In a league dominated by the talk of legacies and cementing one's place in history, the 2014 NBA playoffs are now down to the four teams with the most to gain by winning the NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat are looking to make it three straight NBA championships. The Indiana Pacers are looking to upset the reigning champs and propel Paul George even further into the spotlight.
In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs might not have many championship runs left with their current core. They'll need to capitalize on the opportunity now. The Oklahoma City Thunder, led by first-time MVP Kevin Durant, are looking to get Durant the NBA championship that will finally put him in the discussion as one of the most dominant players of the past several decades.
With so much at stake, you'd be crazy to miss the action.
Below, you'll find TV info for each series along with some analysis of the conference finals.
*Note: An updated NBA playoff bracket can be found here.
Schedules for each conference finals matchup—including where to watch each game—are below.
|1||Sun., May 18||IND 106 MIA 97||IND||MIA||IND 1-0|
|2||Tues., May 20||MIA 87 IND 83||IND||MIA||Tied 1-1|
|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|
NBA.com, * denotes if necessary
|1||Mon., May 19||SA 122 OKC 105||SA||OKC||SA 1-0|
|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|
NBA.com, * denotes if necessary
Eastern Conference Finals
It's been the epitome of an up-and-down season for the Pacers. They started off hot—so hot, in fact, that analysts were deeming them the next NBA Finals champs. That's why they play the games, as the Pacers then went into a month-plus stretch that saw the offense hit a brick wall. Chemistry problems put this team in a huge hole.
It didn't even look like they'd make it past the Atlanta Hawks in Round 1 of the playoffs. A rejuvenated Roy Hibbert took control, though, and here we are.
Game 1 against the Heat was the perfect example of just how far the Pacers have come. They trounced Miami, even if the 107-96 score isn't indicative of such a dominant win.
Matt Dollinger of SI.com pointed out that the victory was so dominant because of how early the Pacers got ahead:
The Pacers had lost Games 1 to the Hawks and Wizards in the previous two rounds, but there would be no opening disappointment at home this time around. Indiana jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sustained a level of intensity that never waned Sunday, bum-rushing the Heat for a 107-96 victory.
Miami will need to start playing better defense early on against an Indiana team that looks hungry. The Heat have been here before (twice, in fact), so they know what type of play it will take to advance once again.
While the Western Conference Finals matchup is a great one, this could very well end up being the best matchup of the entire playoffs.
Western Conference Finals
The Thunder are now without Serge Ibaka, but Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich apparently wasn't focused on attacking the paint in his team's 122-105 win in Game 1, via Steve McPherson of the Rolling Stone:
No. Sometimes it's hard to focus on something like that, to decide you're going to do that: you're going to shoot threes tonight or you're going to go into the paint tonight. You take what's given. Play the game. Respect the game and whatever's there, take advantage of that.
The Spurs just went about their business in Game 1, taking whatever was given and capitalizing. The win was so routine for the veteran team that McPherson said the game had "about as much drama as an oil change."
OKC is an exciting team, however, so I wouldn't expect more of this moving forward. Durant and Russell Westbrook can completely take over games. It doesn't matter how good the opposing defense is. There's no stopping either star—you can only hope to contain them.
It will be difficult to cope with the loss of Ibaka underneath the basket, but OKC has other players that can step up in his absence. Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison will now have to play big roles on both offense and defense.
Durant may even see some time at the power forward position given his length. While that's not an ideal matchup given his inability to bump bodies with the likes of Tim Duncan, Durant's explosiveness offensively creates a similarly frustrating matchup for San Antonio.
This series could really go either way, but only if OKC can figure out how to replace Ibaka.