The 2014 NBA Finals are finally on the horizon—but which of the four remaining teams will compete for the opportunity to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy?
The conference finals have been thrilling thus far. The Miami Heat hold a 2-1 advantage over the Indiana Pacers, but there's no telling which of the two squads will come out on top. Over in the West, the San Antonio Spurs hold a dominant 2-0 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds remain in each conference. The rigorous playoff schedule has worked favorably for these four teams, but only two will advance to play for the NBA championship.
Below are NBA Finals odds from Odds Shark via May 25, and my own personal predictions for the conference finals' outcomes follow.
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+1400|
|San Antonio Spurs||-118|
Credit: OddsShark.com as of May 25
Eastern Conference Finals
After starting off the series slowly in Game 1, the Heat have overcome inconsistencies to take a 2-1 series lead over the Pacers—the No. 1 seed in the conference.
The Heat didn't get off to a great start in Game 3, but they closed out on a high note and dominated the Pacers late. LeBron James knows that the kind of basketball he and his teammates played at the end of the game is the kind that will get them to where they want to go, via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
We have to play our type of basketball. We have to be disruptive. We have to speed up the team that we're going against, and we have to fly around defensively. ... We're an attack team. When we get into our game, so many things happen for us, and we're even able to cover up for some of the mistakes we make both offensively and defensively.
While Miami has looked great since Game 1, it's hard to overlook the struggles of Chris Bosh. He has scored just 18 points and grabbed only 10 rebounds in Games 2 and 3. He is 2-of-7 from three and 8-of-21 overall.
Who ya got?
His insistence on shooting threes instead of playing in the post might end up killing the Heat—if not now, then definitely in the NBA Finals.
Of course, they'll have to get to the Finals first. The Pacers won't go down easily. Paul George and Lance Stephenson are gritty players who have been in this position before. They'll make it interesting at the very least.
Prediction: Heat in 6
Western Conference Finals
The Thunder are down 2-0 to a Spurs team that looks unbeatable, but OKC has been in this position before, as Nick Gallo of NBA.com pointed out:
Down 3-2 in the series against the Memphis Grizzlies, down seven points with 50 seconds to go to the Los Angeles Clippers and on plenty of other occasions this postseason, the Thunder has had its back against the wall. All playoffs, the Thunder has faced adversity, worked together and gotten through those tough times. Down 2-0 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals will require another similar effort.
NBA MVP Kevin Durant needs to step up his game to the next level to pick his team up and get that first win in the series. Of course, Durant might get some help that he hasn't had this series. NBC Sports' Twitter account reports that Serge Ibaka is likely to play in Game 3:
Tony Parker is excited for the opportunity to play against the defensive stalwart:
Tony Parker on Serge Ibaka's potential return: "I'll be happy. I'm happy if he's playing. You want to play against the best."— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 25, 2014
Ibaka will certainly make an impact on the remainder of the series if healthy. OKC has had no answer for Tim Duncan in the paint thus far. Ibaka will certainly make an impact there. He'll also give Durant and Russell Westbrook someone to play off in the half-court offense.
San Antonio has dominated so far, but reinforcements are on the way for OKC. I don't know if the Thunder can pull themselves out of this hole, but they won't go down without a fight.
Prediction: Spurs in 5