The NBA playoffs have had a lot of twists and turns already. Yet at the halfway point of the playoffs, the same old ending in the NBA finals is close at hand. On May 14, both the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs took another step towards a finals rematch, by finishing off overmatched second round opponents in Game 5 victories at home.
The Heat needed a late run to finish off the Brooklyn Nets by 96-94, while the Spurs had yet another blowout over the Portland Trail Blazers by 104-82. But the end results were the same, as the Heat and Spurs cruised back to the conference finals in just five games.
For much of Game 5, it looked like the Heat would have to exhaust themselves towards a return to Brooklyn. The Nets used a late first half run to take a halftime lead, then held a 91-83 advantage with under five minutes left. Yet Brooklyn wouldn't score another point until Miami was up by 95-91 with seconds left.
The 12-0 run culminated in Ray Allen hitting the go-ahead three, putting a dagger into ex-teammates Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Nets did have one more chance after Joe Johnson finally hit a three-pointer and LeBron James made just one of two free throws afterwards. But thanks to Allen and James' defense on Johnson in the final play, the Nets didn't even get a final shot off.
The Heat still have the best record in the NBA playoffs thus far, improving to 8-1 through two rounds. Although Miami won't have home court in the Eastern Conference finals if the Indiana Pacers finally advance, the Pacers have already suffered four home losses in this postseason.
The Spurs will have home court in the Western Conference finals, whether the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers meet them. Unlike in their tough first round series with the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs were barely challenged in their victories over the Blazers. Game 5 was no exception, as San Antonio had a 40-7 advantage from the bench and had the depth to survive Tony Parker's hamstring injury.
San Antonio gave Parker extra time to heal -- but the chance to heal itself from last year's finals loss in Miami is closer than ever. Now both teams are four wins away from giving these NBA playoffs a familiar ending.