scheme with San Antonio the way his old boss could which is allowing the Spurs to do whatever they want in this series.
Portland features one of the most electrifying, three-happy offenses in the league, getting bunches of open looks as LaMarcus Aldridge pulls defenses toward the paint. That hasn't been the case in this series, as the Spurs have contentedly left Tiago Splitter manned on Aldridge while the perimeter guys stayed home on shooters.
Even at Dirk Nowitzki's advanced age, he's a tougher assignment for San Antonio than Aldridge.
The Blazer star is a superb mid-range shooter and a real threat on the block, but he lacks Dirk's varied arsenal of moves when the jumper isn't there. That leaves him a talented but predictable post player, and between Splitter and Tim Duncan inside, that's not a problem.
Meanwhile, the Blazers have tried a similar perimeter focus on the other end, yielding disastrous results.
Tony Parker has carved up all comers, save Nicolas Batum, who is too big to handle Parker's constant motion for a full game. Besides, putting Batum on Parker means hiding Damian Lillard elsewhere, and Pop will attack him no matter who he guards.
Portland has plenty of ability and can perhaps take a game, but it's unlikely. Not to mention moot.
Spurs in 4
(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Just look at how much easier this sport is for Indy when Roy Hibbert can do things.
What caused Hibbert's monumental slump this season is still a mystery, but he seems to have broken out of it against Washington. The disparity between his performance in this series and his prior struggles is jarring:
Considering Hibbert's numbers versus the Wiz are deflated by a scoreless series opener, it's clear, small sample be damned, his game has returned just as mysteriously as it left him.
And with their center returned to form, the Pacers are beginning to look like their old, imposing selves again.
Indy's defense can suffocate every facet of an opponent's attack, but when the rim protector is struggling, everyone else declines a bit as they adapt. When Hibbert is scoring, you know for sure he's being frisky on the other end, too, doubling the boost the Pacers are getting.
The Wizards have some nice pieces and came away with a well-earned Game 1 win, but their bigs have been inconsequential since Hibbert bounced back.
Save a heroic John Wall performance, the rejuvenated Pacers are about to end this.
Pacers in 5
(6) Brooklyn Nets vs. (2) Miami Heat
Unless the Nets make a habit of shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc, they're not going to consistently challenge Miami.
That's what powered Brooklyn to a 14-point victory in Game 3—the first comfortable win they have against the Heat this season.
For all the pre-series talk of the Nets sweeping four games against Miami in the regular season, the details often got ignored. Three of those wins were by one point apiece; the fourth went to double overtime.
Miami opened the series with a pair of double-digit wins, doing so much more sustainably than Brooklyn did in Game 3.
If the Nets try to stick to Miami's shooters, the Heat will find LeBron James or Dwyane Wade for a drive inside. Brooklyn's oversized, ultra-lengthy perimeter guys help limit that threat as much as possible, but none of them can consistently penetrate like that on the other end, leaving the Nets one-dimensional offensively.
As long as Miami recommits to contesting Brooklyn's outside looks, the Heat will get right back on track. Game 3 wasn't the prettiest for them, but no harm, no foul in the long run.
Heat in 5