So much for the first round of the NBA playoffs serving as an indication of things to come.
It seemed as though we were in for an all-time great postseason after the first series of games provided a buzzer-beater or an overtime with pretty much every contest, but as the number of teams has dwindled, so has the last-minute excitement.
Through the first seven games of the conference finals, there has been just one game decided by less than 10 points. The Miami Heat are cruising past the Indiana Pacers in impressive fashion, while the Serge Ibaka effect has been made clear in the West with blowouts going both ways.
Still, while the scores haven't been close, there has been plenty of entertaining action, and that should only continue as we near the Finals.
Updated Bracket and Conference Finals Info
Check out NBA.com for a look at the updated playoff bracket.
|Game||Matchup||Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|5||Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers||Wednesday, May 28||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|6*||Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat||Friday, May 30||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|7*||Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers||Sunday, June 1||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Game||Western Conference Finals||Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|5||Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs||Thursday, May 29||9 p.m.||TNT||TNT Overtime|
|6*||San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder||Saturday, May 31||8:30 p.m.||TNT||TNT Overtime|
|7*||Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs||Monday, June 2||9 p.m.||TNT||TNT Overtime|
* If necessary
Wednesday, May 28 Preview
Not sure if the Heat look unstoppable because the Pacers are terrible, or the Pacers look terrible because the Heat are unstoppable.
Either way, Miami has a 3-1 series advantage, and with the way the last six quarters have played out, it's impossible to imagine the Pacers turning things around.
After scoring a season-low 38 points in the first half of Game 3, Erik Spoelstra's squad has entered Hulk mode. They have tightened the strings on defense, and that in turn has led to a nearly flawless offensive performance. NBA.com's John Schuhmann noted the out-of-this-planet production from Miami in Game 3:
The Heat scored 61 points on 41 possessions (149 per 100) in the 2nd half.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 25, 2014
That continued on Monday, as the Heat poured in a ridiculous 120.1 points per 100 possessions en route to the 102-90 victory. Of course, as NBA.com's Couper Moorhead pointed out, the defense was on the same level of the offense:
Synergy Sports has the Pacers down for taking just three 'unguarded' jumpers tonight. 17 logged as 'guarded'.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) May 27, 2014
Pacers having just 11 drives, per SportVU, reflects in part just how good the Heat were at staying in front of the ball and helping quickly.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) May 27, 2014
After the game, LeBron James talked to reporters, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, about his team's improvement:
We try to get better every single day, every single game. When you do that and go out and play the type of game that you are capable of playing, you can be satisfied with the results. And that's what we've built over the years.
As ESPN's Seth Greenberg argued, Spoelstra deserves some of the praise, as well:
Under appreciated coaching move of Pacer Heat series is Spo's decision to extend defense and back trapping Shortens clock defensive exposure— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) May 27, 2014
The Heat are clicking on cylinders that aren't even available to most teams right now. They are stifling and quick to the ball on defense and clinical and precise on offense. James and Dwyane Wade have been tremendous all series, but on Monday, Chris Bosh finally joined the party with 25 points. Role players like Rashard Lewis, Norris Cole and Ray Allen have been terrific, and Game 4's blowout came without Chris Andersen, who has been vital to the team's bench success.
Who wins Game 5?
In Game 5, the Pacers must limit turnovers. Their 19 giveaways in Game 3 led to 26 Miami points, and 14 turnovers in Game 4 were converted into 20 more points for the Heat. Getting any kind of production out of Roy Hibbert, who had zero points and a plus-minus of minus-23 in 22 minutes, would help, too.
Returning home may help accomplish some of those things, but Miami is showing no weaknesses at this point.
Don't expect this one to make it to Game 6.