NBA Conference Finals Preview

First, the bad news:  it’s not the NBA Finals yet.  Now, the good news:  it’s only one round away and it should be a quick one.

Let’s recap the predictions so far starting with round 1.  When the dust finally settled from the LA Clippers vs Utah Jazz series, I hit on seven of eight winners.  Only the Milwaukee Bucks losing to the Toronto Raptors marred my record.  I also hit on the number of games for four series:  Boston Celtics in 6, Cleveland Cavaliers in 4, Golden State Warriors in 4, and Jazz in 7.

As for round 2, I will hit three of four winners if the Celtics beat the Washington Wizards at home on Monday.  I also had Warriors in 4 over the Jazz, but who didn’t, and Celtics in 7 with the home team winning each game.  While the Cavs beat the Raptors in 4 instead of 6 like I predicted, the real miss was predicting the Houston Rockets in 6 over the San Antonio Spurs.  After all four regular season games were decided by 6 points or less, these teams won by double-digits in every game except the 3 point overtime win for the Spurs in game 5.  Even the loss of Tony Parker in game 2 and Kawhi Leonard in game 5 couldn’t stop the Spurs from blowing out the Rockets by 39 on their home court in game 6.  Yikes.

So far, we have a lot of chalk.  Will it last?  You can, and should, bet on it.

Eastern Conference

(1) Celtics or (4) Wizards vs. (2) Cavaliers

How this series plays out will change depending on whether the Celtics or Wizards win tomorrow night.  Actually, maybe just where it plays out.  The Celtics will have home court advantage if they make it past Washington.  That would be the only advantage either team has against the Cavs, who have been resting since May 7th.  Both the Celtics and Wizards are playing better than either the Indiana Pacers or Toronto Raptors.  I was a little bold in predicting the Raptors would push the Cavs to 6.  Cavs are 8-0 so far this post season.  I’m dialing the prediction back this time around:  Cavs in 5.

Western Conference

(1) Warriors vs. (2) Spurs

The Spurs have a certain je ne sais quoi even without Tony Parker.  As I pointed out after the Spurs beat the Kevin Durant-less Warriors by 22 back in March, Coach Kerr wasn’t resting Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Igoudala but hiding them:

Leading up to that game, the Warriors had gone 2-5 since Durant went down with a knee injury.  “If you think losing with McCaw, Barnes, Clark, Livingston, and McAdoo on the court was bad, imagine if the Warriors lost with Curry, Thompson, Green, and Igoudala on the court.”  So what’s changed?  For starters, Durant is back.  Actually, that’s all we need to know.  Without Durant, the Warriors have the same stars and worse role players than the team that lost in the NBA Finals last year.  With Durant, however, the Warriors are uniquely stacked.  Durant’s presence along with Curry, Thompson, and Green breaks the Spurs.  Kawhi Leonard may be superhuman but he can’t guard four people at once.  Heading into round 2, I wrote:  “My only concern is if the Warriors get bored after sweeping the Trail Blazers.  I’m guessing that happens in the Conference Finals.”  Whether due to boredom on the Warriors’ part or the je ne sais quoi of the Spurs, the Spurs will win a game in this series.  It may even be game 1 this afternoon.  The magic ends there:  Warriors in 5.