The NBA is down to the final four, and while there were lots of twists and turns along the way during the regular season, these are the teams everyone expected to be here when the season began.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: #4 Cleveland Cavaliers @ #2 Boston Celtics (+230)
The Celtics and Cavs meet once again in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, which Cleveland won in 5 games before losing to Golden State in the Finals. Both teams have a different look this year. The Celtics completely overhauled their roster and now depend on Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier as go to players in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cavs midseason trade brought them George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance jr, and Jordan Clarkson to be the sidekicks for Lebron. James has been on fire this postseason scoring 34 PPG, 9 APG, and 9 RPG and is coming of a four game beatdown of the top seeded Raptors.
The key for the Cavs is who will step up besides Lebron. Kevin Love is the obvious second choice, but the Cavs will contributions from role players like JR Smith and Kyle Korver who can knock down threes in order to take some pressure off Lebron. For the Celtics, the emergence of Terry Rozier after Kyrie Irving went down has been a huge part of their success. His ability to knock down threes and limit turnovers has elevated him to another level. After slumping in the second half of the season, rookie Jayson Tatum has become a bigtime factor in the postseason, scoring 20+ points in 6 consecutive games. Ultimately the success of the Celtics lies with coach Brad Stevens, who will be tasked with creating a gameplan to slow Lebron and expose the porous Cavs defense. I think this will be a hard fought series but ultimately the Cavs win in 6 games.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: #2 Golden State Warriors @ #1 Houston Rockets (+180)
The Rockets have been the popular pick to disrupt Golden State’s annual trip to the NBA Finals out of the Western Conference this year. Likely MVP James Harden and newcomer Chris Paul have elevated the team to another level which resulted in the NBA’s best record and two easy series wins to start the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Warriors have gone under the radar due to a combination of injuries and a seeming lack of interest in the regular season at times. Golden State will be looking for it’s fourth straight Finals berth while the Rockets are looking to reach the Finals for the first time since 1994.
Houston has the all-star back court with Harden and Paul, but there are several other players that deserve recognition as well. Clint Capela has been a force under the rim this year both offensively and defensively, and Eric Gordon has been a spark off the bench and instant scoring option for the bench unit. Houston is known for their quick pace and deadly three point shooting, and will certainly need it to keep pace with the Warriors. It’s no secret who the Warriors are at this point. With the Big Four in Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green, they are virtually impossible to stop after bringing back nearly the entire team that went 16-1 in the playoffs the year before. Now that they are healthy and in a groove, I don’t see anybody stopping this Golden State team, not even the team with the NBA’s best record. Warriors win in 5 games.
Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.