We are down to the final 4 in the NBA. Both the Conference Finals have been set. The top 2 seeds in the East made it and the top 2 in the West both got eliminated. With the finalists of last season- Milwaukee and Phoenix, both going out in game 7s (in VERY different game 7s). I predicted the Heat to make it past Philly in 6, Boston to get past a Middleton-less Milwaukee in 7, Golden State to get past Memphis in 6, in my previous article (https://chaiandchill.com/nba-playoffs-2nd-round/). I did think the Phoenix Suns would get past the Dallas Mavericks in 6, but Luka and coach Kidd put on a masterclass, and Chris Paul after game 2 of the series, just fell off a cliff, and the Mavericks have made it to their first Conference Finals since 2011.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Miami Heat (1) vs Boston Celtics (2)
This series is such a fascinating one. Two incredibly deep teams, two very VERY good defenses, two very well coached teams. Miami plays with a chip on their shoulder. They are the #1 seed, and most people still look elsewhere in the East when they talk about potential champions. The Heat play with a point to prove and you can see it. They play hard on defense, aggressive on offense, and are very disciplined. Boston have had a helluva run upto this point. Swept KD, Kyrie and the Nets. Eliminated the defending champions in Giannis and the Bucks in a fantastic 7 game series. Round after round, game after game they show their athleticism, defense, offensive firepower, and brilliant coaching.
My prediction for this series- Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat in 7
I see this series going the distance. Coach Spo for the Heat, and Coach Udoka for the Celtics will play out a tough and closely contested battle. I give the edge to Boston because of their talent. I think they have just that little bit more to offer. We know the role players on both sides will have their good and bad days. We know that Jimmy Butler will do his thing. He’s their closer. But Boston has two of those players in Tatum and Brown. Tatum, this post season, has shown that he is now in that category of NBA superstars. And when it comes down to it, I think that the extra talent on the Boston roster will pull through. Although, I will say that Kyle Lowry being fit and healthy will be a major factor and could sway the series in Miami’s favour.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Golden State Warriors (3) vs Dallas Mavericks (4)
After an injury riddled 2 years, the Golden State Warriors are back to the Conference Finals. Their 6th appearance in 8 years. Only Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls have done that before. The Warriors come into this series after getting through Memphis in 6 in a very physical and difficult series. But in those crucial, clutch moments, you could see the experience of the side pull them, will them to victory. They are my favourites to win the West, and the NBA Championship. The last time that we saw Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all healthy and on the court together- they went to 5 straight NBA Finals. And until somebody beats them, they are my pick. It’s your crown until someone takes it. The Dallas Mavericks are coming off of a 7 game series against the #1 seed Phoenix Suns. And that game 7 was something else. Luka Doncic with 27 at the half, matching what the whole Suns roster could put out. It was a capitulation on another level. Luka and the crew, and coach Jason Kidd were absolutely fantastic. But the game felt like one where the Mavericks AND the Suns beat the Suns. Everybody knows how special Luka Doncic is (especially in elimination games). So, to see Dallas go into Phoenix and win a game 7 was not a shock result. But the way it all went down was mind blowing. And thanks to his performance, the rest of the team stepped up, and coach Kidd’s brilliant tactics, they find themselves in their first Conference Finals since 2011- the year they went on to win the championship. Also, the last time these two teams faced off in the playoffs was in 2007 where the 8th seed “We Believe” Warriors knocked out the #1 seed, 67 wins Dallas Mavericks. And it feels like a bit of a reversal of that situation this time around.
My Prediction for the series- Golden State beat the Dallas Mavericks in 6 As special as Luka and Dallas had been in that game 7, I don’t see it carry on to this series. Luka will continue to be special. But the rest of the guys will have to step up big time. Offensively, nobody can guard Luka Doncic. He is going to get his. It’s about limiting the others. And that is how Golden State has approached their opponents in the playoffs, in years gone by and even this season. They let Nikola Jokic be the dominant scorer and shut off the help around him. They employed the same strategy against Ja Morant and his Grizzlies. And I don’t see that strategy changing. They will obviously try to limit Luka to a degree- have Green, Wiggins, Klay, and Kuminga guard him. But they know that he will get his shots one way or another. It’s about stopping the likes of Brunson, Bullock, Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith and co. This Dallas team is very similar to the Houston teams led by James Harden. One primary ball handler and scorer, and a 5 out offense where everyone on the court can shoot. And we saw the Warriors get past that Houston team successfully every time, so we know they can beat that system. On the defensive side of things for Dallas, they will have a lot of running around and chasing to do when they guard the Warriors. That is another area where Luka might be targeted to wear him down a little. Even if they trap Steph, the off-ball movement of the Warriors will be a handful. And in the end, I think the movement and fluidity on offense, along with the defensive switch that Golden State can turn on late in games will be the difference and see them