Only four teams remain in the hunt for a coveted trip to the NBA Finals.
After a chaotic ride through the first two rounds of the playoffs, it just so happens the top two seeded teams remain from each conference.
The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are still in the mix. This leads us to beg the question: Are we in for a rematch of last year's finals?
It's certainly a possibility; however, they must first get through some very talented teams in the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers.
Things didn't start swimmingly for the Heat, as the wildly inconsistent Pacers trounced LeBron James and Co. by a score of 107-96 in Game 1. For the Spurs, we'll find out how this aging yet talented team will fare against the high-octane Thunder on Monday.
Here's a look at the updated Vegas odds for each team to win the championship, followed by some predictions as to how these series could potentially play out.
Vegas Championship Odds
|San Antonio Spurs||+230|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+350|
Championship odds courtesy of Odds Shark.
Conference Finals Predictions
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat
The Pacers put on a show during Game 1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
After starting hot—Indiana led 30-24 going into the second quarter—the team didn't let off the gas, as each of its five starters finished with at least 15 points.
Paul George was impeccable, connecting on seven of 13 attempts from the field for 24 points, adding four rebounds and seven assists to his numbers.
Once again, the enigmatic Roy Hibbert played well, accumulating 19 points and nine boards.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted the impact Hibbert had on the game:
The Heat were outscored by 19 points when the Pacers' Roy Hibbert was on the court Sunday— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 19, 2014
The offensive onslaught from the Pacers had plenty to do with the team's ability to find open looks and take full advantage; however, it also had lots to do with a rare instance of defensive ineptitude from the Heat.
Miami couldn't get into position to be effective on the defensive end of the court. This led to plenty of open looks for Indiana and allowed the Pacers to outrebound the Heat, 38-29.
The loss shouldn't weigh heavily on Miami's chances to move forward, according to a very telling tweet from ESPN Stats & Info:
Heat down 1-0 against Pacers. Worried? Heat are 4-0 in postseason series in which they lost Game 1 in LeBron/Bosh/Wade era.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 19, 2014
During a postgame press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, George hit the nail on the head for the Pacers going forward.
Said George, "We've been complacent many times. We just can't get complacent. We've got to stay humbled off this win and come in with the same mind-set that we have to get another one."
That's the thing. We've seen Indiana's inability to show up in some big games so far during the playoffs. The inconsistency of this team remains questionable heading into Game 2 of this series.
Until the Pacers can show a high level of play on a consistent basis, this is still the Heat's series to lose.
Prediction: Heat in six.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Spurs are an aging team, and the window for an NBA championship is rapidly closing. This is a perfect example of a team in win-now mode.
San Antonio faces the daunting task of defeating league MVP Kevin Durant and the Thunder. The combination of Durant and Russell Westbrook has been devastating to opposing teams through the first two round of the playoffs.
Although, the Thunder will be missing one crucial element against the Spurs—Serge Ibaka.
The Thunder's official Twitter account broke the bad news on Friday:
News: MRI confirms Serge Ibaka suffered left calf injury during last night's game. He is expected to miss remainder of the 2014 postseason.— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) May 16, 2014
This team is not known for its defensive prowess, and Ibaka has arguably been its best player on that end of the court. Needless to say, that's a problem when facing a very experienced, well-rounded team like the Spurs.
During an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Spurs point guard Tony Parker offered some valuable insight as to how the Thunder can adapt in Ibaka's absence:
(Rookie center) Steve Adams has been stepping up, (veteran forward) Nick Collison is a great player. They can go small. They're going to do different stuff, so we're going to have to adapt. We're going to try to contain everything. Like you say, Westbrook and Durant are going to score points. They're great players, and Durant is the MVP, so you're not going to stop them.
Both of these teams are of championship caliber.
This series won't simply be decided by the loss of one player, as each squad has plenty of talent and experience to be a legitimate finals threat. When it's all said and done, this one will come down to which team can provide more consistency on both ends of the court.
Prediction: Spurs in six.