With the Boston Celtics defeating the Philadelphia 76ers last night in Game 5, the NBA Conference Finals is set. The Playoffs are now down to the final four teams. Lets take a look at the Conference Finals match-ups, as well as some x-factors for each team.
NBA Conference Finals Preview:
Eastern Conference Finals : Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers (Cleveland 2 – 1)
The Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals this season. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who predicted this match up before the season started. However, both teams are significantly different then when they played each other on opening night.
Within the first couple minutes on opening night, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward went up for an alley-oop and landed awkwardly on his leg. This resulted in him breaking his leg, and being out for the rest of the season. Right before the playoffs started, Kyrie Irving had surgery on his knee causing him to miss the entire playoffs.
The Cavaliers had an up and down season with a record of 31 – 22 at the trade deadline which caused them to make a number of moves at the deadline by trading away Crowder, Thomas, Shumpert, Wade, Frye, Rose, and a couple of draft picks in exchange for Hill, Hood, Clarkson, and Nance Jr giving them more youth and athelticism. The season series between these clubs was exciting with the Cavaliers winning 2 of the 3 games but every game was competitive.
Everyone will most likely choose the Cleveland Cavaliers to win this series in 4 or 5 games because of the playoff dominance LeBron James has showed in these playoffs and with the Celtics being undermaned but I think this series could potentially go 7 games which would make this series very interesting because the Celtics have home court. The Boston Celtics have been counted out in the first 2 rounds of the playoffs but have fought game in and game out making it to the Conference Finals and if they carry that same mentality into this round they could pull off a huge upset.
Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown/Jayson Tatum
Jaylen Brown is only in his second year in the league but he has blossomed this season with Hayward going down and the Celtics needing another scorer besides Kyrie Irving. Jaylen Brown has taken a major leap this season becoming more aggressive and becoming more of a leader. Brad Stevens has Jaylen scratching the surface of becoming a superstar in this league for years to come. Jayson Tatum is only a rookie but has played like a veteran all season long and especially in these playoffs.
When Hayward went down, Tatum had to step into that starting SF role for the Celtics and he has shined all season long. When the playoffs started everyone thought that the stage would be to much for the rookie but he has put all the noise behind him and has gone out there night in and night out leaving everything on thr floor. While Jaylen and Jayson will get their chances to match-up with LeBron the Celtics will need them to pick it up on the offensive end in this series. Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, and Semi Ojeleye will most likely get the majority of the minutes defending LeBron because of their physical style of play and their great defensive minds.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love
The Cleveland Cavaliers went to a game 7 in their first series against the Indiana Pacers because LeBron got no help from his teammates putting all the weight on his shoulders. In the second series against the Toronto Raptors everyone stepped their game up a little bit helping LeBron and the Cavaliers sweep the Raptors. The Cavaliers will need Kevin Love to step up in this series against the Celtics because the Celtics play tough team defense and Brad Stevens will have his team ready for LeBron and the rest of the team. If the Cavaliers want to move onto the NBA Finals then Kevin Love is going to have to show up big time against Al Horford in this series or the Celtics could end up pulling off the upset.
Western Conference Finals: Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets (Houston 3-1)
The Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets will meet in the Conference Finals with so much anticipation surronding this series. The anticipation for this series is so much that the average ticket price is $965 which is the highest average for a Conference Finals in NBA History.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are starting to hit their stride since Steph Curry has returned which is bad news for the rest of the league. They went to 5 games in their first 2 series with the Spurs and the Pelicans before making it to the Conference Finals. Golden State is primed for another championship run but may be facing their biggest task the Houston Rockets who added star point guard Chris Paul this offseason.
The Rockets also went 5 games in their first 2 series against the Timberwolves and the Jazz before making it to the Conference Finals. This series could go down as one of the best in NBA history with stars all over the floor in Durant, Harden, Curry, Paul, Thompson, Gordon, Green, Capela, Iggy, and Ariza.
Both teams know each other well and each want to play their own style so this series could wind up coming down to defense and who gets keys stops and key times in the game. The Rockets fought all year long to get the 1st seed in the West so they could have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. In December the Rockets GM said that their season would come down to taking out the Warriors in a 7 game series and thats what they built their roster around was taking down the Warriors. Golden State doesn’t need any bulletin board material because they know what they need to do and they have their sights set on holding up the trophy again but they will remember those words from Mr.Morey. Everyone should just sit back and watch one of the best Conference Finals to ever be played in NBA history.
Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson/Draymond Green
The Warriors have stars all over their starting lineup and even on the bench with guys like Curry, Green, Durant, and Iggy but Klay Thompson could wind up being the best player in this series. Klay will most likely be guarding both Chris Paul and James Harden in this series being the best defender on the Warriors but they will also need his offense and his ability to shoot the ball. Klay is one of the best shooters that we have ever seen play in the NBA and has one of the quickest releases ever.
Having Thompson dominate on both ends of the floor for the Warriors will lead them a long way. Klay will have help of the offensive end but they will need him to space the floor. Golden State will need him to play lock down defense in crunch time against either Paul or Harden. Draymond Green is also an X-factor, because he is the engine to the Warriors. He has the ability to switch in the pick and roll. His play making, shooting, and his ability to play all 5 positions will be huge in this series.
Houston Rockets: Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza is going to need to be a huge factor in this series if the Rockets want to make it to the NBA Finals. He is likely going to be the primary defender on Kevin Durant for most of this series. Ariza is also going to need to be the sidekick to Chris Paul and James Harden on offense.
Ariza is one of the better defenders in the league with his size, length, athleticisim, and defensive instincts. All of these assets are going to be big while guarding Kevin Durant. The Rockets are a team who like to run and gun and shoot a ton of 3’s. This is where Ariza comes in to play. He runs the wings, and is a go to guy when double teams come and drive and kicks. If Ariza can be a consistent 3 point shooter in this series, the Rockets could have a very good chance to make the NBA Finals.