NBA Perfect 10-Playoff Edition
In the midst of what is turning out to be two disappointing Conference Finals, let’s review where each series stands and what we expect going forward.
Eastern Conference Finals
#8 Miami vs. #2 Boston: The Miami Heat’s inexplicable playoff run appears to be moving on and heading to the NBA Finals. They have done it with a suffocating zone defense, clutch performances by Jimmy Butler, and a slew of undrafted players playing above their pay grade. One other factor, particularly in this series with Boston, they have done it was vastly superior coaching.
Boston came into the series as the heavy favorites but, time and time again, Eric Spoelstra has pushed the right buttons while Joe Mazulla looks like a rookie coach. Boston’s bench has been mismanaged and lacked flow while the Heat continue to stick with a winning rotation. Game three appeared to be Boston’s official white flag in the series: whining about calls, being beaten to every loose ball, and terrible defensive rotations. Game four appears to be just a formality at this point and will likely cause an offseason of deep thoughts in Boston regarding their current roster.
The Heat now looks like an interesting choice for an NBA Final play. Their current odds sit at +1800 to win the NBA title, far and away the largest odds for a recent finals participant. If you’ve been riding the Heat wagon to this point, there’s no reason to jump off now.
Prediction: Boston in Six…Amended Prediction: Miami in Four.
Conference/NBA Title Odds: Miami (+235, +1800)
Western Conference Finals
#7 LA Lakers vs. #1 Denver: The Lakers rolled to the conference finals on the strength of two perfect opponents for their style. Both Memphis and Golden State lacked the interior strength to bother either Davis or James in the paint and with a lack of effective bigs, Davis was allowed to roam on defense and led the NBA in blocked shots in the playoffs. Then along comes Denver with arguably the league’s best center and things have changed dramatically. Jokic has forced the Lakers to stay honest on defense and, along with Aaron Gordon, has made it difficult for the Lakers in the paint.
Jamal Murray’s return to playoff dominance could not have come at a worse time for the Lakers as well. The pick and rolls with Jokic have destroyed the Lakers' defense and freed up the likes of Bruce Brown and Michael Porter Jr. to get great looks both at the rim and from beyond the 3pt line. The Lakers would have matched up well with Phoenix had they prevailed over the Nuggets in the semifinals but this matchup was doomed to fail for LA.
With the Heat’s looming sweep of Boston, this playoff season appears to be a coronation for Nikola Jokic as the premier player in the NBA.
Prediction: Nuggets in Six…Amended Prediction: Denver in Four.
Conference/NBA Title Odds: Denver (+215, +550)
Check back next week when we preview the NBA Finals which will begin on June 2nd.
In parenthesis, conference odds and finals odds. All odds Courtesy of Draftkings.com.
By Mark Ruelle