The NBA conference finals switch locales this weekend for the first time after two games in each series.
One series is entirely too predictable. The other just so happens to be the exact opposite.
The San Antonio Spurs are taking full advantage of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West, while the league's best rivalry surges onward between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers. Pivotal Game 3s are on the slate for this weekend as each series has the potential to take a postseason-defining turn.
Don't miss out.
|Game||Eastern Conference Finals||Date||Time (ET)||TV|
|1||Indiana Pacers 107, Miami Heat 96||Sunday, May 18||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|2||Miami Heat 87, Indiana Pacers 83||Tuesday, May 20||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|3||Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat||Saturday, May 24||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4||Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat||Monday, May 26||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|5*||Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers||Wednesday, May 28||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|6*||Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat||Friday, May 30||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|7*||Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers||Sunday, June 1||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Game||Western Conference Finals||Date||Time (ET)||TV|
|1||San Antonio Spurs 122, Oklahoma City Thunder 105||Monday, May 19||9 p.m.||TNT|
|2||San Antonio Spurs 112, Oklahoma City Thunder 77||Wednesday, May 21||9 p.m.||TNT|
|3||San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder||Sunday, May 25||8:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4||San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder||Tuesday, May 27||9 p.m.||TNT|
|5*||Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs||Thursday, May 29||9 p.m.||TNT|
|6*||San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder||Saturday, May 31||8:30 p.m.||TNT|
|7*||Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs||Monday, June 2||9 p.m.||TNT|
ESPN.com. *if necessary
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat
Odds: Miami (-7)
Of course an epic rivalry has turned into a slugfest as two heavyweights exchange blows.
LeBron James put it best after Game 2, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
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.
Miami got maimed in Game 1 on the road thanks to savvy interior passing that saw Indiana's star forward David West notch 19 points en route to a 107-96 final. Historically the Heat have struggled on the road, but nobody could have predicted with 100 percent faith that the erratic Pacers were going to come out and put on a clinic against the NBA's best.
Then again, the Pacers have been constructed specifically to knock off the Heat. Not that it mattered in Game 2, as James alluding to runs is emphasized by a 12-2 finish orchestrated by he and Dwyane Wade to notch the victory.
Indiana managed to have all five starters in double digits once again, but that's a bad sign for Game 3 because the team may be without Paul George. Per CBS Sports' Ken Berger, he suffered a concussion after Wade's knee connected with the back of his head, as detailed by Pacers.com's Scott Agness:
Paul George: “I blacked out as soon as it happened and then, … however much time was remaining, I was just blurry."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) May 21, 2014
Not only would George be a loss on the offensive end of the court, he is also the Pacers' best defensive option against James. Couple the doubt around his availability with the fact the series travels to Miami, and the odds make too much sense.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Odds: Oklahoma City (-3)
This would be the predictable series, although the odds certainly suggest otherwise.
The experienced Spurs are up 2-0 after winning both games by the quite comfortable margins seen above. An injury to the Thunders' Serge Ibaka changed the complexion of the series before it began, and so far it has played out as expected.
ESPN Stats and Info says all that is necessary about the Game 1 rout:
Spurs were 26 for 30 from inside 5 feet in Game 1-- best any team shot from that close in a game this season (minimum 30 attempts)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 22, 2014
MVP Kevin Durant still dropped 28 points in the blowout, but followed up with just 15 in Game 2—while the Spurs racked up 66 points in the paint in Game 1.
Simply put, Tim Duncan and Co. will get whatever they want this series. Especially when one takes into account their model of efficiency, as captured by Numbers Never Lie:
Spurs are scoring 112.3 Pts per 100 possessions this postseason. BEST offensive efficiency of any team in the playoffs.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 22, 2014
That efficiency the rest of the teams in the league should use as a model, paired with Ibaka's absence, makes the odds a bit confusing.
Yes, the Thunder will return home this weekend. No, that does not mean the Spurs will suddenly fall off in the paint. A popular narrative folks love to quote is the fact the Thunder came back to beat the Spurs after falling behind 0-2 in 2012, but this time is different. The Spurs were not bullying around the Thunder that time out.
This time they are by wide margins. In a league defined by superstars, the Thunder are crippled without their defensive stalwart. Ironically enough, the Spurs are winning comfortably for playing a brand of ball the exact opposite of the rest of the league.