Wow, another great round of Playoff matchups and another round with Game 7’s. This may be one of the most competitive playoffs to date. Ryan and I take a stab at predicting the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Lakers (1) vs Nuggets (3)
Jarael: The Lakers have done an outstanding job of coming together in such a short period of time. Must we forget, most of these players were not on the roster last year. The ones who were part of the roster last year have also had to adapt and play different roles. I am impressed with how the Lakers have been consistent (after their first game in each series). This is why we never overreact to the first game in the series. The Lakers have won 4 straight games in both series after making adjustments. A sign of good coaching and execution by the players. But, this series is not about the Lakers. It is about the Denver Nuggets. I have to be honest, I have not put much respect on the Denver Nuggets name. I have blatantly disrespected them. I predicted they would be swept in the last matchup. The Nuggets come into this series with a 8-6 record. But, what makes them so special? What makes this series about the Nuggets? The fact that they have yet to give up. I haven’t seen a team play this inconsistent in the playoffs in my lifetime. I think their determination and strength in numbers continue to push them through over these 3-1 deficits. I think the matchups in this series are important. There is not one player on the court that will be able to stop LeBron from controlling the game. If Denver attempts to play Millsap on LeBron, I think this will be an early exit for the Nuggets. If you’ve ever watched Millsap guard LeBron, you know it’s never been pretty. However, I am excited for this series because the bubble has been so unpredictable that it would make sense that this series is also unpredictable. I look for Murray to continue to dominate. I think the Lakers will have a hard time containing the Joker’s playmaking. I am also excited for Porter Jr. to continue to blossom in the playoffs. Hard to believe Denver is doing this without being at full strength. The Lakers are playing well, I expect them to be able to do what they want on offense. If they continue to be efficient from the 3-point line, I don’t see them losing many games. I have to go with my heart on this one. I have the Lakers (4-2). I cant see LeBron choking this series but I hope the Lakers come with the same intensity they would have if the Clippers were on the other side. Rondo and Kuzma have to be efficient and aggressive for the Lakers. If they do, the Nuggets’ run ends in the Western Conference finals.
Ryan: The Lakers continue to show their dominance these Playoffs with a beatdown of the Houston Rockets last series. It seemed that the Lakers were constantly running down hill and scoring at ease, but many times they would take their foot off the pedal and let Houston creep back in it, before closing it out. They cannot do that to this Denver Nuggets team that has come back twice these Playoffs after being down 3-1. AD will finally face some competition down on the lower block this series against Jokic. But the same can be said for Jokic. The reason why the Nuggets have been successful is teams have had to be constantly doubling the post which gives one of the best passers in the game, Jokic, the ability to pick apart defensives. The Lakers will not have to rely on the double-team with the should have been “Defensive Player of the Year” AD down low guarding Jokic. And the ability to throw Dwight Howard and McGee at Jokic. If Denver is going to have a chance this series, Murray is going to have to continue to play out of his mind. But if Murrary starts to light it up late, the Lakers have the ability to put LeBron James on Murray and, well, good luck kid. It has been awesome watching the Nuggets come back and play multiple do or die games to get to this point, but I see that run ending this Series. Watching AD constantly hit fadeaway jumpers from the elbow and LeBron still chasing down blocks and getting to the rim at ease, makes this team look unbeatable in a Series. Lakers (4-2).
Will the Heat continue to stay hot (pun intended). Or will the Celtics talent ultimately win out to advance to the NBA finals for the first time since 2008. Find out what Ryan and I predict below.
Heats (5) vs Celtics (3)
Jarael: What a series for both teams. The Celtics started off great, they looked like they may be substantially better than the Raptors but as the series prolonged we saw the Celtics tested. The Heat with an impressive win over the Bucks. Overall, the Heat had a more impressive outing. They play really good team defense and through these Playoffs have a record of 8-1. They are playing together, they trust each other, and they make it really hard for teams to score. I think it would be easy to overlook the Heat in this Series because when you look at the rosters, the Celtics look like the better team on paper. But, I think the Heat make this very difficult for the Celtics. I haven’t seen Jae Crowder play this well since his Celtics days and the Heat have an inspired Dragic with Rookie Tyler Herro coming off the bench. The Heat will play tough and execute on offense. Now, the Celtics. They are the most talented team in the Eastern Conference. They are young and they are hungry. Surprisingly, they have some experience with having a late run in the Playoffs. I think the biggest advantage in this series is the match-ups. When you look at the rosters, you can make an argument that the Celtics can make it hard for Jimmy Butler. I don’t see the Heat making it hard for Walker, Brown, and Tatum. The Celtics are a balanced team and they come into this series with Walker not playing his best basketball and Hayward coming back from injury. They have the most upside and a slight advantage. I look for Walker to be more successful this series and Brown to continue to show he could be a number one option on a competitive NBA team. I like Smart in this series to make a larger impact. I think they use Smart to equalize people like Dragic and Herro. The Celtics can allow Jimmy Butler to have a good game, he has shown over time that he isn’t an efficient shooter. I don’t see him putting up big numbers unless he continues to get to the free throw line. I have to take the Celtics, but I have a feeling the Heat will continue to surprise us. I look for Bam to be at an All-star level as he has a more favorable matchup. This should be a great series! Celtics (4-2).
Ryan: Woof, what a miss for me in my predictions for the East. I had both the Raptors and Bucks advancing. Forgive me as I make an attempt at the Eastern Conference Finals. To be frank, I am shocked to see Jimmy Butler lead this Heat team this far into the NBA Playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, Jimmy Butler is extremely talented, but his ego can weigh his team down too much. But it isn’t just Butler playing well, it is this whole Heat team, from a young Rookie in Tyler Herro lighting it up off the bench to the veteran Jae Crowder playing his best basketball he has played in years. The Heat are bought in. But they are walking into a Series against the most overall talented team in the East. I had the Raptors winning the last series due to them having more experience and the Celtics lack of Hayward. But they edged out a Game 7 win and now the Celtics have Hayward back. Combine Hayward with the talents of Kemba, Tatum, Smart, and Brown… yikes. That talent and the Celtics ability to play the same in your face D as the Heat is the reason I give the slight edge to the Celtics. This is going to be an intense in your face defensive battle Series, but the Celtics have too much fire power for the Heat. I have the Celtics headed to the NBA Finals, even if they have to flop to get there. Sorry had to get a Marcus Smart joke in there. Celtics (4-3).