Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals starts tomorrow, with the Boston Celtics playing the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Monday, the Houston Rockets play the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Even though it’s only been three days since the last NBA Playoff game, it’s been a long wait for this Conference Finals round. The anticipation of what’s going to happen has been killing me and I can’t wait for these games to finally get under way. Before these games start, I wanted to get out my predictions for who’s going to be playing in the NBA Finals this year. If you’ve been keeping up with my posts the last few days, you know I’ve made my decision on one series, but the other was undecided until today. Below are my predictions for the Conference Finals and explanations as to why I made my decisions.
Eastern Conference Finals – Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers
I had previously stated my pick for who wins this series in yesterday’s article, “Who Has the Advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals?“, but here is a brief overview of why I made that decision. Looking at the numbers for these two teams, there’s not a whole lot separating them from each other. They’ve put up almost identical numbers in scoring, three point shooting, assists, rebounds, defense, and free throws in the playoffs. Because the numbers have been so similar for these teams, I made my decision for this series based on which team LeBron James is on.
We all know LeBron has ruled the Eastern Conference for a long time now. He’s been to seven straight NBA Finals. Having won three NBA Championships, nobody else on the Cavaliers or Celtics comes close to what LeBron has done in the playoffs. Entering last year’s playoffs, many thought the Cavaliers wouldn’t make it to the Finals because their defense was one of the worst in the league. Well none of that mattered for playoff LeBron. After earning the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference during the regular season this year, many have thought the Cavaliers wouldn’t even make it to this point. LeBron has shown us once again why nothing his team does in the regular season really matters.
The Boston Celtics have been a great team this year, heavily relying on their youth to carry them throughout the playoffs. Put that with Head Coach Brad Stevens and his ability to utilize his players, despite having several injuries. I just don’t see a way the Celtics will be able to stop LeBron James. His talent and experience is something this young Celtics team just doesn’t have. Boston won’t make it easy on LeBron and the Cavs to win this series. They won’t go down without a fight, but I don’t think they’re to the point yet where they can overcome what LeBron James does during the playoffs.
Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers in 6
Western Conference Finals – Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors
This series has had me going back and forth on who I’m picking. The Houston Rockets have been the best team in the NBA all season long. They added Chris Paul last offseason, improved their defense, and they shoot the three like no one else in the league. Then we have the defending champion Golden State Warriors, who at times have struggled this season, but still earned the 2nd seed in the Western Conference.
In my article, “Who Has the Advantage in the Western Conference Finals?“, the numbers gave the advantage to the Warriors because of their assists, defense, and rebounding. They also got an advantage from me because of their star power and experience. Most of the players on this team have won a championship, a good chunk of them having multiple. Houston doesn’t come anywhere near the Warriors in terms of championships and playoff success. Chris Paul has made it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in his career.
While that playoff experience does play a big role, that wasn’t the biggest factor when making my decision for this series. The Houston Rockets live and die by the three point shot. They take the most three point attempts in the league. Golden State is the number one team during the playoffs in opponents three point percentage allowed. They’ve allowed their opponents so far to shoot just 32% from three point range. This is how they’re going to beat the Rockets. Houston will take a lot of three’s, but if Golden State can force them to take bad three point shots, those are wasted possessions for the Rockets, which will then turn into points for the Warriors. Houston will have its good games and bad games shooting the three in this series, which will make it competitive, but the Warriors will come through defensively when it matters most.
Prediction: Golden State Warriors in 7