All four of the teams playing for a chance at the NBA Finals have been in the mix for the last two seasons. The Eastern Conference Finals will be a rematch between the two teams who played last year, and the Western Conference Finals will include two teams who duked it out in 2012. Here is a look at those matchups.
Eastern Conference Finals : Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
Though there was stretches over the last few months that it looked like we may never see this matchup, this is the series that many people expected to happen in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers worked all season to have the best record in the East, a feat the accomplished with a record of 56-26. The Heat were the second best team in the East at 54-28. However, it has been Miami that has looked like the much more dominate team in the playoffs thus far. The Pacers were pushed to seven games in their first round matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, and they needed wins in Game Six and Game Seven to advance. After dropping Game One in the second round against the Wizards, they then started to get more production from Roy Hibbert and were able to reel off three wins in a row. And after losing in a blowout in Game Five, they then finished Washington off in Game Six.
The Heat started the playoffs with a four game sweep of the Bobcats, in which LeBron James averaged 30 points during the series. They had a bit more trouble in round two against the Brooklyn Nets, but still finished them off in five games. James has been on a tear over the playoffs averaging 30 points per game. He also leads the Heat with 7.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The Pacers are led by Paul George, who leads the team with 21.9 points and 8.7 assists per game.
The teams split the season series at two games apiece. The Pacers won the first game by six and the third by one. The Heat won the second matchup by three and the last game by eight. Of the four teams left, the Pacers have the lowest odds at 10/1. The Heat are the favorites in the league at 11/10. We’ve been waiting since last year for this matchup, so we can hope it’s going to be as great as we expect. Game One tips off on Sunday and you can check back with sportspicks.com handicappers throughout the series for odds.
Western Conference Finals : Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs
In the West, we’ll also have a one-versus-two matchup between the Thunder and Spurs. While the Spurs may be the top team in the conference, they haven’t faired well against a younger Thunder team. OKC is 4-0 against the Spurs this year, winning each game by an average of four points. Kevin Durant leads the league at 31.4 points per game during the playoffs and he is also averaging 9.4 rebounds to lead his team. The Thunder also get huge production from Russell Westbrook, who averages 26.6 points, 8.4 assists and 8 rebounds per game. However, the Thunder are going to have a big gap to fill, as it was announced that Serge Ibaka will miss the remainder of the playoffs with a leg injury. Ibaka is a huge factor for the Thunder, averaging 12.2 points and 2.2 blocks per game. Without Ibaka in the middle, the Thunder will have to find a way to defend Tim Duncan of the Spurs.
The Spurs were pushed to seven games in the first round matchup against the Mavericks, but they’ve since looked like they have things going and will be incredibly hard to knock off. They beat Portland in five games in the Conference Semifinals by an average of nearly 20 points in each win. Tony Parker is the floor general for the Spurs and he’s leading the team with 19.3 points per game. Tim Duncan is second on the team with 15.8 points per game and he leads the Spurs with 8.3 rebounds per.
These two teams met in 2012 when the Thunder won the series and moved onto the NBA Finals. This year, the Spurs are favored to win the NBA Championship as things are standing now. They are 11/5 odds, while the Thunder are at 7/2. Game One tips off on Monday night in San Antonio.