Coming into the season, if I told you the Pacers, Heat, Spurs, and Thunder are the final four teams remaining, you wouldn’t be surprised. However, you might be surprised how each team got here.
The number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers fought all season for this moment, to have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. During the regular season, the Pacers went 36-5 at home, including 2-0 against the Miami Heat.
Surprisingly, during the playoffs, they are 3-4 at home, with all four being blowouts. Pacers struggled down the stretch of the season losing their identity. Paul George, Frank Vogel, and especially the absence of Roy Hibbert have contributed to their struggles. David West is unquestionably the leader of this team. Game 6 vs the Wizards proved that.
What is the NBA without the Miami Heat. Love them, or despise their existence, they are the topic of conversation. Although, I can’t remember a two-time defending champion flying under the radar like the Heat. They have spoiled us. We don’t care about them in the regular season, just playoff time.
Dwyane Wade missed more than 20 games this season as his legendary career seems to be close to a dramatic end. Wade still delivers, and on occasion, Flash makes an appearance. I don’t believe the Heat have gotten better. In fact, I think this is the worst Heat team in the Big 3 era. However, they pick their spots more efficiently. The Heat flip that switch better than anyone. Now, it’s time to flip it once more if a three-peat is going to happen.
(Yes, two paragraphs without a mention of LeBron James. It’s a miracle)
Stop me if you heard this before. The Spurs are the best team in basketball. Greg Popovich is the best coach in basketball, and Tony Parker is the best point guard in basketball. Tim Duncan continues to give Father Time grey hairs. Then, the role players continue to blossom into stars for the Spurs.
Manu Ginobli, Marco Belineli, and Danny Green shoot teams out of the arena. Plus, Khwai Leonard and Patty Mills spark the Spurs, and they look like great options to be the face of the Spurs in the future. Lastly, Tiago Splitter *Stephen A Smith Voice, may not be a scrub anymore.
The Thunder are the hardest team to analyze for me. Kevin Durant is the MVP, rightfully so. He played over 20 games without Russell Westbrook this year, and he delivered unlike the last year versus the Grizzlies. I still find myself questioning how bad KD wants it. He’s nice, but too many times he defers to his Batman when the game hangs in the balance. In his defense, in close-out games against the Grizzlies and Clippers, Durant has been sensational and delivered the win.
Speaking of Batman, does anyone remember when analysts questioned how explosive Westbrook would be after three knee surgeries? Yeah, me neither. Westbrook is in Oscar Robertson territory averaging 27ppg 8 ast and 8reb throughout the playoffs. I’ve been Westbrook’s biggest critic. Rightfully so, every know and then, he plays hero ball. But lately, he has just been OKC’s hero.
Pacers vs Heat: Heat in 6.
The Pacers’ essence of life is the Miami Heat. Everything they have done all year has been to beat the Heat. However, the obsession nearly got up with them through the first two rounds. If they don’t play the Heat, the Pacers have trouble showing up. Now, they have their wish, but I don’t think they have enough in the tank.
The Heat have coasted all season long. Now, they are flipping the switch. This could be dangerous, but nobody does it better than Miami. The Heat are 8-1 in the playoffs, and the loss is surprising. Down by 8 with under 2:30 to go in the game, the Heat went to their last gear and blew by the Nets. I expect the same thing.
Spurs vs Thunder: Spurs in 6.
Thunder went 4-0 against the Spurs this season. Spurs have trouble guarding athletic point guards, and there may be none better than Westbrook. Tony Parker is suffering from a hamstring injury. Durant has dominated against the Spurs. Remember two years ago, down 2-0, and the Thunder rolled off four straight wins to go to the Finals.
However, Ibaka is out for the playoffs. You’re not stopping Tim Duncan with Stephen Adams and Nick Collision. Coach Pop will find a way. I just can’t bet against the Spurs, it’s a rule in sports.