What will it be, then? A rematch of 2012 or 2013?
The Miami Heat booked their place in the 2014 NBA Finals following a 117-92 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. The writing had been on the wall long ago. The Pacers have been in a funk for almost the entirety of the postseason, and their demise was a mere inevitability.
This is Miami's fourth-straight trip to the Finals, which is tied for the second-longest streak all time, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Heat: 4th consecutive trip to the finals; tied with 1982-85 Lakers and 1984-87 Celtics for 2nd most all-time (1957-66 Celtics, 10)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 31, 2014
LeBron James said that it doesn't matter how many times the team heads to the Finals; it will never lose its luster.
"I'm blessed. Very blessed. Very humbled," he said, per The Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "And we won't take this opportunity for granted. It's an unbelievable franchise, it's an unbelievable group. And we know we still have work to do, but we won't take this for granted. We're going to four straight Finals and we will never take this for granted."
Now, all that needs to be sorted out is the Heat's future opponent. It will either be the Oklahoma City Thunder—whom they beat in the 2012 Finals—or the San Antonio Spurs—whom they beat in the 2013 Finals.
Game 6 of the Western Conference Final is scheduled for Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. The Spurs hold a 3-2 lead.
Since both Oklahoma City and San Antonio finished with better regular-season records than Miami, the Western Conference is guaranteed home-court advantage in the NBA Finals.
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||Away||Home||TV Info|
|1||June 5||9 p.m.||Heat||Thunder/Spurs||ABC|
|2||June 8||8 p.m.||Heat||Thunder/Spurs||ABC|
|3||June 10||9 p.m.||Thunder/Spurs||Heat||ABC|
|4||June 12||9 p.m.||Thunder/Spurs||Heat||ABC|
|5*||June 15||8 p.m.||Heat||Thunder/Spurs||ABC|
|6*||June 17||9 p.m.||Thunder/Spurs||Heat||ABC|
|7*||June 20||9 p.m.||Heat||Thunder/Spurs||ABC|
Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game came up with a great solution that would all but eliminate the need for the Western Conference Finals:
Would love a three-team round robin Finals between the Heat-Spurs-Thunder.— devin kharpertian (@uuords) May 31, 2014
It's hard to tell whom the Heat would want to play more in the next round.
But Durant and Westbrook are two of the best players at their respective positions. At their best, they can be unbeatable. As long as Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka don't shy away from the situation, OKC would more than hold their own against Miami.
San Antonio wouldn't be any easier. The Spurs were one Ray Allen three-pointer away from winning the title last year. They nearly knocked off the champs, so they'll have no doubts about their chances the second time around.
Oddly enough, Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick posited that the Heat players might welcome the Spurs because their more subdued playing style would be radically different from the shenanigans the Pacers players—namely Lance Stephenson—pulled off:
If the Heat hold on and play San Antonio, they'll welcome the return to professionalism. They won't stop praising the Spurs.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 31, 2014
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post thinks that San Antonio will close out the Western Conference Final, setting up the rematch with Miami. He wrote that playing Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw next to Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter gives the Spurs an extra dimension the Thunder can't defend:
How the Thunder will react? The Thunder don’t really have a good option to combat it with. They could bench Kendrick Perkins and play Ibaka at center and Kevin Durant at power forward, but the Thunder have proudly never changed up their starting lineup. It’s hard to see that happening now.
They have to hope that Ibaka plays better in Game 6 – he went 3-for-10 and finished with six points in Game 5 – and their role players perform better at home, then take their chances with Durant and Russell Westbrook in a winner-take-all Game 7.
Bontemps closed his article by calling for a San Antonio-Miami rematch because last year it "produced the best Finals in at least 20 years."
The beauty of it is, no matter whom the Heat see, it will be a great series. Who wouldn't want to see a repeat of last year? Then again, would a James vs. Durant matchup be all that bad, either?