NBA Playoffs 2014: Last-Minute Conference Finals Predictions

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NBA Playoffs 2014: Last-Minute Conference Finals Predictions
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Only eight teams remain in the 2014 NBA playoffs, and before we know it, that number will be reduced to four.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, four pivotal contests will take place, as three teams stand to be eliminated with a loss. The fourth game—the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Los Angeles Clippers—will result in one of those teams finding itself on the brink of elimination.

Before these games take place, let's delve into some last-minute predictions and determine which four teams will represent the league in the conference finals.

It's going to be a wild ride.

 

Indiana Pacers 3-1 Washington Wizards

After three consecutive Pacers wins, the Wizards suddenly find themselves facing possible elimination on Tuesday night.

Indiana struggled in a big way in Round 1 against the Atlanta Hawks. This team didn't come close to reflecting the regular season's once-dominant squad.

After winning a decisive Game 7 against the Hawks, the Pacers have suddenly regained their form.

Paul George has been playing some lights-out basketball lately, and after a Game 1 goose egg, Roy Hibbert is producing at a very high level.

SportsCenter tweeted George's stunning stats:

George came away with a 39-point, 12-rebound performance in Game 4, connecting on seven of his 10 three-point attempts. Hibbert continues to play a great supporting role, as he put up 17 points and collected nine rebounds.

It's safe to say the Pacers are back.

Washington has been an exciting team to watch; however, when Indiana plays at this high of a level, it is next to impossible to defeat. With a 35-6 home record this season, expect the Pacers to finish off this series on Tuesday.

Prediction: Pacers in five

 

Los Angeles Clippers 2-2 Oklahoma City Thunder

This highly anticipated series has certainly lived up to its billing.

These offensive juggernauts have gone toe-to-toe over four games, which has resulted in an even series. Tuesday's Game 5 will be pivotal for each team, as a loss will suddenly have one team on the brink of elimination.

Late in Game 4, it looked as though the Clippers would find themselves in a big hole, as they were down by 12 points heading into the fourth quarter. Los Angeles was resilient and outscored the Thunder 38-24 to earn a two-point victory and even the series.

Blake Griffin commented on his team's mentality during a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

"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."

Despite suffering a loss, Russell Westbrook and NBA MVP Kevin Durant have been simply dynamic for the Thunder. In Game 4, the duo combined for 67 points.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers spoke of the reasoning for his decision to put Chris Paul on Durant in attempt to slow down the league's MVP, according to a tweet from Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

Rallying against this high-octane offense was an impressive feat for the Clippers; however, it's not something that's likely to become a recurring theme.

Expect this series to go down to the wire, finishing with an exciting Game 7. If that's the case, it's difficult to pick against the home team.

Prediction: Thunder in seven

 

Miami Heat 3-1 Brooklyn Nets

Before this series began, it seemed plausible for the Nets to upset the Heat and knock them out of the playoffs. After all, Brooklyn absolutely owned the Heat over the regular season, putting up a 4-0 record against LeBron James and Co.

The playoffs haven't reflected these teams' early meetings one bit.

After dismantling the Nets in the first two games, the Heat looked primed to come away with an easy series victory. However, Brooklyn wouldn't go quietly, earning a home victory in Game 3.

That resurgence wouldn't last, as Miami earned a big road win on James' impressive 49-point performance in Game 4, putting the Nets on the edge of elimination.

SportsCenter tweeted a graphic of James' prowess in Game 4:

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke of James' showing with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, after the game, saying, "He was what was needed on the road and that's what makes him the best player in the game." 

Now, Brooklyn has the daunting task of attempting to avoid elimination in Game 5 on the road. The way James has been playing, as well as the solid production of his supporting cast, should allow the Heat to finish this series off in a hurry.

Prediction: Heat in five

 

San Antonio Spurs 3-1 Portland Trail Blazers

Let's take one statistic into consideration here: No NBA team has ever come back from a three-game deficit to win a playoff series.

After the Spurs trounced the Trail Blazers over the first three games of this series, Portland responded with a brilliant home victory in Game 4 to avoid early elimination.

Nicolas Batum, who put up 14 points and 14 rebounds for the game's only double-double, spoke of his team's mentality during a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

"Why not us? No, it's never been done before. We know it's going to be tough. It won't be easy, especially against this team. We had nothing to lose tonight. We had no pressure. It was do or die. So we just go out there and play."

NBA on ESPN recognized Batum's performance with this tweet:

Despite the positive attitude, the Trail Blazers won't be the first team to get this done. The Spurs are simply too strong and experienced of a team to drop four consecutive games in a playoff series.

On Wednesday, these teams face off in San Antonio, and the Spurs will use that home-court advantage to put the final nail in Portland's coffin.

Prediction: Spurs in five

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