The two-time defending champion Miami Heat are nearly 2-1 favorites to win the 2014 NBA Finals. After finishing the regular season with a record of 54-28, the Heat are matched up against the seventh seeded Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs.
Miami was victorious in its first game against the Bobcats as they cruised to 99-88 win. Lebron James led the Heat with 27 points and nine rebounds.
The Indiana Pacers, who experts say are destined to meet the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, were defeated in its first game of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks. Jeff Teague had 28 points for the Hawks while former Utah Jazz man, Paul Millsap, put up 25 points and eight rebounds in the win.
On the loss, Pacer star Paul George said, “It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating, but it’s a long series.” George said before commenting on how the Pacers can get back in the series by tightening up its defense. “It’s just one game and that’s the way we have to look at it.”
The Pacers were not the only higher-seeded team to be upset in the first game of the playoffs. In the Easter Conference, the Raptors, Bulls, and Pacers were all defeated by their lower-seeded opponents- the Nets, Wizards, and Hawks. The Clippers and the Rockets were the teams in the Western Conference that were also upset by the Warriors and the Trail Blazers.
Along with the Heat, the only other higher-seeded teams to win their first games were the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the Spurs match-up against the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio trailed for most of the game. They regained the lead with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter and went on to win 90-85.
The Thunder, led by the leagues likely MVP, Kevin Durant, were hardly tested by the Memphis Grizzlies in a 100-86 victory. Durant recorded 33 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists.
“We just stayed together,” said Durant following the win. “We made plays in the fourth quarter. The third quarter was tough for us, but we stayed together. We didn’t stray away.” Russell Westbrook recorded a double double with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the win.
Ironically enough, the Heat (2-1), Spurs (3-1), and Thunder (nearly 4-1) are the three teams that have the best odds to win the finals. Four of the next five teams that top the list all lost in their first game of the playoffs.
One might argue that the Heat and the Thunder are a lock to meet each other in the finals. Many experts believe teams like the Clippers, Warriors, Rockets, or Nets are more likely to make the finals. That may not happen as long as James and Durant have a say in things.