No. 1 Indiana Pacers (56-26 regular season, 8-5 in playoffs) vs. No. 2 Miami Heat (54-28, 8-1)
Season series » Tied, 2-2. The home teams held serve in each of the four meetings between the teams with the best records in the conference. The first three games of the series were decided by a total of 10 points before the Heat blew out the Pacers on April 11 to briefly move ahead of Indiana in the standings. Roy Hibbert was his enigmatic self in the series, averaging 22.5 points in Pacers wins and 5.5 points in the two losses. LeBron James averaged 28.8 points in the series, including 38 and 36 in the final two meetings.
Storyline: » This is a series everyone has been waiting for. The teams seemed destined for an Eastern Conference finals rematch after the Heat beat the Pacers in seven games last year en route to their second straight title. The Pacers surged out of the gates when this season opened, but staggered down the stretch and looked sloppy for long stretches of their first two rounds against Atlanta and Washington.
Prediction » Heat in 6.
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs (62-20, 8-4) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23, 8-5)
Season series » Oklahoma City won 4-0. Both teams were missing key players at different points of the season series, so it’s hard to draw too many conclusions. But the Thunder’s athleticism certainly stood out. OKC grabbed 23 more rebounds in the four games and had an average margin of victory of 9.3 points.
Storyline » The rematch. These teams, which have been the most consistently successful squads in the West over the last five seasons, squared off in the 2012 conference finals. The Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but OKC ripped off four wins in a row before losing to Miami in the NBA Finals. All told, the Thunder have won 10 of the last 12 against the Spurs, who’s ability to stay on top has been magnified.
Prediction » Spurs in 6.
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