Tonight is the start of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals in the NBA. I was going to talk about the Lakers, but that can wait until tomorrow. I want to touch on each final, give my prediction, and give you a few things that could happen that may shock some people.
I want to start with the East first. Milwaukee coasted to the East Finals. They ran rough shed over the Pistons, who just laid out and let the Bucks walk all over them. They then had a bad start to the next round, losing game one by double figures to the Celtics. A bunch of people said that the "Celtics were coming together", and "they figured it out", and "Kyrie was finally playing team ball". Well, the Bucks then proceeded to absolutely dismantle the Celtics. They destroyed the Celtics in the next four games. Giannis shed whatever "rust" he may have had and looked like the MVP in those four straight wins. He was unstoppable, and the Celtics looked terrible on and off the court.
The Raptors had a much tougher road to the East Finals. They lost game one to the Magic in round one, but coasted from there. Where it became rough was against Philadelphia. That series was hard fought, a slug fest, a rock fight, whatever cliché you want to say about a physical series. Each team took, and gave, tons of punches. Game 7 was epic too. It was back and forth, at one point Toronto looked in control, but then Philadelphia would make a run. Then we had that Kawhi shot. That was one of the most incredible, and lucky shots I have ever seen. It hit every inch of that rim, and somehow went in. That is a heartbreaking way for the 76ers to go out. But, Kawhi did exactly what the Raptors hoped he would do when they traded for him.
So we now have Milwaukee-Toronto. I think Milwaukee may come out flat in game one, the whole rust over rest theory, but I feel like they will coast from there. Milwaukee is deeper, they have the best player in the series, and they have home court advantage. I think Toronto will win 2 games, but I think Milwaukee wins in 6. I also think Giannis will further his case for MVP, and top three player in the NBA.
In the West we have Golden State-Portland. I love this matchup. Golden State was the presumed team from the start of the season. They have it all. They have one of the best starting fives I've ever seen, and they are the 2 time defending champs. They let the Clippers get 2 games from them, but easily won from there. Then we had the big showdown with Houston. After taking the first 2 games, Houston rallied back for 2 very impressive wins to tie the series. In game 5 it looked like the Warriors were going to run away, but Houston came all the way back to take the lead. Then KD hit a shot to go ahead, and his non contact injury that I touched on happened. I, much like almost everyone else, assumed that the Rockets would take advantage of this. They did not. They choked it away like they always do. They couldn't get a lead in the first half of game 5, even with no KD and Steph scoring zero points and picking up three fouls. Then Steph got hot, Klay started playing incredible defense, Draymond ran the offense exquisitely, and the Warriors bench got a chance to shine. And, the Rockets blew it. I will say, Harden did his part scoring 12 in the quarter. But, he also had 4 turnovers. Also, Chris Paul was a ghost, PJ Tucker got no looks, Gerald Green play an inexplicable amount of minutes in the game, Austin Rivers was awful and Clint Capela was neutralized. This is what the Rockets do, and I don't know why I thought this year was different. Golden State pulled away late and closed the series out in 6 games.
Portland took a much more dramatic path to the West Finals. Yes, they beat OKC in 5, but those games were all close. If not for Lillard going supernova, and hitting shots from the logo, I think that series might have went 7. But, it didn't. Portland closed it out. They then had to deal with Denver. Both teams traded blows. Both teams took a game from each at their home court. And it looked like Denver was going to close it out early in game 7, building a 17 point lead. But, with Lillard looking exhausted, CJ McCollum absolutely took over. He was amazing, and it made me rethink trading him this offseason. He was awesome. He hit all the big shots. He was the man that lead the full comeback to get Portland back to the West Finals for the first time since 2000.
All that is gravy for Portland. Unfortunately for them, as soon as KD gets back, I think the games will be fun, but the Warriors will end up winning the series, most likely in 5 games. I think the series will be a delight for lovers of offense, and the scores will be high, but the Warriors are a better team. They have so much more talent. They also have multiple guys that they can throw at CJ and Dame. If they thought Denver was tough, just wait for what the Warriors will bring at them. Game one is going to show me how prepared and ready Portland is, but I think the Warriors are too good. They might not have KD for the first 2 games, but I don't think it matters. Portland will get one at home, but that is it. The Warriors are just too good.
I'm very excited for the games to start tonight. These are the 4 most deserving teams left. I'm glad it worked out this way. Lets get to it.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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