NBA Playoffs 2014: Predicting Which Teams Are Headed to Conference Finals

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NBA Playoffs 2014: Predicting Which Teams Are Headed to Conference Finals
USA TODAY Sports

Only eight teams remain in the 2014 NBA playoffs, and that number will decrease to four in short order.

Saying the playoffs have produced some surprising results this year may be an enormous understatement.

We already saw the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers forced into pivotal Game 7s. Not to mention the upset series victories of the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers.

The eight remaining teams are now duking it out in Round 2 in hopes of reaching the coveted conference finals.

Unfortunately, that dream will not come to fruition for half of those teams. Let's look at the four ongoing series and determine which teams have what it takes to move forward.

 

Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Series Record: Heat lead 2-1

Next Game: Game 4 on Monday at 8 p.m. ET

 

Prediction

After the Nets got the best of the Heat in four regular-season games this year, this series was highly anticipated.

The first two games didn't come close to resembling these teams' regular-season action, as LeBron James and Co. rolled over the Nets in decisive fashion.

But that was in Miami.

Upon moving to Brooklyn, the Nets surged. Brooklyn's prowess from behind the arc finally came through, as the team banged in 15 of its 25 attempts from behind the arc. This led to a 104-90 victory and pulled Brooklyn within one game of the Heat.

On Monday, these teams meet again in Brooklyn. The Nets certainly have a big advantage at home; however, it shouldn't be expected for the Heat's supporting cast to drop the ball in the manner they did in Game 3.

Expect Brooklyn to put up a good fight, but it will be the Heat emerging victorious in the end.

Heat in 6

 

San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Series Record: Spurs lead 3-0

Next Game: Game 4 on Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET

 

Prediction

Ever since the Spurs were forced into Game 7 by the Dallas Mavericks, this team has been relentless.

Scoring 116, 114 and 118 points in three consecutive games against Portland, the Spurs are absolutely on fire. Whether playing at home or on the road, San Antonio once again looks like the NBA's strongest team.

Manu Ginobili spoke of the team's surge during an interview with Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com:

We know we didn't play well against Dallas except that seventh game. I don't know if that triggered something or not, but for sure we started well this series. The aggressiveness, the concentration for 48 minutes, was off the charts, so we are very happy for that. Hopefully, we maintain that.

This team simply looks unstoppable right now, and if the Trail Blazers can't find some accuracy from the field, this series will be over in a hurry.

Spurs in 4

 

Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Series Record: Pacers lead 3-1

Next Game: Game 5 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET

 

Prediction

Don't look now, but the Pacers are starting to look like a top-tier team once again.

After dropping the first game of their series against the Wizards, things looked bleak for the Pacers, who continued to look for some kind of spark and a little momentum.

Well, now they have it.

Paul George put on the performance of the postseason in Game 4, putting up 39 points while adding 12 rebounds in a brilliant double-double performance. He wasn't the only one putting up numbers for Indiana.

Roy Hibbert has suddenly come alive against Washington. After a terrible Game 1, Hibbert rallied, scoring 28 in Game 2, 14 in Game 3 and 17 in Game 4.

This isn't the deepest team in the league, but the Pacers' starting five makes a tough opponent when it's playing well.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, it is playing very well right now.

As the series moves back to Indiana, the Wizards will have their hands full against a team that went 35-6 at its home court this season. This will be another series that ends quickly.

Pacers in 5

 

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Series Record: Tied 2-2

Next Game: Game 5 on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET

 

Prediction

Just as it looked like the Thunder were about to pull away in this series, a late-game rally during Game 4 from the Clippers kept things even.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin took advantage of Oklahoma City's porous defense to combine for 48 points in the team's 101-99 victory.

It's not as though the Thunder played poorly all around. After all, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 67 points. The loss wasn't overly devastating for the Thunder, but it did highlight the team's glaring weaknesses.

Griffin commented on his team's mentality during the late stages of the game during a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. Griffin said, "Everybody kept telling each other, 'Chip away, chip away.' That was kind of our mentality for the rest of the game. We just kept fighting."

That's a great mentality to have; however, coming back from such a large deficit against Oklahoma City's high-octane offense won't happen often.

Expect the Thunder to right the ship at home in Game 5—the team boasts a 34-7 home record this year—and take the lead in this series.

The Clippers will put up a fight and take this series down to the final game, but in the end, the Thunder will simply be too much to handle over an entire series.

Thunder in 7

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