Then there were four.
Twelve teams had already been eliminated from the 2014 NBA playoffs as the conference finals commenced on May 18.
After a plentiful amount of upset victories, down-to-the-wire finishes, shootouts and overtime thrills, only the top two seeds from each conference remained standing.
Dick Vitale got an early jump on things and already tweeted his picks:
Game 1 in the East took place on Sunday, with the Indiana Pacers downing LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
On Monday, the West gets going with the San Antonio Spurs taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Both of these highly anticipated series will undoubtedly bring plenty of action-packed excitement to the court. Needless to say, not a moment of the action should be missed.
Will we see a rematch of the 2013 NBA Finals? We'll know soon enough.
Until then, let's take a look at all of the essential need-to-know viewing information for the conference finals, and check the updated odds for each team to go the distance.
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat
|2||Tues., May 20||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|3||Sat., May 24||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4||Mon., May 26||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|5*||Wed., May 28||TBD||ESPN|
|6*||Fri., May 30||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Sun., June 1||TBD||ESPN|
This series is yet another clash of the East's heavyweights.
LeBron James weighed in on why this matchup is so exhilarating during an interview with NBA.com:
Two best teams in the Eastern Conference. It's that simple. I mean both teams defend at a high level, both teams share the ball, both teams get into the paint, both teams have a desire to win, so that's why it's been equal.
Indiana showed its depth and versatility on Sunday as all five starters scored double-digit points against a Heat defense that couldn't seem to find an answer.
The offensive efforts of James and Dwyane Wade simply weren't enough to keep up.
As ESPN Stats & Info tweeted, the Pacers looked like the better team early on:
Pacers: 9 for 15 (60%) on jump shots in the 1st half. The Heat were 5 for 20 (25%)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2014
We'll see if Miami can turn it around in Game 2.
Each of these teams has flourished at home this season, so it comes as little surprise the resurgent Pacers were able to come away with a Game 1 victory.
We could be in for an epic back-and-forth battle as these teams push each other to the limit. Is a Game 7 on the horizon? It's certainly a good possibility.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
|1||Mon., May 19||9 p.m.||TNT|
|2||Wed., May 21||9 p.m.||TNT|
|3||Sun., May 25||8:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4||Tues., May 27||9 p.m.||TNT|
|5*||Thurs., May 29||TBD||TNT|
|6*||Sat., May 31||TBD||TNT|
|7*||Mon., June 2||TBD||TNT|
The Thunder may have their hands full against the Spurs.
As we know, Oklahoma City features a high-octane offense and can put up points on practically anyone; however, the team's lingering weakness has been its defense.
Now the Thunder must take on a very experienced Spurs team without defensive specialist Serge Ibaka.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti had this to say about the injury to NBA.com:
I just want to express our disappointment for Serge, who, as we all know, is an elite competitor and someone that has proven to be a tremendous teammate. He was playing great basketball throughout the season. He's had a huge impact on our season to date.
We have had this group together for a while, and they've been through some ups and downs, and this is just another one that hopefully is only going to make us better.
Despite Ibaka's absence, ESPN Stats & Info tweeted the Thunder still have a fighting chance:
According to @numberFire the Thunder still have a 25.6% chance to win the NBA title without Ibaka (Spurs 33.9%, Heat 22.5%, Pacers 18.0%).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2014
We'll see how Kendrick Perkins can step in and fill the large shoes of Ibaka against a very well-rounded Spurs team.
Regardless of the injury, Oklahoma City has been one of the most exciting teams to watch this season. That trend should continue in the conference finals against San Antonio.
So, with all of the essential viewing information now well in hand, which team has the best chance to win it all?
Here's a look at the current odds to win the NBA title:
|San Antonio Spurs||+230|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+350|
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com.