The NBA Playoffs are down to four teams: two superpowers, the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, against two upstarts, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Indiana Pacers.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference finals yesterday, the Spurs pummeled the Grizzlies 105-83, with San Antonio point guard Tony Parker leading the way with 20 points and nine assists. It also helped that the Spurs hit a franchise playoff-record 14 three-pointers.
The Heat and Pacers begin their Eastern Conference matchup in Miami Wednesday.
The Grizzlies are playing in their first Western Conference final in franchise history, following a long train of mediocre seasons, risky contracts, and a change in ownership last year. Memphis has proven resilient so far in the playoffs, having won its previous two series despite dropping the first game in each.
The Spurs, meanwhile, have qualified for the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons, winning the NBA Championship three times since 2002. Led by star players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Parker, San Antonio has one of the deepest rosters in the league.
The Pacers, looking for their first championship in 40 years, have traveled a long road to get back to serious playoff contention. Championship favorites just nine years ago, the Indiana franchise fell apart after the infamous brawl against the Detroit Pistons in 2004. In the seasons that followed, the Pacers either did not reach the playoffs or were knocked out early. Now led by young stars like Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson, Indiana is relevant again.
Heavy favorites to repeat as NBA champions, Miami dominated competition throughout the regular season and through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The reigning Most Valuable Player, LeBron James, and his supporting cast look to knock the Pacers out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.