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NBA

NBA Conference Finals: Predictions

In the NBA conference finals, we’ve got four teams left, all of whom look perfectly capable of making it to the finals. Get the popcorn ready.

Jennifer Bubel
Update:

In my conference semi-final predictions, I had the Mavs in 7 and Heat in 6. But I thought the Warriors would get it done quicker in 5, and had the Bucks winning in 7. Half and half isn’t too bad, but the conference finals will be a lot harder to predict. Do I dare? Of course I do.

We’re down to the last four teams after the Celtics held their own against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Mavericks pulled off a huge upset over the No. 1 Phoenix Suns. Things will get even more intense in the next round as any of these four teams could make it to the Finals. Here’s a look at what to expect, and who I predict to win.

Eastern Conference Finals: No. 1 Miami Heat vs No. 2 Boston Celtics

The Heat and the Celtics are in the Eastern finals yet again. The Heat will look to make it to their sixth final in 12 years. The Celtics will look to break their four-time losing streak in the conference finals.

The Celtics have proven over and over again that they can overcome all odds. They were under .500 all the way until the end of January, but managed to scrap their way up to No. 2 only to sweep the Brooklyn Nets in round 1 of the playoffs, followed by a 3-2 series win over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat are led by superstar Jimmy Butler, who has averaged 28.7 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. He’s hit 36.4% go threes on over four attempts per game. The Celtics defense ranked first at the end of the regular season, and the Heat struggled to shoot against the 76ers, whose defense is significantly worse.

We can’t underestimate the Heat defense either, which was ranked fourth at the end of the season. However, with Kyle Lowry possibly still out and at best, not at full capacity, and considering what the Celtics just put Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks through, I’m taking the Celtics to get their revenge on the Heat.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

Game 1 is Tuesday, May 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET in Miami.

Western Conference Finals: No. 3 Golden State Warriors vs No. 4 Dallas Mavericks

As a fan of all sports Dallas my whole life, it’s going to be a bit hard to be objective here. And honestly, I think either of these teams could easily come away as winners, which makes it even more difficult to predict. Let’s start with the facts.

Mavs superstar Luka Doncic averaged 31.5 points against the Warriors during the regular season, and his 126 points against them in total (over four games) was the most by one player in a single season since coach Steve Kerr joined the Warriors in 2014. Lucky for the Warriors, they had the second-best defense in the league at the end of the regular season. They’ll need to use that to slow down Doncic. With Gary Payton II out with an injury, that is going to be tough for them to do.

The Warriors have a lot of depth with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and Jordan Poole, who’s stepped up for the Warriors lately. And of course, it goes without saying, Stephen Curry, who’s the best shooter in the league. They have the talent, playoff experience, and home-court advantage on their side in this series. But, so did the Suns and the Mavericks completely dismantled them.

Though numbers and stats may make the Warriors look like the easy favorites, if you’ve been paying attention, you know they don’t look like the same team who dominated in 2016. Both the Warriors and the Mavs are extremely similar in their defense and ability to shoot threes, something both tend to rely on. And Curry is the best 3-pointer in the NBA. Yet he hasn’t been hitting them quite so much in the post season, at 35.9% behind the arc. The Mavs’ Maxi Kleber, however, has been hitting 48% of his. Doncic and the Mavs seem to just get better and better with each game. It’s hard to bet against Doncic, despite Curry’s fourth-quarter abilities and the Warrior’s experience…I’m jumping on the hopeful Mavs’ bandwagon.

Prediction: Mavs in 7

Game 1 is Wednesday, May 18 at 9 p.m. ET in San Francisco.

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