The 2014 NBA Playoffs are down to the final four teams. In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs will face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers will take on the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in a rematch of last year’s conference finals. Here’s when and where the Eastern Conference games will be played.
Game One May 18 Miami at Indiana, 3:30 PM–ABC
Game Two May 20 Miami at Indiana, 8:30 PM–ESPN
Game Three May 24 Indiana at Miami, 8:30 PM–ESPN
Game Four May 26 Indiana at Miami, 8:30 PM–ESPN
Game Five* May 28 Miami at Indiana, 8:30 PM–ESPN
Game Six* May 30 Indiana at Miami, 8:30 PM–ESPN
Game Seven* Jun 1 Miami at Indiana, 8:30 PM-ESPN
The Heat are the second seed in the East. They got to the conference finals (fourth straight year) by beating the seven seed Charlotte Bobcats 4-0 in the first round and the six seed Brooklyn Nets 4-1 in the second round.
The Pacers are the first seed in the East. They got to the conference finals (second straight year) by beating the eight seed Atlanta Hawks 4-3 in the first round and the five seed Washington Wizards 4-2 in the second round.
The Pacers started the regular season on a mission to be the number one seed so they would have home court advantage when they predictably would play the Heat in the conference finals. They began with a 9-0 record and entered the month of March with a 44-13 record. It appeared that they would not only easily reach the conference finals, but that they could possibly beat the Heat and get to the NBA Finals. Then the Pacers disappeared just as inexplicably as socks disappear from the dryer. Thankfully for the Pacers they had built enough of a cushion, and the Heat faltered at times during the regular season too, so they were able to hold onto the top seed in the East.
The Heat and Pacers split the regular season, with each team defending their home court. Who is going to advance to the NBA finals?
Why the Pacers will win:
They won more games than the Heat in the regular season and have home court advantage as a result. If Pacers center Roy Hibbert (7-foot-2) can get it together, the Heat do not have anyone who can match up with him. That’s a big if, but it could happen (see his 28 points and 9 rebounds performance against the Wizards in game two). No one will stop Lebron James, but Paul George has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with him and slow James down at times.
Due to his failing knees Dwayne Wade may not be at 100% for every game in the series. The Miami fans show up to games whenever they feel like it. The start time for games seem like more of a guideline to the Heat fans, so who knows how much of a “home court advantage” the Heat will have when they are at home.
Finally, the Pacers lifted a weight the size of Godzilla off of their back by winning two playoff series and advancing to the conference finals; saving head coach Frank Vogel‘s job in the process. Of course the Pacers want to win and atone for the loss to the Heat in last year’s conference finals, but it feels a little like they are playing with house money since they know they will no longer be remembered as the biggest collapse/disappointment in NBA history.
Why the Heat will win:
It took the Pacers seven games to beat the Hawks, who finished the regular season with a record of 38-44. The only reason the Hawks even got into the playoffs is because the Eastern Conference reeks like cow dung. There is no reason the Pacers should have needed seven games, but everyone saw it coming. After the collapse over the last part of the regular season, no one knew what to make of the Pacers. No one could figure out what was wrong with Hibbert or why George didn’t want to grab the superstar status that was right there for the taking. The Heat may not have anyone who can match up with Hibbert, but he has thrown up three bagels–zero points–this post season. Can he really put enough strong performances together to help the Pacers win four games? Probably not.
The Pacers showed almost no emotion throughout the playoffs, whether on the court or on the bench. This is Heat’s fourth straight trip to the conference finals and if they win, also their fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals. The Heat understand how to win in the playoffs. Oh yeah, they also have Lebron, the best player in the world, who is on a quest for a third ring and a three peat.
Prediction: Heat in five.