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Pacers strike first v Heat as Spurs and Thunder kick off

| 19.05.2014

The NBA Eastern Conference Finals was a repeat of the 2013 showdown between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers with one subtle difference. Unlike a year ago, it was the midwestern side that had the home court advantage.

By the end of Game 1, the mirror imagery from 2013 was smashed to pieces as Paul George and co avenged their overtime loss in the opener 12 months ago with a comprehensive 107-96 win.

The Pacers have long been thought of as a favourable matchup with the three-peat-seeking Heat due to their greater size, yet are still unfancied in the betting for both Game 2 and the series in general.

Despite registering a victory where all five starters scored double-figure points tallies, the Pacers are still 23/20 outsiders to take a 2-0 series lead, while sitting at 8/5 to land a famous Conference Finals win.

The West’s showpiece gets underway next, with the San Antonio Spurs enjoying home court advantage over the Oklahoma City Thunder and their MVP, Kevin Durant.

That advantage makes the Gregg Popovich-coached side 1/2 to win the series and the 10/23 favourites for Game 1, although a winless record in meetings with Scott Brooks’ side this season is likely to add to pre-game Spurs nerves.

Utilising cohesion and teamwork behind three ageing stars – Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both over 35, while Tony Parker is 32 – the Spurs’ philosophy directly opposes that of the Thunder, who rely heavily on the athleticism of Durant and Russell Westbrook to score their points.

The absence of the Thunder’s chief shot-blocker , Serge Ibaka, dampens their ability to play the defence-first style of basketball that lets Durant and Westbrook flourish and it’s the Spurs that should take the early series advantage as a result.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.