While the NBA's lottery teams saw their own excitement on Tuesday, the four remaining playoff teams continue to strive for a trip to the coveted NBA Finals.
After falling to a 1-0 deficit following Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat surged back on Tuesday to even their series with the Indiana Pacers.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will attempt to do the same on Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
The 2014 NBA playoffs have been wildly chaotic thus far, and that trend doesn't appear to be ending any time soon.
Let's take a look at the updated championship odds and predict the outcome for both conference finals series.
Updated Championship Odds
|San Antonio Spurs||11-10|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||8-1|
Championship odds courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Conference Finals Predictions
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat
Game 1 of this series didn't quite go according to plan for LeBron James and Co., as they fell to the Pacers by a score of 107-96 due to a poor defensive effort.
It was a completely different story in Game 2.
Both the Heat and Pacers put on solid defensive showings in a low-scoring contest by their standards.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Miami trailed by a single point, only to watch the Pacers begin to run away with the game early in the quarter.
That's when the duo of James and Dwyane Wade stepped up in a big way.
The Heat ended the game on a 12-2 run, as James and Wade combined for the team's final 20 points, effectively beating the Pacers by a score of 87-83 and evening the series.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted just how big of a road win this was for the Heat:
Heat get their 2nd road win in 9 tries over the last 2 seasons against the Pacers— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 21, 2014
James spoke about the late-game surge with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, after the game:
It's not going to be pretty. Not in the Eastern Conference. It's never pretty basketball in the Eastern Conference. It's about who can sustain runs. You know, who can get defensive stops? Who can not turn the ball over and who can get great shots? I think we did that in the fourth.
It was all Miami late in the game. But that's not to say the Pacers didn't show up at all.
In fact, according to a tweet from ESPN Stats & Info, the Pacers starters were the dominant group until the Heat's late surge:
Pacers starters have outscored Heat starters 61-49 to this point in the game— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 21, 2014
Once again, all five of Indiana's starters scored in double-digits and were led by Lance Stephenson's 25 and Roy Hibbert's double-double performance.
Despite coming away with at least 10 points each, accuracy was a problem for Indiana, as the team connected on just 40.0 percent of its shots from the field.
Now, Indiana must take on the daunting task of facing the Heat in Miami for two games. The Heat are 32-9 at home this season, while the Pacers are 21-20 on the road. That doesn't bode well for an inconsistent team that lost plenty of momentum in a fourth-quarter collapse in Game 2.
The way things look right now, Miami has a major advantage in the East.
Heat in six
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder will be looking to rebound in a big way on Wednesday, after a Game 1 rout by the hands of Tim Duncan and the Spurs.
In the West's opening conference finals game, the big storyline was the absence of the Thunder's best defender, Serge Ibaka.
San Antonio scored at will in the paint in Game 1 without the threat of the shot-blocking, game-altering Ibaka on the court.
USA Today tweeted exactly how effective the Spurs were in the paint during Game 1:
The Spurs took full advantage of Ibaka's absence, racking up 66 points (!) in the paint: http://t.co/ZAT3JpocKI— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) May 20, 2014
With Ibaka slated to miss the remainder of this series, Oklahoma City must figure something out in a hurry to avoid another catastrophic loss.
During an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Nick Collison spoke about what his team must do going forward:
We weren't good enough. Offensively, we've got to be better too. But it's not necessarily like, 'Serge is gone, replay Serge (and his role).' It's like, whoever is the five who are out there have to really play at a high level. The Spurs are great at moving the ball, finding the open man and eventually getting to the paint. We've got to be able to cut that stuff off so they're not getting in the paint and we're making them shoot jump shots over a hand instead of letting them get to the basket so much.
That would be a good start.
Kevin Durant elaborated when he spoke with Amick:
Well, we play team defense. We don't just rely on Serge. He does a great job of blocking shots, but it's all because of our team defense. Look, Serge is not going to be here. He's injured for the rest of the postseason, so we've got to move past that and just keep playing as a team.
Sure, playing team defense is always the way to go, and it should be even with Ibaka in the lineup. However, with so many weapons at the Spurs' disposal, this porous Thunder defense appears poised to continue giving up points in a big way.
All is not lost for the Thunder, as the team's been in this position before, according to a tweet from SportsCenter:
Thunder are now 0-4 in Game 1s on road since moving to Oklahoma City. OKC came back to win 2012 Western Conference Finals vs Spurs.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 20, 2014
Unless Oklahoma City can make an effective, drastic change, this series could be over in a hurry.
Spurs in five