Heat, Spurs gathering momentum as playoffs near


The Pacers have been self- destructing in recent weeks.

Sports Editor

With the National Basketball Association (NBA) Playoffs set to begin on April 19, teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks are fighting to remain in the postseason picture.

However, as these teams and others jockey for seeding, one could argue that this season’s Eastern and Western conference playoffs will be nothing more than a formality.

As the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs inch closer to clinching home-court and the top overall seeds in their respective conferences, last year’s NBA Finals foes could very well be destined for a rematch.

The Heat, vying for their third consecutive NBA championship and fourth straight trip to the Finals, appear to be unchallenged in the East. Their main adversary, the Indiana Pacers, have faltered down the stretch after boasting the conference’s best record for virtually the entire season.

Despite a 2-1 head-to-head record against the Heat this season, this is not the same Pacers team that took Miami to seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Since trading away locker room leader Danny Granger on Feb. 20, Indiana is a mere 12-12 as team chemistry and faith in head coach Frank Vogel appears to be fracturing.

With the Heat finding their late-season groove and LeBron James challenging for yet another Most Valuable Player award, they are unlikely to meet much resistance from the likes of Indiana, Chicago or Brooklyn in the East.

In the West, however, the road to the Finals is not as easily traveled. The Spurs will likely face an upstart Houston Rockets or Portland Trail Blazers team in the second round, who have a combined 5-2 record against San Antonio this season.

The real test, though, would loom in the conference finals as San Antonio could face their Achilles’ heel in recent years, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard in a couple of losses to the Thunder this season, the fact remains San Antonio has dropped five straight to Oklahoma City, as well as their 2012 playoff series.

However, the Thunder could potentially run into some trouble of their own with a second round match-up with the Los Angeles Clippers. Having dropped two of three against Los Angeles this season and with the Clippers bolstering their bench with Granger and Glen Davis, Oklahoma City could face a tricky match-up in Kevin Durant’s pursuit of his first NBA championship.

Regardless of who comes out of the West, the NBA will undoubtedly get a glamorous match-up in the Finals.

A Thunder-Heat series would pit two of the game’s best, James and Durant, against each other in an electrifying rematch of their 2012 series.

A Spurs-Heat series would provide San Antonio the opportunity to avenge their Game 6 heartbreak from a year ago, and perhaps claim one last championship in the twilight of the Tim Duncan era.