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Chris graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of 'nerdy' things that would embarrass his wife.

Four Point Play: Who’s Going to the 2014 NBA Finals

The NBA Finals are right around the corner, and with four teams left, who will be playing who on June 5th is still up in the air. In the Eastern Conference, Miami needs to win tonight to put the Indiana Pacers to bed, and after what happened in Game 5 you can bet the Heat want nothing more than to wrap up the series in 6. In a match that was more bizarre than Chris Bosh showing up in back-to-back games, it could have easily been played under the big top of a circus. But give credit where credit is due, Lance Stevenson may have uncovered a blueprint to rattling King James, or at least guaranteed himself an ESPY for “Most Ridiculous Moment in Sports”.

The battle between these two has gotten really ugly since they met last year in the Conference Finals, and you have to think that Game 6 won’t get any prettier. It’s hardly a surprise, as the series opener could have been played with Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” on loop in the background. While it would be an interesting story if the Pacers made a Game 7 and the Finals, I think that they’ll end up losing by a dozen or so points tonight. I think Lebron getting in foul trouble last time out was a fluke, and there is no way that a multiple MVP winner can be held to single digit points and less than 30 minutes on the court two nights in a row. Even though I had Indiana downing the Heat in 6 at the season’s midpoint, it’s looking like it will go the other way around now.

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Image Credit: Eric Gay/AP

Meanwhile, there is a real scrap brewing between OKC and the Spurs – and I love it! This is a real battle between the unproven young guns, led by the free-scoring Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and the “Old Guard” of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. It’s been a real seesaw series, with San Antonio dismantling the Thunder by over 50 points in the combined first two games. But that was without Serge Ibaka. With the big man back, the Thunder came back into the series, taking Games 3 and 4 to knot up the tally at 2 games apiece.

However, the Thunder ran into a buzzsaw on Thursday night and it remains to be seen if that had any lasting effect on the swagger that had been building for OKC.

Indiana Pacers

Both teams in the West should be hoping that by some miracle they are playing the Pacers. But it’s not because of the talented roster Miami has, instead it has more to do with the mentality of Indiana and their tendency to let games slip away. The whole 2nd half of the season was a glaring example of the lack of maturity of this team and the start of the playoffs did little to dispel the notion that they aren’t ready to be champions.

Roy-Hibbert-Pacers

Image Credit: Rob Goebel/The Star

When the Pacers were facing elimination by the Hawks in the first round, many people saw it as a case of underestimating the opponent for Indy. However, the series against the Hawks showed many of the other teams how easy it was to put some of the Pacers’ players off of their game. Look no further than Roy Hibbert, punch-less for most of that series and benched for large portions of it. Part of the reason why the Pacers were so dominant for so much of the season was because of their lane presence. They kept a ton of teams down under 90 points, and a lot of that was attributed to Hibbert. When he gets exposed, it makes Paul George and David West much less effective.

The one thing that Indiana had going for them was their ability to get physical with the Heat, taking the finesse out of the match-up. But it will be hard to keep the Heat down, and even harder when they’re playing angry – Lebron James in particular.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The secret to success for the Thunder in their two wins against the Spurs has been to make San Antonio’s shots in the paint more difficult. Ibaka’s return has solidified that aspect. While it may have led to more points by Ginobli, it also reduced the impact of Tim Duncan in Games 3 and 4. Another key for the Thunder is the sheer nastiness of Westbrook, who is ripping through the record books just so he can be like Mike. It seems silly to think that only a few months ago, some fans were wondering if he was the reason for OKC’s temporary slump.

While the firepower of Russell Westbrook and the “Slim Reaper” can devastate any opponent, OKC needs to find a way to get more points and boards off of the bench. There isn’t a single player that managed double digit points off the bench in any of their wins (and last night’s Game 5 was just pathetic). A lot of times, that’s the difference between pretty good and occasionally unplayable. If either of the big guns have another off night, there is no production coming in the interim and that’s what cost them the title two years ago against Miami.

San Antonio Spurs

A ton of credit needs to be given to Coach Popovich; he has consistently oiled his aging machine to the Western Conference Finals. He’s also found ways to create winnable situations for his players. However, last year with a 3 point lead and a chance to put Miami to bed, he had Tim Duncan on the bench while Ray Allen sunk that shot that tied the game (which they inevitably lost). While it wouldn’t have been Duncan waving his hands at Allen, he may have been the one to come down with the rebound of Lebron James’ missed attempt. But hey, hindsight right?

Either way, I’m sure that moment has plagued his mind since the off-season and you can bet that the big man will be in should the situation arise again in the Finals. To be fair, there aren’t many teams that deserve to beat the Heat, but if you’ve ever watched the Spurs play, you’ll know that they are one of them. Everyone knows that the Spurs are well organized and tough to handle on the court, but they need to show that their legs aren’t as tired as they looked in Game 7 of last year’s Finals.

Miami Heat

The reigning champs are thirsty for a three-peat, and another chance to etch themselves closer to the great Celtics, Bulls and Laker teams that they are often compared to. Many feel that Lebron James has some sort of chip on his shoulder and needs to get more rings than Michael Jordan. Those are the same people who may not realize that Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen will get to that milestone first. Face it, Miami is a great team and Lebron, as great as he is, can’t do it completely alone. He needs others around him to step up at the right time.

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Image Credit: Brendan Maloney/USA Today

One player that needs to seriously step up, is Chris Bosh. He has had his moments so far, but has been either indispensable or invisible; never consistent. A lot of people think that he doesn’t need to be, but I would disagree. He was a big part of their championship run against OKC and took advantage of the Spurs (at opportune times) in last year’s finals. But so far in this series, he hasn’t amounted to much.

With the possibility of four more games still open, there is a chance that the Conference Finals will go down to the wire. Will we have the Finals set before the end of May? I hope so. In fact, I’m hoping that the Heat and Spurs will go at it once again. No offense to OKC or the Pacers, but this is the match-up that some of us old school fans want to see. This will probably be the last time the Spurs will be able to make it to this position, and wouldn’t you love to see Future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan ride off into the sunset?

On the other hand, fans of great offense would love to see Kevin Durant and Lebron James go toe-to-toe in a game of perennial MVPs. Having Dwayne Wade, Ray Allen, Birdman, Ibaka and Russell Westbrook feature doesn’t sound bad either.

With Indiana all but eliminated, we’ll see this weekend who will be facing the Heat this summer.

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