The NBA Conference Finals, as predictable as they may be in terms of participants, are underway and have the attention of the globe.
After Round 2 of the postseason didn't exactly live up to the hype of the thrilling opening round, there is an outside chance the conference finals can re-ignite the flame and provide some great, consistent basketball.
That's what happens when one side features arguably the sport's top rivalry, while the other spotlights an ideal passing-of-the-torch-moment—if the old folks go with the narrative.
Here's a look at how to catch each game and the key storyline to watch in both series.
|1||Sun., May 18||3:30 p.m.||IND||MIA||ABC|
|2||Tues., May 20||8:30 p.m.||IND||MIA||ESPN|
|3||Sat., May 24||8:30 p.m.||MIA||IND||ESPN|
|4||Mon., May 26||8:30 p.m.||MIA||IND||ESPN|
|5*||Wed., May 28||8:30 p.m.||IND||MIA||ESPN|
|6*||Fri., May 30||8:30 p.m.||MIA||IND||ESPN|
|7*||Sun., June 1||8:30 p.m.||IND||MIA||ESPN|
|1||Mon., May 19||9 p.m.||SA||OKC||TNT|
|2||Wed., May 21||9 p.m.||SA||OKC||TNT|
|3||Sun., May 25||8:30 p.m.||OKC||SA||TNT|
|4||Tues., May 27||9 p.m.||OKC||SA||TNT|
|5*||Wed., May 29||9 p.m.||SA||OKC||TNT|
|6*||Sat. May 31||8:30 p.m.||OKC||SA||TNT|
|7*||Mon., June 2||9 p.m.||SA||OKC||TNT|
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers: Complacency
One team was hungry on Sunday. The other wasn't.
Thus is the story of what is becoming a classic rivalry between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, the latter of which was specifically constructed to bully the former.
That is exactly what happened at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday as the Pacers won 107-96 and outrebounded the Heat 38-29. ESPN Stats & Info provided a jarring stat after the fact:
Our friends at @numberFire now give the Pacers a 62% chance to win the conference finals, a 9% chance to sweep the Heat— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2014
None of this is to suggest the Heat got complacent. No, they just don't have an answer for David West (19 points and seven boards) or Roy Hibbert (19 points and nine boards). The dominance down low won't magically stop in the coming games.
No, it was the Pacers that got a tad complacent and almost allowed a stunning comeback, and it's the erratic Pacers with disjointed personalities and performances as of late that could very much get complacent as the series progresses.
The Pacers are lucky they are at home this series. They just punched a juggernaut in the mouth, and should they get comfortable, more strange losses are certainly within the realm of possibility.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Health
The Oklahoma City Thunder have gotten to this point in part because of Serge Ibaka's dominance on the boards, but he'll be out for the foreseeable future with an injury that is quite rare, as NBC Sports helps to illustrate:
That hurts. Steven Adams and Nick Collison won't have much of an impact against one Tim Duncan.
Luckily for the Thunder, the older San Antonio Spurs are not in perfect health, either.
Star point guard Tony Parker suffered a hamstring injury in the Spurs' brutal dissection of the Portland Trail Blazers, but coach Gregg Popovich has revealed that Parker will play through the issue, as captured by Sam Amick of USA Today:
Spurs' Gregg Popovich says Tony Parker (hamstring) good to go for tomorrow's Game 1.Also accuses @Monroe_SA of smoking that "Colorado stuff"— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) May 18, 2014
Good news. The Spurs are hailed as a deep team, which is fine, but that depth such as Patty Mills is productive in tandem with Parker, not when asked to handle the entire load. This is especially the case against a point guard like Russell Westbrook.
Health may very well decide the series. If Ibaka's absence creates that big of a hole on both ends of the court, the veteran Spurs may have no issues picking apart anything the Thunder attempt to do.