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In one night, the Los Angeles Lakers went from teetering on the brink of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005, to beating the Houston Rockets, leapfrogging them in the standings and clinching the seventh seed. NBA basketball as its best.

The Western Conference playoff teams are now set and, unlike the Eastern Conference where the Heat are far and away the favorites, the West has more teams that have a legitimate shot at going to the NBA Finals. Here is how I view the eight playoff teams out West:

Contenders: Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs

The Oklahoma City Thunder dominated their way through Western Conference in 2012 before losing to the Miami Heat in the Finals. This year could be more of the same. Kevin Durant is the best player in the NBA not named LeBron and he will not slow down in the postseason. If point guard Russell Westbrook can play up to his ability, the Thunder will be tough to take down again in 2013.

While the Thunder may be favorites, the Spurs also have a claim as contenders. Veteran leaders Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have been great all season, playing "Spurs" basketball that coach Gregg Popovich has built over the years. While San Antonio does not have the superstar players that OKC has, they may be the better team at playing as a collective unit.

Challengers: Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies

All season long, the Denver Nuggets have been one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA. The Nuggets are the forgotten team of the Andrew Bynum trade, but that trade landed them Andre Iguodala, who has been great for Denver all season. No team scored more points than the Nuggets and if they can carry their scoring ability into the postseason, they can beat anyone in the league.

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The Miami Heat are now officially one game away from capturing the 2012 NBA title thanks to a 104-98 victory last night over the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Game 5 once again being played in Miami, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have a chance to close out the series in front of their home fans. Not surprisingly, the average ticket prices listed for the game have gone up.

2012 NBA Finals Ticket Prices on TicketNetwork.com

Game City Date Avg. Price
(6/15)
Avg. Price
(Today)
 
5 Miami June 21 $1,289 $1,373
6* OKC June 24 $2,423 $2,261
7* OKC June 26 $2,145 $2,149
* If Necessary

Ticket prices have gone up by $84 since just two days ago and could continue to rise in the time leading up to Thursday night's game. On the flip side, prices for a potential Game 6 to be played in Oklahoma City have dropped by $162 over that same span.

On the court, the Heat have looked to be the better team. LeBron James has proved to be the best player in the world over and over again, but Miami has also been aided by contributions from role players like Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. The Thunder have finally started to show their youth in the series, struggling to find a rhythm as a unit. They will need to figure it out quickly if they hope to have a chance to send the series back to OKC.

Game 5 will take place Thursday, June 21. If you would like tickets to Game 5 or any other game during the NBA Finals, click here to view the selection available at TicketNetwork.com.

Averages in table are based on the listed ticket price on TicketNetwork.com as of 9:30 a.m. EDT on 6/20/2012. Prices may fluctuate based on demand.

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Just like last season, the Miami Heat have taken a two games to one lead in the NBA Finals after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 91-85 on Sunday night. Of course, last season the Heat went on to lose the next three games to Mavericks and lose the series overall. They hope they will have a very different outcome this year.

2012 NBA Finals Ticket Prices on TicketNetwork.com

Game City Date Avg. Price
(6/15)
Avg. Price
(Today)
 
4 Miami June 19 $1,047 $828
5 Miami June 21 $1,289 $811
6* OKC June 24 $2,594 $2,423
7* OKC June 26 $2,276 $2,145
* If Necessary

The Heat did not play their best game last night, shooting only 38 percent from the field, but they did do one thing well: shoot free throws. The team went to the line 35 times, making an unbelievable 31 of them. On the flip side, the Oklahoma City Thunder went to the free throw line just 24 times, making only 15. That's a 16-point difference, which was undeniably the difference in the game.

Although the series is just starting to heat up, the average ticket prices listed on TicketNetwork.com have started to drop. The most substantial difference is seen in Thursday night's Game 5 in Miami, where the average listed price for tickets has dropped more than 37% since last Friday. Tuesday's Game 4 also has had a large drop in price, decreasing by more than 20%.

Game 4 will take place Tuesday, June 19. If you would like tickets to Game 4 or any other game during the NBA Finals, click here to view the selection available at TicketNetwork.com.

Averages in table are based on the listed ticket price on TicketNetwork.com as of 10:30 a.m. EDT on 6/18/2012. Prices may fluctuate based on demand.

After getting outplayed on Tuesday night, the Miami Heat came out on fire in Game 2 and took down the Oklahoma City Thunder to tie the series at one game apiece. The series now heads to Miami for the next three games.

2012 NBA Finals Ticket Prices on TicketNetwork.com

Game City Date Avg. Price
(6/13)
Avg. Price
(Today)
 
3 Miami June 17 $1,039 $1,018
4 Miami June 19 $959 $1,047
5 Miami June 21 $1,294 $1,289
6* OKC June 24 $2,496 $2,594
7* OKC June 26 $2,246 $2,276
* If Necessary

The first half of last night's game was dominated by the Heat leading by as many as 17 points, but just like what has been the case so many times in this postseason, that lead evaporated in the second half. Thanks to Kevin Durant, the Thunder stormed back to get the lead down to two with just seconds remaining. Unfortunately for the Thunder, that was as close as they would get, as Durant missed a game-tying shot attempt, due in part to a missed foul call by the officials.

With the series now shifting to the American Airlines Arena in Miami, ticket prices have started to decline for the match-up in Game 3. In just two days, the average listed price on TicketNetwork.com has dropped by $21, and it could continue to decline as the game gets closer.

Game 3 of the NBA Finals will take place Sunday, June 17. If you would like tickets to Game 3 or any other game during the NBA Finals, click here to view the selection available at TicketNetwork.com.

Averages in table are based on the listed ticket price on TicketNetwork.com as of 9 a.m. EDT on 6/15/2012. Prices may fluctuate based on demand.

While the NBA's Eastern Conference teams are still battling it out to see who will play in their conference finals, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder made quick work in their second round series, setting the stage for a Spurs-Thunder Western Conference Finals match-up.

NBA Playoffs

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that these are the two teams in the west left standing, as they were the two best teams in the regular season and by far the two best in the postseason. The Spurs have yet to lose in these playoffs, sweeping both of their series, and they have now won a combined 18 games in a row behind veterans Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. The Thunder are playing in their second straight Western Conference Finals, losing last year to the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The team features scoring champion Kevin Durant as well as Sixth Man of the Year Award winner James Harden.

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