NBA Conference Finals Preview and Predictions

30 teams have slowly diminished down to 16 then again to 8 and now were down to just 4 with the Conference Finals kicking off tonight. We have two entertaining series ahead of us so let’s break them down.

(1) Warriors vs. (3) Blazers

I have picked against the Portland Trailblazers in every round and each time they have come back to bite me. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and company continue to prove me wrong. I thought they were finished after the Jusif Nurkic injury at the beginning of the season, but Enes Kanter picked up the slack. I thought they met their fate was sealed when they matched up with OKC in round 1, but then Lillard elevated his game and reminded us he’s the second best point guard in the league. Then they went in to Denver and pulled off a 17 point comeback on the back of CJ McCollum. But they have finally met their match in the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

The Kevin Durant injury certainly evens the playing field in this series, but Golden State is just a bad matchup for Portland. The strength of Portland is the play of their backcourt, shooting from the perimeter. Normally Portland has the backcourt advantage, but Golden State is the one backcourt that is superior.

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are a beefed up version of Lillard and McCollum. Even though Lillard and McCollum are lights out shooters, they are a tick or two below the Splash brothers. Curry and Thompson are arguably the best shooters to ever lace up. Assume both backcourts play their best, it’s at best even for Portland.

For Golden State, the multitude of defenders they can throw at Lillard and McCollum is what will decide the series. Both Lillard and McCollum are small guards and will be bothered by the length of Klay Thomson, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and even Draymond Green at times. This will allow the Warriors to hide Steph Curry on defense, preserving his energy to carry the offensive load.

Assuming health stays intact for both teams, and regardless of if Durant returns this series or not, I expect Golden State to knock off Portland in 6 games.

(1) Bucks vs. (2) Raptors

I expect this to be the best series of the playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, two of the top 5 players in the NBA, should put on a show that we will talk about for years to come.

The Bucks have the deeper team for sure, and have dominantly run through the playoffs, taking out the sorry Detroit Pistons, and the formidable Boston Celtics in just 5 games. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the best player in the league since the opening tip off. He is unstoppable once he gets in the paint, and when his outside shit drops at even a 30% clip he becomes unguardable. Not to mention Antetokounmpo has a case to be defensive player of the year for both his play on the perimeter and down on the block, protecting the rim.

His supporting cast has stepped up big as well. Khris Middleton has played like the all star he is, and Eric Bledsoe redeemed himself for his abysmal playoffs a year ago. He has even got help from guys like George Hill, Nikola Mirotic, the recently healthy Malcom Brogdon who I’ll for sure have an impact on both ends of the floor in this series.

As for Kawhi Leonard he has been on an absolute tear this playoffs, reminding everyone he is still amongst the top players in the league. But he will not be able to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks on his own. He is going to need his supporting cast, which has shown to be unreliable, to step up and help him out. Just look at Game 7 against Philadelphia. Leonard was forced to attempt an absurd 39 shots because nobody else on the team was willing to take them. Kyle Lowry’s playoff demons are well documented, Pascal Siakam is very young, and has gone missing for stretches at a time on the offensive end. If Kawhi continues to get little to no help from his teammates, then this series could be over rather quick.

The key to the series will be the supporting cast for both teams. We know Leonard and Antetokounmpo will be big time and play like the MVP candidate they are. But it will be the one who gets the most help from his supporting cast that will advance to the NBA finals.

I do expect Leonard to will his team to a couple of wins and for his teammates to shoot much better in their home games, but it won’t be enough as the Bucks have too much fire power and consistency. I expect the Bucks to win in 6 or 7 games as the legacy of Antetokounmpo continues to grow.

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