The 2014 NBA playoffs have now entered the conference finals, and the four remaining teams will be looking to advance to the NBA Finals.
The first two rounds of the playoffs have been filled with plenty of exciting finishes, but the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are still playing in both the Eastern and Western conference finals. The Indiana Pacers were able to win Game 1 at home against the Miami Heat, while the San Antonio Spurs got an impressive win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With both of the conference finals already a game in, let's take a look at the updated bracket as well as predictions for the winners of both series.
Note: Bracket provided by NBA.com
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
Despite the up-and-down play of the Pacers during the playoffs, NBA fans got the Eastern Conference Finals matchup they were expecting all along, and now the Heat need to answer quickly, or else they'll be down 2-0 heading back to Miami.
The Pacers arguably played their best game of the playoffs in Game 1, winning 107-96. All of the starters were locked in, with all five of them along with C.J. Watson scoring in double figures, shooting 51.5 percent as a team. Thanks to the team's offensive efficiency, Bankers Life Fieldhouse was as loud as it's been in quite a while. Still, the team isn't satisfied with just one win.
"There's nothing to celebrate. It's not like we won a championship. It's one game," George Hill told the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "Yes, it was good, but if we come out and lay an egg on Tuesday, this game doesn't mean anything."
As ESPN's John Buccigross points out, the Pacers are 6-0 in the playoffs when Roy Hibbert scores at least 10 points, and the Heat are just 1-7 at Indiana over the past two years.
Pacers 6-0 this postseason when Roy Hibbert scores at least 10 points (3-5 when he has fewer than 10 pts) Heat: 1-7 at Pacers last 2 seasons— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 19, 2014
Still, the Heat have made it this far for a reason. LeBron James has been dominant this postseason, averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game with a strong 56.9 shooting percentage. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Heat have never lost Game 2 after losing Game 1 since LeBron and Chris Bosh joined the team.
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
I expect the Heat to make the adjustments they need for the next game on Tuesday, but don't sleep on the Pacers. Despite their recent struggles, they've gone 7-2 in their past nine games, and it looks like they're finally returning to form at the right time.
The Pacers worked all season to get home-court advantage for Game 7, and if this series does go the distance, it'll pay off.
Prediction: Pacers win series in seven games
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were hot for the entire game, shooting 57.5 percent from the floor. Tony Parker put up 14 points and 12 assists, while Tim Duncan dominated the paint, scoring 27 points to go along with seven rebounds.
The Thunder are now in a hole, and it's going to be hard to get out of it without Serge Ibaka down low. Ibaka is out for the rest of the playoffs with a calf injury, according to Marc J. Spears from Yahoo! Sports, which means that Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins will have to contain Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw down low.
Without Ibaka, the Thunder struggled to defend in the paint in Game 1, and that's probably not going to change for the rest of the series. The NBA on ESPN tweeted this shot chart early in the game, and the Spurs went on to score 66 points in the paint.
The Ibaka-less factor? The Spurs are doing damage in the paint and lead the Thunder 20-11 with 4:04 left in the 1st. pic.twitter.com/ItbCMULDC1— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 20, 2014
Durant and Westbrook can only carry the team so far, and the rest of the team is going to need to step up. Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher stepped up in Game 1, but they'll need Collison and Thabo Sefolosha to at least put up a few points instead of combining for zero.
The Spurs simply have too many options, and while Durant may be able to carry the team to a couple of wins, it's hard to picture the Thunder winning this series without Ibaka.
Prediction: Spurs win series in six games