The NBA bubble exposed a lot about the NBA, both good and bad. For starters we should all be giving the greatest commissioner in sports a rambunctious round of applause. The league has had zero positive tests continuously all while putting out a great quality product. Like who would of though Booker would lead the Suns to average 120+ points a game and a Perfect record? Did you think the Bucks would lose five games and give up more than 119 points a game?! What about a Pacers squad who lost their best player but still have wins over a 76ers team with Ben Simmons and the Lakers when Lebron 35 minutes? This bubble showed the randomness of this circumstance the NBA is in. Some players came to play but others thought their talent would just carry them to victory.
Look at a team like Portland. Dame has games where he dropped 30, 45, 51, 61, and 42 points. That translated them to winning 4 of their first 6 games and contend for that play in game. You think Pat Beverly is gonna do that? Hell no, it’s Dame Time and the Blazers are here to break some hearts again in the playoffs. Melo and Nurkic chipped in where necessary and proved how good this starting 5 is. No one is going to sit and say that Portland took the lay-off easy. They are proving that this locker room sees the talent and is bought into winning and why wouldn’t they? They are playing better than a lot of the teams at the top of the West and that will win them games early in the playoffs.
Now on the other hand you have a team like Utah who is crumbling before our eyes. Losing Bojan appears to have hurt their already lacking offensive playmaking. A team that was only giving up 108 points a game is now giving up 116. Now did they have a tough schedule? You bet, losses against the Lakers, Nuggets and Mavericks may of been expected but losing to the Spurs and having to come back and beat an inexperienced Pelicans team should show that they won’t be making a deep run in the playoffs.
One of the bigger things I can’t wait to see is how the elite competition competes. The Lakers and Clippers have winners in the locker room. Lebron and Kawhi know exactly what it will take for their respective teams to outlast the gauntlet of these playoffs. A great coach can come up with a proper game plan over the course of a seven game series to help win. Look at Nick Nurse last year. Not a lot of people gave them a shot at beating Milwaukee but Kawhi came ready, Nick had a solid plan and the players around them bought in and shocked the East. Then they went on to shock the world by beating the modern age dynasty. Now on the other side of that you now have an even hungrier Giannis who wants to prove his super stardom. Mike Budenholzer has a loaded roster and people will be looking at him if this team doesn’t succeed I think. Will he rise to the occasion? Maybe a team like Miami or Denver who have a solid core group with great coaching can surprise some people. They both might not have multiple stars but have a team full of guys who are bought in and love to play for their franchise.
These playoffs might have an asterisk next to it to some people but screw them. These guys are going all out for this. They know that their names will be etched in history with a championship. Guys will get bigger and better contracts with a title on their resume. So get ready for what will be a spicy playoff push for this 2019-2020 season.
Milwaukee Bucks vs 8. Orlando Magic
Yeah the Bucks may of had some setbacks during this eight game stretch but there is some context to those struggles. For starters you can throw that game with the Nets out the window. Giannis played 16 minutes while Budenholzer gave his bench guys heavy playing time. Giannis also sat against the Raptors and 13 guys saw minutes during that game. I know that when things get real this team will turn on the jets and run through this Magic team. When given 30+ minutes Giannis has averaged 34.7 points, 14.5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks. No one on the Magic, hell most guys in the league aren’t touching those numbers. For everyone who is still sleeping on Khris Middleton please wake the hell up. In those same four games he shot 54% from the field, averaged 24.7 points and shot 52% from 3. He is one of if not arguably one of the best shooters in this league and doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. The Bucks have a great mindset of not settling for bad shots which helps Middleton thrive. Now they have had some struggles with allowing the three ball but also some pretty bad luck. Who would of seen Dorian Finney-Smith drop 27 points and make 6 threes, nor did I even know who Matt Thomas was let alone think he could go for 22 points in 37 minutes. Also how did a Rockets team who shot 61 threes (jeez) and shot 39.6% from the field win? How about them making 10 more free throws and winning by 4. Some bad bounces here and there but all in all over the course of a seven game series I find it hard for this team to lose four of them. It won’t start with the Magic that’s for sure. The Magic had a solid start to the bubble with wins over the Nets and Kings but have lost every single game after that. They are -17 on the bubble regular season while giving up 114 points a game which isn’t like the normal Magic team. Normally they pride themselves on defense while playing the offense through Vuc. Now Nikola Vucevic is doing his damn best averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and 50% from the field but basketball is a team game and he can’t do it all. Johnathan Issac tore his ACL after the second bubble game which was a big loss. He wasn’t playing heavy minutes because he was coming off an injury already but he brings such a defensive presence that won’t always show up on the stat sheet. Aaron Gordon also went down after four games and was playing relatively well with 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds. So now the Magic are relying heavily on Fultz who probably isn’t ready just yet, Terrance Ross who can at times catch fire and score but nothing really else, and D.J. Augustine who really is just a role player these days. Put that up against what the Bucks have to offer and you just have to wonder how? How will the Magic be able to compete with this team. I can see them winning one game where Vuc/Ross go for 30+ and Giannis has foul trouble. But that will probably only happen once so give me the Bucks in 5.
Toronto Raptors vs 7. Brooklyn Nets
Now I want to be the first to admit, I didn’t take this Raptors team seriously at first. With the loss of their biggest star Kawhi Leonard this offseason, I didn’t know how the team would respond. Well your seeing that this team is legit and you can thank their head coach Nick Nurse. Nick is a guy who might not win Coach of the year every year but he is more than deserving of the award. Game in and game out you see a guy who know who he has and knows where to put them. Look at the opening game against the Lakers. Nick knew that AD and Lebron can beat his team but can the rest of the roster? Nope! Lebron and AD combined for 34 points on 40% shooting and no one else could compete with the depth of Toronto. As a team they could be the best in the East defensively. Opposing teams averaged only 103.5 points a game on 41% from the field. Now you may look at that and ask, “yeah but who did they play?” Well we know they beat the Lakers by 15 but they also beat the Heat, Grizzlies and Bucks. If you look at their schedule compared to other teams in the East, they were definitely at a disadvantage but it didn’t matter. Only having one loss to a red hot Celtics team stands in their way of perfection. Lowry, Siakam, and Vanvleet are a solid trio that can help lift this team past some tougher talent. Siakam hasn’t played up to what he needed to in the regular season but he is still playing well, averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds but shooting a poor 40%. I expect those numbers to fall more in line with his regular season numbers 23 points and 45%. Lowry and Vanvleet both proves they have the ability to go for 30+. So do we really think that the Brooklyn Nets can compete with the returning champs? This is a Nets team that we all know doesn’t have Kyrie and Durant, but they also are missing Deandre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie. So how did they beat teams like Milwaukee and LA Clippers? His name is Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Never heard of him? Me either but he has made a name for himself so far in this bubble. Averaging 14 points a game with 3 games of 24+ points has really given them some much needed scoring but isn’t the sole reason for their success. Caris LeVert has taken this scoring leadership role and ran with it averaging 25 a game. He came up real big against the Clippers with a 10-18 night with 13 assists and 27 points. Remember the 2019 3-point contest winner Joe Harris? Well he is complimenting LeVert extremely well and playing out of his mind honestly. 20.2 points a game, 19/33 (57%) from three and 61.9% from the field! These are from a shooter mind you not a go guy sitting under the rim. Now will this continue? Probably not but the Nets are showing that their future is rock solid. This battle of the backcourts will be more fun to watch than a lot people will think. I personally think the depth that Toronto has mixed with Nick Nurse will be too much to handle for Brooklyn. Now will Toronto sweep them? If you asked me before the bubble I would of said yes in a heartbeat but now I’m not so sure. These guys in Brooklyn can get hot and steal and game, maybe two. Toronto In 6.
Boston Celtics Vs 6. Philadelphia 76ers
These teams have the potential to make this the series to watch in the East. I mean look at the star power on the court. Starting with Boston you have the future that is Jason Tatum who had some troubles against the Bucks going 2-18 for 5 points turned it around finishing the bubble with 25.3 points and shooting an outstanding 60.7% from the field. Your also seeing Tatum get more comfortable down the stretch in games and I think he is their “big shot maker.” Jaylen Brown is shouldering some scoring pressure with 19 points this bubble but has blown up at times. Coming out of college he really didn’t have a shot, so it’s nice to see him blossom to this scorer that some didn’t project him to be. Let’s not forget Boston let Rozier walk and Kyrie didn’t want to come back so they had to adjust and sign the solid Kemba Walker to add a veteran prescience with these young guys. He was hampered by injuries this regular season but still was able to produce a quality season. His numbers in Boston might not be the same as when he was in Charlotte but that’s because he was the only guy there for years. Now he has talent at every place on the floor and can sit back and take advantage of defensive lapses. His 14 points a game is on the low end but his 42.8% from deep and 54% from the field tell me he is taking better more quality shots. That selfless nature is what this team will need to win games. Let’s not forget they have one of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Marcus Smart and their duo of Theis/Kanter will throw fresh big legs at you all game. Plus every one knows Brad Stevens is a young guru that will come ready with a great game plan each and every game. This team will take care of bad defenses and their 121 points a game prove that. Philadelphia on the other hand has had some troubles in the bubble. For starters their second best player Ben Simmons is done for this playoff push. He had some knee issues that needed surgery immediately and I don’t blame them for jumping to it. He is their future and should be taken care of as such, especially since they don’t have a real shot at the title this year. Not to mention they also had Joel Embiid leave the game against Portland after six minutes after injuring his ankle. Before that he was on a tear averaging 30.2 points a game, 13.5 rebounds and shooting 53%. He has always been such a force for Philadelphia and if he isn’t 100% I doubt they can compete with Boston for 7 games. Tobias Harris is going to try his best but he can’t carry a team to win. He is a solid scorer who will get boards here and there but doesn’t have that ability to lift a team and play better than they really are. I mean Richardson and Milton can shoot but not at a consistent clip. Maybe Al Horford can find some youth and play above his head but I just don’t see it. After last years heartbreaking loss to Toronto, the people in Philadelphia had high hopes for this team. They have the pieces but just don’t seem to execute. Maybe it’s time to have a new face at head coach. Brett Brown is a solid coach but sometimes guys just need someone new to point out things about their game for them to take it to the next level. Philadelphia ether hurry up because even though their core is young, I really don’t know how much longer they will be able to keep them together. I’m taking Boston in 6 games.
Miami Heat vs 5. Indiana Pacers
Just wow. Could we of scripted a better 4vs5 matchup? Teams in this range are dangerous because they have the talent to win and have the chip on their shoulder because they know they are better than their seed. So now let’s add in the fact that Jimmy Butler is going against T.J. Warren In what was one of the best 1 on 1 matchups this season. Both guys play extremely hard and have this grit about them. T.J. has been trying to win the MVP bubble with his 31 points a game on 57.8% shooting and even shooting 42% from deep. The best aspect of his game is how it comes to him. He takes his time and doesn’t force his hand which works extremely well with this Pacers offense. Especially with the loss of Domantas. 18.3 points and 12.5 rebounds tells a small story of what he brought to the floor. He was a facilitator from the top of the key helping out Oladipo and Malcom Brogdan find holes in the defense. Miles Turner has tried to fill that void but his inside game isn’t the same, he is more of a pick and pop shooter. Victor Oladipo is still recovering from his gruesome injury last year but trying his best with 16 points a game. For me personally, I think the depth of the Pacers might expose them in this matchup. The starting roster has legit players but when those starters are off the court, I don’t know who will step up. Doug McDermott can shoot but is extremely inconsistent, McConnell adds hustle and play making but isn’t the best shooter, maybe the Holiday brothers? The Heat may not have a guy averaging 30 points a game like Warren but they have guys who can shoot all over the roster. Now some people will look at their bubble record and think maybe they just don’t have it. But if you look you’ll see they had a 1 point loss to the Thunder, 4 point loss to Toronto, and hard losses to Milwaukee and a red hot Phoenix. But they still beat this same Pacers squad, the Celtics and the Nuggets! Erik Spoelstra will come ready for this matchup, he has their number this year as they have went 3-0 against Indy this year. In the first game in the bubble they held Indy to 39.3% shooting. Opposing teams on average are only shooting 44% from the field. Tyler Herro may be a rookie but he looks like he has been shooting the ball for 30 years. There is no fear and he has total confidence when the ball leaves his hands. In the bubble he started out with 20 minutes and got a minuscule 7 points but worked his way up to 38 minutes against OKC and dropped his career high 30 points, all on 56% from the field. Then if you press him a little on the three line he will find my vote for Most Improved Player Bam Adebayo who is showing he has all of the tools to be a great center in this league. His points and rebounding numbers have doubled this season to the tune of 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and a stat that gets overlooked from the center position, 5 assists. Jimmy Butler may be the best player on this team but Bam is the most crucial. Speaking of Jimmy, is he really having a good bubble? His numbers fall sort of in line with his season stats but his damn near three steals a game is nuts. Overall I do believe the Heat are going to be too much over the course of seven games. The Heat will throw guys out there that will really test whether or not the Pacers offense can compete in the playoffs. This will be a dog fight and the Pacers will surprise Heat for a couple games but give me the Heat in 7.
Milwaukee Bucks vs 4. Miami Heat
This series will go seven games. You can call me crazy but I think that this could be a tough matchup for the Bucks. The one thing the Bucks have over everyone is size and length. With Giannis and Lopez controlling the paint, teams find it hard to score inside. That shows with their league best 102.5 defensive efficiency rating. But in the bubble that has left them open to teams chucking threes continually and making them at a decent clip. In their hard fought game against the small ball Rockets, the Rockets made 21 threes at 34%. Now that’s not the only time it happened, the Nets and the Heat made 21 threes against Milwaukee. Now the bucks lost two of those games so maybe that is a solid way to beat this team. We all know the Heat can let it fly from deep as well. Duncan Robinson is 4th in the league with a 44.8% from deep and has shown in this bubble he isn’t afraid to let it fly. When these teams met earlier in the bubble the Bucks won 130-116 behind 33 points from Middleton and Giannis. Now that score doesn’t let you know that the Heat were up by 17 at halftime. They also were without Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler for this game. So Spoelstra has a proper game plan to try and beat this juggernaut in the East. What about the benches on both teams? I mean the starters are going to play 30+ minutes but you have to give the edge to Miami. Iggy, Herro, Dragic and Olynyk could start for some teams still in the bubble while George Hill and maybe Marvin Williams are the best for the Bucks. I see a world where the benches come in and the Heat go +15. All while the starters for the Heat don’t play sloppy basketball. There will be games where you sit back and go “damn I think the Heat can pull this off?” I mean this is a group of guys who genuinely have love for each other. In their game against the Thunder, Chris Paul threw a ball off Duncan Robinson to give the Thunder the possession. Jimmy Butler took offense to that and came down the lane and dropped his shoulder and drove the lane hard against Paul drawing the offensive charge. Jimmy knew what he was doing and when asked about it he said “You mess with one of my guys, especially one of my shooters, then you gotta deal with me and everybody else.” This really is a group of guys who are bought into each other and believe in themselves. That’s dangerous to a lot of teams. After saying all that I still think Milwaukee is going to be too much for this Heat team. I believe this Heat team is for real but Giannis is mentally in a place where winning is the only option, and the future 2019-2020 MVP won’t take any prisoners. Milwaukee Bucks in 7
Toronto Raptors vs 3. Boston Celtics
Seeing a matchup like this makes predicting these games so tough. On one hand you have the returning champs playing high level basketball in this bubble. Kyle Lowry is proving to people he still has some sauce left in the tank. Averaging 16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2 steals a game. He is the leader in that locker room and proving he can still play at a high level later in his career. His affect on Vanvleets game is showing as Fred is earning him self a nice contract this offseason. We spoke earlier about how this backcourt will be tough to deal with. They play selfless basketball and will do whatever they can to help their team win games. Siakam had some ups and downs in last years run but when he thrived, it was on smaller competition. I’m not saying Hayward or Tatum are bad defenders but he should take advantage. However in their game in the bubble Pascal went 5-15 for 11 points and didn’t look good. Honestly none of the starters looked good in that game. As a unit they went 16-45 and were an average of -19 on the court. At one point the Celtics led by 40. I don’t expect a lead like that during any of these games but we know Boston can score. Tatum, Walker and Brown were a combined 55 points. We have all fallen in love with Tatum quickly here and if he can take advantage of these playoffs, look out. He has all of the makings of being a superstar in this league. Brad Stevens will have his hands full against Nick Nurse. Look for a lot of mid game adjustments and seeing which coach is two steps ahead of the other. These semifinal games in the East are going to be amazing. We should all be excited for what’s to come. Boston in 7
Eastern Conference Finals
Milwaukee Bucks vs 3. Boston Celtics
I believe this will be the start of some pretty series playoff rivalry between these two franchises. When it comes to some of the leagues best players 25 and under, Giannis, Tatum and Brown have to rank top 15. They split their two regular season matchups and the Bucks won the inaugural game of the bubble so maybe you can factor in some rust in Boston’s favorbut this matchup is more fair than some people may think. The guards in Boston are going to have to elevate in order for this team to win. During the two regular season matchups Kemba Walker balled out for 36 points on 50% shooting. Now in the bubble he only played 19 minutes because of a sore knee but still went 5-9 from the field and finished with 16 points. This will be the furthest Kemba ever makes it in his career and true hunger should be driving a dangerous man. He could very well be the x-factor this team needs to be the David to beat Goliath. Marcus Smart is underrated and has potential to come off the bench, lead the second unit and end up giving their team a lead. His 21.5 points and 47% from three were huge reasons for their success during the regular season. He is known for his defensive game but has the capabilities to show up and be big. Now if those go well and Tatum can overcome stout defense from Giannis, maybe Jaylen Brown can out duel Khris Middleton and the Celtics win in 5 games. But let’s be honest that’s not always going to happen. Brooke Lopez will be handle whoever Boston outs in, Theis/Kanter and his spacing has always helped the Greek Freak find the lane for an easy slam. We know how physically gifted the Bucks are but how mentally tough are they? What will a 25 point Ass whooping do to them? Or what if Boston goes up 3-1, can they rally as a team and defeat that demon? This Milwaukee team has a chance to start a true dynasty that can last in a city that is deprived of championships. I know this may seem kind of silly but I believe in this Boston squad. Boston Celtics in 7
Los Angeles Lakers vs 8. Portland Trailblazers.
Wow, just wow Portland. Damien Lillard ran the gauntlet and proved to everyone that this is a legitimate team that is here to compete. The dawg mentality that flows through the locker room is evident. Dame has these guys locked in and playing at the highest level. The points jump off the page but the 48.9% from the floor is nuts. Plus his Assist/TO ratio is 9/3, that’s solid for a guy who does so much with the ball. C.J. has been doing his very best to be the 1-2 punch Dame needs. He has always been a solid shooter but we are seeing an elevation in his game. You can say the same for “Bubble Melo” as he scoring 16.5 a game in the bubble. Another thing he is doing is making threes at a 46% clip and you can add a lot of high pressure shots in there as well. The team has been vocal about how Melo is there to make tough shots in big moments and they won’t shy away from giving him the ball there. We are about to get “Playoff Melo” which we haven’t seen since his best years in New York. When you play the Lakers you sometimes have to accept the fact that Lebron James is the best player in the league. He is going to find open guys and hit tough shots. The biggest way Portland wins this game is how they contain AD. Nurkic has been a huge help for this squad. Last year before going down with injury, he was having a career year. No one knew how he would come back from such a nasty injury. How does 17.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG with 2 blocks a game sound? I understand we are talking about an extremely small sample size but this would be a career year over 82 games. He has essentially moved Whiteside to a reserve role and taken control as the big man for Portland. So will he be up to the task of contains AD a little bit. Possibly but we are talking about a guy who is top 5 in this league. The fire that runs through Portland is contagious and people watching will probably be rooting for the Cinderella story. After everything is said and done I just think the superstars in LA are going to be too much for Portland to handle. This may be special circumstances but there is no way in hell Lebron will let this team lose in the first round this late in his career. This series will dazzle and I honestly think Portland will win more games than a lot of people think. LA Lakers in 6 Games
Los Angeles Clippers Vs 7. Dallas Mavericks
If I can be 100 percent honest, it pains me to see this Mavericks team at the seven seed and having to play the clippers. This team has all the makings of a dark horse team that can make noise and ruin championship hopes. They have a young super star in Luka Doncic who is taking this league by storm. How young you may ask? 21 years old! He is a boy among men who is way better than most men on the court. He has such a selfless nature that you rarely see. His nose for the ball gives him the triple-double threat night in and night out. In a hard fought OT win against the Bucks, he went off for 36 points, 14 rebounds, 19 assists (good lord) and he shot 50% from the field. He had the toughest competition in the league across from him and he rose up and willed his team to the W. With the greatness that is Luka, Cuban knew he had to get him proper support and this is the time for Kristaps to come through. In what is still a young career, the Unicorn has wowed people with his length and blocking ability while stepping out and hitting corner threes. He should be the perfect combo for the pick and roll offense this Dallas team needs. His 30.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG and most importantly he played 36 or more minutes in 6 of the 7 games he played. Playing down low with a physical guys like Harrell and Morris will put him at the line here and there. In 55 attempts he only missed 6. This is crucial in the playoffs because we are ultimately talking about free points and you don’t want to get me started on free throws at the professional level. We have to believe that Rick Carlisle is going to come ready for this daunting task. Who plays for the Clippers though? Oh that’s right, Kawhi Leonard so LA will probably win. He really is that good. For all of the great things we say about Lukas offense, Kawhi is one of the best defenders In league and has the shut down capabilities. I expect a lot of that matchup in this series. Now just in case they try and pull a switch from the guards, Paul George will probably greet Luka at the three point line. As long as it’s not crunch time Paul George is one of the best two players in the league. They are built to essentially neutralize teams built on guards and forwards. This is where Kristaps needs to shine but I don’t know if he can do it himself. This will be a hard fought series and people shouldn’t put too much weight into seeding. Dallas will come ready to play but I just don’t know if it’s their time just yet. LA looks to be on a crash course against the Lakers and I don’t know who will stop them. LA Clippers in 6 games
Denver Nuggets vs 6. Utah Jazz
The Jazz should feel blessed to be in the playoffs about the eight games in the bubble. Coming into Orlando everyone had their questions about what kind of Jazz team would show up. At the beginning of this Covid disaster Rudy Gobert is famous for touching the mics laughing about the virus and later was found to be positive of the virus. That in turn infected the star Donovan Mitchell putting their relationship in danger. Let’s not forget they are missing their steady source of buckets in Bojan Bogdanovic. Sadly he was forced to get surgery on his wrist ending his hopes to helping his team win. So how did Conley respond to the extra scoring workload?
He is shooting right around his career numbers but scoring around 19.8 PPG. Mitchell has been right around what we expected and Rudy Gobert has been a consistent double-double guy each game. That’s really it though. Jordan Clarkson has shown flashes of offensive ability but hasn’t been consistent. Grayson Allen has been pretty good as well but he isn’t ready for the moment just yet. I
Personally would of rather seen the Suns instead of the Jazz but sadly it’s just a wish. Denver had studs all of the court. If you were to put each roster side by side, I think Mitchell wins the SG position for the Jazz but Denver takes the rest. I think we will see more minutes for the youth of Denver. MPJ and Bol Bol have won a lot of people over on social media with their highlight plays every time they touch the court. Michael Porter Jr has really shown the promise people thought he had before the draft. Coming into the NBA with a back injury the Nuggets have taken it slow with him and we are seeing it paying dividends. When you loom across sports one of the keys to winning championships is when young guys on lower contracts can play above their pay grade. Why can’t Denver fit that mold as well? Denver in 5 games
Houston Rockets vs 5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Just like in the East, this should be the best matchup to watch in the first round. This has so many storylines it’s hard to find a place to start. Maybe the fact that no one in the world thought OKC would be here. Preseason if you were to ask a casual fan of the NBA if Chris Paul would finish the year on the Thunder, they would probably say no. They had the looks of a team who could use the draft picks to build around a grown Shai. Shai said screw that I’m ready for the moment and go win some games. He has nearly doubled every counting stat and hit big shots along the way. We should all believe that the signing of Chris Paul has not only earned them wins this year but helped the growth of their young star. One thing that Paul has done that not a lot people expected was he stayed healthy. It’s understandable with the long grind of the NBA season to have injuries happen but Chris has seemed to of had some bad luck. His last year with 70+ games was 2015 and even before that there were a couple 60 game seasons. His minutes have also been kept under a small check that I think have work dividends to keeping him healthy. Another key piece that I think people sleep on is Danilo Galanari. He is one of the best floor stretchers from the power forward position and that gives plenty of room for Chris to find the open man. We would like to see his 3 point percentage to be a little higher and I think that could happen with this small ball lineup of the Rockets. Steven Adams should eat this whole series and should be in every DFS lineup you can find. The Rockets as a team are giving up 15 rebounds a game to their opponents inside the bubble. That also
Leads to to take no less than 48 threes a game and if they are hitting, it’s GG pretty fast. We all know the scoring dominance that is James Harden. We also know how much of a threat Russel Westbrook is on the court. These guys have been on a roster together that has seen the finals. What’s stopping them from making it this time? Can Shai and Schroeder keep up? What about play solid defense and make them earn their points. We know that Harden will get to the line and you almost have to accept the 30 points he will bring. I think the Rockets are at their best when Harden doesn’t have to do it all. When he facilitates the ball and the team around him hit shots. My gut is telling me to go with Houston because the moment maybe too big for OKC. My heart believes that OKC is the better coached team and will come in with a better game plan to win. Call it what you will but I think I might want to see Harden vs Lebron a little too much. Houston Rockets in 7
LA Lakers vs 4. Houston Rockets
This may sound a little off norm but I think Portland might of been a tougher test. “But Matt, the Rockets beat the Lakers in the bubble by 16 points and also won their only matchup during the regular season.” Well during that bubble game the Lakers as a team went 2-19 from three but the Rockets shot 21-57. So that’s a +57 point differential. You also had no Lebron James so I see that differential going way down and the team as a whole playing better and getting the win. Now when you look at the regular season matchup, the Rockets unveiled their small ball lineup to the world that game. Robert Covington was the tallest guy for the Rockets at 6’7. Anthony Davis ate for 32 points and 3 blocks. So if you take that line over the course of a seven game series will the Lakers really lose four game? Now let’s all take into account Lebron has had plenty of time to study this lineup and figure out a way to win. Haters if Lebron can credit his work ethic. You should believe that Lebron took that time to study his biggest problems. I would love to see Lebron guard Harden in this series. His basketball IQ is going to be key when it comes to the “often fouled” Harden and I think he can force James into tougher shots. Plus Lebron length should be able to disrupt and help him to close on Harden. Russel Westbrook will be kind of like a wild card. On one hand we have seen a Westbrook that forces tough shots or puts himself in bad positioning offensively and ultimately his team loses. But we have also seen him go out for 30+ and he is responsible with the basketball. You see the game come to him, while he finds the perfect moment to pounce on the rim. Alex Caruso can try but I don’t think he can keep up. The losses that came in the bubble speak a small portion of the truth. Yes this Lakers team isn’t as unstoppable as some people believe but they are still an elite team. Lakers in 6 games
Los Angeles Clippers vs 3. Denver Nuggets
This is the kind of series where money gets made. If your a guy like Jeremi Grant who fills a solid bench role go off for a whole series against a tough team like LA, your gonna get a couple extra stacks in your pocket. What about Montrezl Harrell? This is a contract year and he will be covered by an old Paul Millsap?
He hasn’t played in the bubble yet so that first round will probably be him getting eased. Marcus Morris has been filling in with fine with 13 PPG but at a way better clip, 55%. They traded for him to help them win games like this. You need to make sure you have the best roster when your this far into the season. Like having Mr. Six Man Lou Williams. In the game against Denver recently he scored 23 on 61.5% shooting. The Clippers ended up winning that game 124-111. Michael Porter Jr had his worst game in the bubble against the Clippers and I imagine more of the same. The defensive gauntlet of forwards this Clippers team has is too tough for a young kid to thrive. Jamal Murray was having his best season of his career statistically before the lockdown. We saw his ability to flip the switch against the Heat with his 23 points and 12 rebounds but since that game has kind of dwindled. Maybe Denver saw the fact that Utah was playing bad and sat some guys a little more than he normally would. Knowing worst case he still plays a tough team in Dallas but it worked out. Lastly we should be excited to Jokic in this spotlight. We talk about how amazing AD is and he may be the best center in the league but Jokic give him a tough run for his money. Jokic has the best handles and play making ability from the five spot. For a guy who also shoots a lot he still averaged 58% from the floor. He also came into this situation looking like he took his health as serious as ever. He looks slimmer and faster. His endurance is way better which will ultimately allow him to play at the highest level longer. Who is gonna stop him this series? Zubac has a lot hustle but idk if he is up to the task. If the Clippers go small ball, will Harrell or Morris step up? It’s so hard to tell. For as good Jokic is, Leonard is better. We saw last year that when Kawhi is locked in he is unstoppable. No one on the Nuggets can compete with that level of competition. This will be a tough one to call but the battle of LA is imminent. LA Clippers in 7 games
Western Conference Finals
LA Lakers vs 2. LA Clippers
In the offseason we all knew this matchup was bound to happen and it shouldn’t disappoint. You have the best starting rosters in the West battling it out, you have two benches that have a mix of guys who can be really hot or cold and young guys trying to make a name for themselves. These teams split their games 2-2 on the season with the Clippers scoring four more points across all four games. That’s how evenly matched these teams are. In the first game Kawhi Leonard put the starters on his back with 30 points and the only starter to score double digits. The bench for the Clippers out scored the Lakers 60-19 which ultimately was the key piece for the Clippers success in this one. In the next game Kawhi stayed hot and kept Lebron in check for another game. The fact that he can control Lebron might be his best attribute. Titles run through Lebron and that is a huge edge. So the Clippers are up 2-0
On the series and Lakers fans are probably sweating. The Lakers got them back in the third game with a career game from Avery Bradley. Now in the most recent game we learned a key part of this matchup. George and Kawhi will be able to keep Lebron and the guards in check but who will control AD? The Clippers have no real answer for the big man. Over the course of seven games can I see AD winning 2 games himself? He probably will need to in order for this Lakers team to advance. This window is closing for Lebron and having a young like Anthony Davis is great for him. The trust these two have formed in such little time will need to come through on the court. This series will probably be better than the finals matchup. J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters will need to be big on the second unit. Dwight Howard is going to need to try and slow down Harrel and Morris. Kuzma will be called upon and he may be young but he will need to rise up. This is for an NBA title and only the best will win this. When your playing with the greatness of Lebron you need to be extra special. This might bite me in the ass but I can’t see this Lakers team losing. I believe in Lebron and AD and their ability to lead. It won’t be easy and I think they will have to come back from 3-2 or 2-1. LA Lakers in 7 Games
LA Lakers vs 3. Boston Celtics
We have finally made it! The NBA finals are here and what more could you ask for? You have the future stars of the East who couldn’t get over the hurdle of Lebron being in the East now have to try and beat him in the finals. Lebron has played 49 finals games in which he has averaged 28.2 PPG, 10 RPG, 7 APG, and 4 threes a game. Let’s not forget his almost two steals and one block a game. The dude is an animal in this moment. We all remember the Finals with the Cavs where Lebron would lead a team of scrubs against the dominant Warriors dynasty. We saw how a focused Lebron has the chance to win an entire seven game series himself. Now he doesn’t have to. Most guys on this Lakers roster have never made it to the NBA finals so this will be an adjustment. There will be some nerves and maybe Boston steals an early game or two. Lebron talks about the habits of a champion and his experience in this moment will be crucial for their success. Now will Boston come ready? We know the talent they have but will it shine in the big moment or will this be the finals where they get the experience and come ready for the future years? Kemba Walker has finally gotten the monkey off his back and beat Lebron for the first time in his career this year so he is 1-28. That’s a fun little fact but I don’t know how that will factor into this series. Kemba has never seen the Finals but hasn’t shyed away from big moments. It would be amazing to see Kemba hit a game winner in this series over Lebron. After everything that he has been through, seeing him live that feeling would be fun. He will need to be big against Caruso and Green. Him being at the point is a crucial matchup that the Celtics need to win. Jason Tatum has never been hesitant to going at Lebron James. In their two regular season game he dropped 41 and 27 points with an average of 60% from deep. He will make a lot of tough shots down the stretch and you can guarantee that. Once again the hardest thing for opposing teams of the Lakers will be AD. Theis and Kanter are good bigs but they won’t be able to go toe to toe with AD. It’ll need to be a team effort to slow down AD and Lebron. That is the real key to beating this dominant Lakers squad. If you can limit Lebron and AD a little bit, the guys around them probably won’t be able to make up the scoring difference. If Brown or Tatum are off, Walker or Hayward should be able to step up. Brad Stevens is a better coach than Frank Vogel personally but Frank is no slouch. So will Lebron get another title and continue his chase for the greatest player of all time? Or is this the time for Tatum to cement his name in the superstar category of this league? This season has had its ups and downs. It’s been a hell of a lot longer than a lot of players hoped but in the end we will see a champion. In a year where we lost one of the greats, I just can’t pick against the purple and gold.
Lakers in 6 Games