We have made it. The final four teams in the NBA Playoffs. I would have done a piece on the second round, but due to it being mixed in with the first, it was hard to do a complete piece without having to hold off on talking about certain teams. But the past is the past and we are at the final round before the championship is decided. But who will be our contenders for the Larry O’Brien Trophy? Will it be Golden State, seeking to claim its second championship? Will Oklahoma City’s thunderous duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant win against all odds? Will the team from the “6” win one for the great city of Toronto? Or will King James make the ESPN documentary “Believeland” a timepiece and finally win one for his hometown? The only way they can do that is win in this round and we will predict who will do that in this special Sports to Watch predicting the NBA Conference Finals. First lets start in the East and a matchup of the top two teams in the East.
Season Series Matchup: Toronto won 2 out of 3 games
First game: Tuesday, May 17, 8p.m., ESPN
Analysis: This is not the matchup that Toronto needs right now. In all honesty, they should be wishing that the series against the Miami Heat was the conference championship because they are stepping out of the Heat and into a full-blown firestorm. Cleveland is one of, if not the hottest team in the NBA right now as they have not only made it to the conference finals for the second year in a row, but have done it without a SINGLE injury to the roster.
On top of that, Cleveland is now rolling 10 men deep, allowing Lebron, Kyrie and Love to get some rest and be available for late stretches of the game. Toronto is coming off a series in which they lost big man Jonas Valanciunas. Now they have gained some presence back on the inside with Bismarck Biyombo rising to the occasion, but it won’t play a big factor on defense if Cleveland runs the one offense that will win them a championship: the stretch 5 offense. If the Cavs put Frye at the 5, it essentially opens the inside up because while you don’t want to allow for lanes for Lebron, J.R. Smith, and Kyrie to run through, you do not want them hitting perimeter to three-point shots with Frye or Love.
To make matters even worse, Cleveland has a week and a half of rest, while Toronto just finished a game seven against Miami on Sunday. This series was over before it began.
Prediction:Cleveland in 4. Cleveland is a monster right now, and they are facing a team that is battered, bruised and has played 14 games in two series combined and they only saw a winning offense output from its start in only two of those games.
Now let’s go to the West, where things aren’t all that they appear.
Season Series Matchup: Golden State swept the three-game series
First Game: Monday, May 16, 8p.m. ,TNT
Analysis: My head and heart are telling me a couple of things. First, it’s telling that anyone who is a basketball fan would be foolish to miss any second of this series because it is going to be an absolute barn-burner. Secondly, it’s telling me there’s no way that Oklahoma City should even have a chance in this series. Golden State is the reigning, defending champion and they should easy stomp out the Thunder and then get ready for the NBA Finals against Cleveland. But then I’m reminded of two things. Golden State has some issues. The offense hasn’t been clicking as much as it did during the regular season. Sure we could count Steph’s injury as liable cause for that, but it just doesn’t look right to me. Then we bring up the biggest concern I have with Golden State: Steph Curry’s previous injuries. Look he might look like his regular self, but there is no way on this earth that a player can sustain a MCL strain and an ankle injury and be 100%. Sure, he can drop 40 points but can he fully go if needed to? Remember, in order to beat OKC in one game, Steph had to play out of his mind, and the Warrior only won that game by three. This is where I bring in Oklahoma City.
OKC is considered the third best team in the Western Conference, there is no debating that. Despite struggling in the first round against Dallas, they played an extremely good six game series against San Antonio, who most considered the second best team in not only the west, but in basketball period. Now the reason I say OKC won’t win but will make this a wire to wire series is because Westbrook and Durant are clicking at the right time and at a furious clip. Thats where Steph’s injury comes into play. Can Steph keep up with Westbrook and gain help from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to put away the Thunder?
The feeling is yes but at a price. Not wishing injury on anyone, but this will be a hard-fought series and someone is bound to get hurt and they also have to account in how long it goes. If the East is won in four, which I suspect will be Cleveland, Golden State or OKC would want to finish this series off as soon as possible, because Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set to take place almost 2 weeks after game four of the Eastern Finals and three days after game seven of the Western Finals.
Prediction: Golden State Warriors in 7. I would love if Kevin Durant found a way to make it to his second NBA Finals, but it looks like Steph is going to get in his way yet again. This series is going to swing back and forth and I think Steph’s injury will play a factor into how everything goes, but Golden State will find a way to win this one, no matter how close it is.
Well those are my picks for the NBA Conference Finals, but we are far from done. Next round, we are going to cover the creme de la’ creme of basketball with the NBA Finals. Will we get a rematch of last years finals or will new teams step into the fray? Personally I can’t wait to find out and preview it with everyone.